(2016 June) Inside the JCCAC arts studio at unit L6-11 hangs vast swaths of organic veils - seeds, dried petals, fallen leaves and soil transfixed in what looks like transparent plastic sheets. They are artist Edward Cheung’s evidence of “reality”. “Nature already did half of the work for me by creating the dried grass, leaves, etc. I merely provide a vessel to carry or re-group them.” With transparent adhesive tapes or sticky oil paint on canvas, he collects what Mother Nature provides to create works of purity and honesty.
E: Edward Cheung
J: The studio is named “Blueprint”, and you have been awarded the “Philippe Charriol Foundation Modern Art (2nd runner-up)” and “Nokia Arts Awards Asia Pacific Visions of Your Future” with “BLUEPRINT - The Tower of Babel” (fig. 1) and “BLUEPRINT - White” (fig. 2) respectively. Surely “Blueprint” must mean something special to you?
E: “Blueprint” literally means a plan, and has been a recurrent theme in my creative works. I used to be a stickler for plans and schedules, but am now more flexible and have even started embracing the joys of the spontaneous and unexpected.
To decide that a work I have been creating is finally “done” is for me quite emotional and upsetting. For what defines completion? Declaring a work “finished” often sparks my agony over its imperfections and foregone improvement opportunities. I wish that there is no need for any definitive “completion”, so that the work may extend its development possibility indefinitely, serving to juxtapose or combine – be it connecting the city with nature, breaking social barriers between people, linking one’s inner ego and outer self, etc.
J: Let us talk about the development of your artistic career. After graduating from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) with a Bachelor of Arts in Design (Combined Studies), you dabbled in art therapy. Currently you are studying for a Master of Arts in Fine Arts at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). For you, what is “art”?
E: Presenting an exhibition for my graduation project at PolyU, I discovered to my surprise that I was more into art than design. With no formal training in the field, I enrolled in the CUHK programme hoping to find an answer to a question which has been rolling around my head: “Are the things I create ‘art’?”
J: You are graduating this July. So have you found an answer?
E: There is no one definitive answer to the question, I would say. “Art” is a notion which evolves with time and experience. To me, it used to be about form and matter. Later, I felt it was more about the intangible and spiritual. Currently, it is all about “finding a way home” (a home for the soul).
J: It makes sense that “art” is more about the questions being asked than the answers one hopes to find. It seems that your recent works are closely related to nature. Is that your “home” – where you find both physical and spiritual contentment?
E: I am enjoying my latest project. There is a spacious piece of grassy field (Shek Kip Mei Service Reservoir under Beacon Hill) near where I live. I go there often for walks and contemplation. One day, an idea came to me that I should measure the field with transparent adhesive tape. It led to my accidental discovery of the latter’s fascinating reflective property at night – drawing glowing lines across the dark ground. When retrieved in a roll, it collected and recorded the “textures of reality” along its path, whether they are fallen leaves beneath a wooded area, dried grass across the field, or sand and grit on a barren patch……
I spent about 40 nights in the field repeatedly drawing reflective lines on the ground using transparent adhesive tapes. A total of 60 rolls of tapes which traced and captured the physical reality of their path were gathered. They were then combined to make a huge roll (with all the captured organic material sandwiched between) measuring two meters in diameter – just like a big roll of film. I named the work “BLUEPRINT - Wilderness 40” (fig.3).
I realise that art-making is not necessarily confined to indoor studio work. There is a force much stronger and more powerful than the self and ego called “nature”. I have done nothing more than collecting a tiny part of it, yet nature has a way of showing us how powerful it is.
J: So is this your way “home”?
E: Maybe! Beacon Hill is located at the fringe of the city on Kowloon peninsula, on my route homeward bound through the concrete jungle, across grassland and over the hill. “Going home” is also a metaphor for returning to nature. Having been comparatively individualistic, “city-structured” and formalistic in terms of artistic style, I am now learning to relax and let the organic takes its natural course in my work.
J: You have been emphasising “reality”. How is it articulated?
E: It is omnipresent and all-inclusive. It cradles “beauty” and “kindness”. Beauty goes hand in hand with the real. It is also as varied and unpredictable as nature. Natural scenery may appear the same all the time, but the reality of any particular moment is never the same as the next one.
《JCCAC PROGRAMMES》(2016 June issue)