A sense of pastoral nostalgia lingers in the air of the exhibition ‘Planting Time’ at Tang Contemporary. The exhibition shows the paintings of the Hong Kong artist Lam Tung Pang who is known for his dreamy charcoal drawings and paintings of landscapes and cityscapes.
Landscapes and trees take important places in Lam’s work, in that they are the links to the aesthetics of traditional Chinese ink painting. Though the intent of his retakes of this tradition look stylistic on the outside, the recycling of it carries the imagination and fantasy of the long lost world Chinese intelligentsia from the past once lived in and idealized in their work of art. The juxtaposition of cityscapes and landscape seems to lament at the fact that, in Hong Kong, the predomination of urban space and life have chipped away at such landscapes as a reservoir of poetic imagination.
Many of Lam’s work carry a sense of fragility and ephemerality of things in the world. In the work ‘Planting no. 3’, painted on a piece of round wood, a loose end of what looks like a chrysanthemum hovers in the middle as though it is suspended inside a bubble without an end to anchor itself. Thin stripes of lines have been etched onto the wooden surface as though they are trails of wind once battered the picture’s surface, yet the image in the painting is unscathed and preserved in the painterly world.
Two kinds of action exist in this painting, as with a few others in the exhibition. The first one is the acts of painting and drawing – the application of fluid paint, the staining of the wood surfaces and the drawing with charcoal. The second is the physical etching into the wooden surfaces, which takes away and reduces the physical materials of the work. The latter is an irreversible process unlike the former that allows mistakes to be corrected and covered, and it is also an action that succeeds the former. What does the difference between the two speak of their potentials as metaphors? It is as though the fluidity of paint and the haziness of charcoals produces the feeling of repetitive rumination of the past, while the irreversibility and decisiveness of the scratches speak of a desire for an end to the former, since the beginning of etching into the impeccable surfaces is also the end to the process of applying paint and charcoal. It is as though the material qualities of actions are invested with metaphorical potentials, to express the complicated feelings of nostalgia.
The most spectacular work here is a long piece of charcoal drawing called ‘Past Continuous Tense’. Drawn on plywood boards, the drawing turns at the wall corner to extend across two walls. On the work are trees drawn in their different styles found in traditional Chinese, Japanese and Korean paintings. Despite their difference of origins in time and places, they are all ‘planted’ into a single landscape. So well do they fit in with each other that they look smoothly as a single tree-scape as one’s gaze traverses across the work, and the compositional dynamic produces by the groupings of trees and the partitioning of open spaces resemble the look of traditional ink paintings. The texture and hue of the woods show themselves nakedly, as if the work is a long big scroll of old yellowed paper. The work is cheeky in how it reveals this diachronic mix of styles, only by taking a close look can one notices the small tags of text saying the origins of each style of the trees.
This is all in all a comfortable exhibition that soothes one’s mind. Here is an artist enjoys his walks into the landscape of traditional ink painting long extends into the past, but here is also one who cautions himself not to get lost in the perfume of the old landscape.
討論作品：Lam Tung Pang - Planting Time