Poised is the best word to describe artist Mandy Tsung: she is prepared for a journey toward success and loaded with discipline, determination and serious concerns about women’s issues. Along with partner Russell Alton, Tsung will present a series of small female portraits on wood panel in “Creatures of Habit,” an upcoming exhibition at Hot Art Wet City gallery.
The only grandchild of her family in Hong Kong, Tsung singlehandedly carries the torch of future prosperity. She has successfully shown her work in commercial galleries, and is now proudly supporting herself.
Both sides of her family are proud of her accomplishments, says Tsung, who financed her art college education on a volleyball scholarship. She feels that her family in Hong Kong sees her artistry as the culmination of all the hard labour and entrepreneurship of past generations and that her Western upbringing pushes her to follow her dreams.
Tsung explains that her college experience has taught her to see art as something that renders an experience.
“Art is something that changes you or your perspective,” she says, adding that she learned little about materials or craftsmanship in college.
Born in 1984, Tsung belongs to a generation of artists who spend only a small part of their time in the “real” world, and get most of their information, joy, friendships, support, stories, news and education online. The Internet is also where Tsung finds the source material for her drawings and paintings.
“I don’t draw from life, where you have to treat the human figure as a shape that creates shades and catches light in some spots,” she says, “I see it as a living thing with emotions and stories to tell.”
Tsung identifies with anime and animation heroes, which she describes as powerful warrior spirits. This influence can be seen in her earlier female nudes, which have cartoonlike eyes that stare out at the viewer.
“That direct glance is not intended to seduce, but to demand attention,” says Tsung, “while downcast eyes would objectify and make the subject seem submissive and powerless.”
Although she identifies with the heroes of anime, Tsung has painted and drawn seductive Caucasian women for many years.
Fine Art consultation
Now, Tsung is looking to transition into Fine Art, where the price of an artwork may run into the thousands. She seeks advice from Bau-Xi Gallery curator Pennylane Shen, who advises her that her work will appeal more to the Fine Art circle if she goes back to the basics, simplifies her colour palette and does more work in portraiture. Tsung has considered Shen’s advice but says that she is not ready to let go of her bright colours just yet.
Currently, Tsung is moving from depicting female figures toward portraiture. Her collection of work demonstrates a transition from portraying attractive nudes to defiant women –
real people who inspire her. She shows a small series of portraits of women who are looking into the lens with an inscrutable or angry expression.
“[The portraits] are based on photos women sent me. I asked them to take a selfie when they’re not self-conscious or trying to be pretty – just a neutral face. That is called my ‘bitchy resting face’ series,” says Tsung, adding that the series is not yet complete.
When her artwork is done, and often when it is not nearly done, Tsung posts it on Instagram for an audience of 40,000 followers. The format of most images is a small square, and she has no qualms about this adjustment to her media platform.
“It does not matter how big or small the artwork is, because most people will never see it in real life – only the little square on Instagram,” says Tsung.
From July 9–25. For more information, please visit hotartwetcity.com/creaturesofhabit