I had made a MAFA Gallery group show, “4 Scopes”, from 8 Feb to 10 Feb 2018. It was a show with classmate and fellow artist James Sirrell, and the outside artists, Joshua Vaughan and Elise Broadway. Apart from the paintings on stretched canvas I made in Unit 1, I also showed one new experimental painting, which took pleather as base and being nailed on wall.
It was the beginning of Unit 2, I was still thinking about improving the directness of painting by exploration material and hence change the experience of practical process. Pleather (man-made leather) was my testing target, which was inspired by the exhibition of Michaela Eichwald during Condo 2018. He made the brushstroke and lines very substitute, fluid and powerful due to the great material choice. Pleather is tough and smooth, which could really smoothen the process of painting. Yet, because of not using oil paint but only acrylic and marker, I didn’t thoroughly test its material properties at that time. However, I got another good inspiration from the form of painting.
The pleather with irregular edges hanging on wall allowed the painting to interact with outside, also, the fold on the surface somehow modified the brushstroke and lines, which made it be more energetic than the three-panel painting I made in Unit 1. It was quite different from the traditional oil painting on canvas that merely invite audience to enter the inner pictorial world silently, those physical properties of pleather invited audience to be aware to the external materiality, forming another force to draw audience from the inner world (if my work could invite people in) back to the outer material.
This tension between pulling in and out, in other words, challenge to border of painting, is one of my most aware topic to contemporary painting after Unit 1. Most of the Modernism paintings merely focused on pulling in: everything of the painting is in the painting, go in… go in… and here they are, the spiritual world, the rhythm of composition and the crystallized time and life. It was excellent, and it is excellent. However, if the current nowadays does not only emphasize the art to be that romantic, if context of the space is not that silence, private nor spiritual, showing an artwork fully filled with modernistic spirit is just liked a self-isolation and air block. Painting can construct a very spiritual and private internal world, but the last step of invitation still depends on the environment.
For example, even Morandi’s extremely silence and spiritual paintings could not pull me in when I saw them in the noisy, commercial and nasty Art Basel in Hong Kong. Well, of course, I could enter it if I stood there for half hour and forced myself to do it, but why art should be that reluctant?
If I stay in my working space silently, the thin pleather painting is doubtless less attractive than the Unit 1 oil painting. However, with the environment of Chelsea, and relationship with works from other teammates, the context of this group show was actually not modernistic, and the pleather painting became energetic in that environment. As individual work in silence space, some paintings challenging the border of painting maybe less attractive because they are not good at framing themselves. But exhibition almost makes individual work not only individual, and its context does not frame one work but all works. The painting with opening boarder leaves the last puzzle of framing, and let it be filled by the whole space, which allows better interaction with environment. Perhaps, in nowadays main stream of art, painting with such non-sealed-up border and hence external flexibility, is friendlier for different engagement.
Wai Kit Chan (Hector)