|Title||Shén Yóu: Koon Wai Bong Solo Exhibition|
|Artist||Koon Wai Bong|
|Duration||Mar. 9, 2019 – Apr. 14, 2019|
|Venue||Asia Art Center Beijing|
Shén Yóu: Koon Wai Bong Solo Exhibition
Artist Koon Wai Bong takes Shén Yóu as the kernel of his creation, and associates Traveling in Landscape, Traveling through Time and Cultures and Travelling in an Untrammelled Mind as the clues to explain his years of art practice. This exhibition is Koon’s first solo exhibition in mainland China.
Shén Yóu, literally meaning ‘spirit travelling’, refers to teleporting from reality to mindscape, in which an ineffable connection with nature is built. Although none of the scenery in Koon Wai Bong’s work is a direct record of any real-life scene, it is not arduous to conceive his interpretation of a bamboo stalk or a pine wood, for example, as a mixture of his close observation of nature and spiritual contemplation of the world. Thus, each landscape motif is intended to reveal the understanding of nature and his feelings towards the scenic sites he has visited. Through the process of painting, his intention is not simply to construct what he has seen, but to deconstruct the scenes in his head and reconstruct a ‘mental landscape’ based on what he felt during his travels and what he imagined afterwards. That’s why Koon’s paintings can be perceived as an artistic means of transmitting emotion from the innermost part of his mind, and as a portal through which you can enter his spiritual reality and travel with his imaginatively.
Shén Yóu also connotes the idea that Koon Wai Bong’s personal experience of meandering around time and cultures constantly. Under the current of globalisation, city dwellers from all over the world inherit their own indigenous traditions from the past, and at the same time are exposed to a wide range of cultures via reading, travelling or networking on the Internet. As a Hong Kong-based artist, like those living in Beijing, Shanghai or Taiwan, Koon derives the essence of Chinese culture from his family, education, community and society. However, other cultural elements such as trends in contemporary art and Japanese aesthetics are also of paramount importance in the formation of his artistic thoughts. In his painting, the calligraphic expression of brushwork and the manifold layering of ink washing or colour tinting drive him to travel to ancient times and open a dialogue with the early masters. Nevertheless, he is concurrently conscious of a sense of contemporaneity and relish coming back to the present time, often by fragmenting his painting into multiple smaller panels. Modern people have become used to visualising their travel experience by taking pictures with smartphones or digital cameras, viewing scenery on the Internet when they prepare for a trip, or seeing landscapes through a window or a glass curtain wall in a modern city. The picture frames on screens or the architectural grids of a building inevitably offer a rather narrow and partial view of nature. Thus, the polyptych shattering a panorama into multiple visual fragments is not only an idiosyncrasy of his painting, but also an analogue of today’s visual experience. Apart from riding a tandem of Chinese aesthetics and contemporary expression, his landscape painting is faintly redolent of Japanese sensibilities. For example, the shimmering of the golden shikishi cardboard reflects the decorative aesthetics of Japanese art. The repetition and reiteration of a single motif and the intention to strip things to their essentials are reminiscent of minimal art and some aspects of Japanese design.
Moreover, Shén Yóu also related to the Daoist master Zhuangzi’s idea. Once he illustrated the notion of yóu by telling a story about a cook butchering an ox. The excellence of butchering, in Zhuangzi’s eyes, lay not merely in the cook’s technique for chopping an ox into pieces, but in his shén (spirit), which allowed him to achieve a blissful transcendence and freedom from all restrictions during the chopping process. In Koon Wai Bong’s point of view, an artist is like the cook, when facing a blank piece of paper, is encountering tremendous challenges and must seek out conceptual and technical solutions for subduing and overcoming all of the associated difficulties and problems and eventually turn the paper into an artwork. The term xieyi in Chinese painting is not only pertinent to the freehand style, but also suggests a ‘carefree and easy-going’ manner in which the artist can ignore limitations and transcend barriers, and then reach a spiritual realm that is beyond our reality. Travelling towards the spiritual realm during the process of art making is exactly what yóu means for him.
The exhibition is the first exhibition of the Asia Art Center (Beijing) in 2019. It is also the second time of holding a solo exhibition for artist Koon Wai Bong after the In the Breeze – Koon Wai Bong Solo Exhibition hold by Asia Art Center (Taipei) in 2017. Asia Art Center hopes to present more diverse format of ink art and explore more effective expression as well as possibilities of ink art in contemporary context through this exhibition.