A closer look at emotions

The world is as soft as a volcano: a moving composition is one of the two recently opened exhibitions at Chinatown’s Centre A.

A collection of works by local artist Lam Wong, the pieces on display are varied yet connected, abstract yet highly personal. The exhibition runs until Mar. 14.

Personal abstraction

Artist Lam Wong researches the notion of ‘emotional refuge.’ | Photo by Lam Wong

While there are some multimedia aspects to the exhibition – including a photograph light box and a volcano made of cedar mulch and charcoal – the majority of the pieces are paintings that focus on the theme of emotions.

“First there is a series of abstraction works,” says Wong, “paintings depicting emotions as if under a microscope. Then, there are some smaller works I started painting last year called the History of Emotions series; more somber, darker paintings with muted colours.”

Wong describes himself as a tool or medium or vehicle, channeling something higher than himself. He sometimes refers to his paintings as experimental rather than conceptual, and likes to work in more abstract styles.

“The abstraction allows me to express myself intuitively,” says Wong. “I call it attacking the canvas: I enter into a boxing ring with the canvas and deal with it. There is one painting I re-painted three or four times, and some come out naturally.”

On top of the first two series, there is a third that lends a very personal weight to the exhibition. It includes one of the few non-abstract works: a large portrait of Wong’s mother, who tragically died a decade ago. It took a long time for Wong to be able to create pieces about her, much less share them with the public, but he feels that their addition adds a powerful dimension to the exhibition.

“I think the personal themes are what make the show special,” he says. “The pieces really reflect what I feel, especially in the current moment, here in 2020.”

For Wong, using painting as a medium to express his own emotional journey was an obvious choice, as he sees art and the process of making it as one of the most sacred secular parts of our world.

“Making art – it’s one of the most spiritual things one can do,” he says. “Your mind has to be fully present, free from any kind of distraction. Once you tap into that creativity, there’s nothing like it.”

Continually changing

In the main exhibit area are a couple of Wong’s acrylic paintings immediately to the left, and the light box to the right. But not for long, as the positions of the artwork will change weekly. That is where the “moving composition” part of the exhibit’s title comes into play, an idea initially put forward by Centre A curator Henry Heng Lu.

“It’s like a live exhibition, always breathing and moving,” says Wong. “We’re incorporating the art into a sort of performance.”

The pieces are presented somewhat unconventionally: some in a corner, some not exactly at eye-level, generally not laid out how a visitor might expect.

“The works are quite dynamic and not confined to a particular subject matter,” says Lu, who was named the gallery’s curator in July. “So I thought it would be interesting to literally make the works move, as [Wong] dictates, to create different dynamics and feelings.”

Wong describes the exhibit as continually evolving. He carefully considers how each piece speaks to one another, and how they relate to their neighbours while on display. For Lu, the “moving composition” speaks to the individuality and expressiveness of this exhibition.

“I find that his works are highly personal,” says Lu, “and abstracted in a way that is very affected by his ways of knowing the world. To me, the project is expansive, not confined to a singular display of art objects.”

For more information, visit www.centrea.org