In response to the events in the last six months of 2019, Chow Chun Fai condensed his experience and emotions into a series of small paintings: “Portraits from Behind”.
“I have always been a rather unemotional person, but I find myself having nightmares at night and in tears watching lives of the protests. This is not just my experience, but a shared experience for Hong Kongers walking down a very difficult and painful road.” – Chow Chun Fai.
Hong Kong based artist CHOW Chun Fai’s solo exhibition “Portraits from Behind” is open from March 14 to May 16 at Gallery EXIT. The civil unrest, mass protests and violent clashes in the 2019 Anti-Extradition Bill Movement has left many Hong Kongers in distraught and despair. Like many, Chow was left deeply disturbed by the events of 2019.
On the clash between protesters and riot police on June 12 last year, Chow hurt himself in an accident and was unable to participate in protests for a long period of time until he recovered. During this time, Chow turned to painting as a way of coping with the overwhelming emotions he felt. However, Chow remarks that painting did not alleviate his distraught at all as painting simply offered Chow a way to record what he has witnessed. The loose brush strokes Chow employed create an impressionistic quality and adds a documentative dimension. These artworks embody the strong emotions Chow felt and evoke resonance to those who have witnessed these scenes.
最初開始畫反送中的場面是因為去年6月12日，在抗議者與防暴警察之間的衝突中，周俊輝在其中一次事故中受傷，並無法參加抗議活動直到他完全康復為止。在受傷的這段時間裡，周俊輝轉向繪畫，以應對他所感受到的壓倒性情緒。 然而，他指出，繪畫根本沒有減輕他的煩惱。 這只是他以觀察者的角度記錄他所見證的內容的一種方式。因此，周俊輝嘗試採用鬆散的筆觸來產生印象派的質量，並增加了文檔的尺寸。 這些藝術品囊括了周俊輝的情緒，更令親眼目睹這些場面的人產生共鳴。
The significance of title “Portrait from Behind”, Chow explains, is that he captures protesters from the back. This is because many protesters are sensitive about revealing their faces for safety precautions. Chow says that a person’s face is the easiest way to capture their emotions, but funnily enough, illustrating protesters’ silhouettes against a crimson backdrop powerfully captures the chaos and disorder that happened on the very streets of Hong Kong.
Chow used 10 x 10 cm square canvases with only a few large artworks in this series. Chow explains that he painted the most violent scenes on the smallest canvases as a way of condensing his experience. Whereas larger artworks were used to capture scenes that are peaceful and ordinary. Chow explains that the juxtaposition of objects in the scene is one of the determining factors that he takes into account when choosing scenes to include in his artworks. Chow stresses that he selects scenes that contain two objects unlikely to appear together accentuate the absurdity and astonishment he himself felt when when he witnessed the disarray in Hong Kong.
《背影》系列以10成10釐米的正方形油畫為主。周俊輝將比較暴力、比較火光熊熊的場景放在較細的畫布上。周俊輝說: 「其實呢個係一種濃縮」，他又解釋: 「即係話，我哋好可能好自然將一啲比較大嘅畫面放係大嘅畫布入面，但我就偏偏將最大、最暴力嘅畫面放咗喺細嘅畫布 (10 x 10 cm)。 反而我會想將啲所謂「和理非」同埋比較平和嘅畫面放大黎畫。」
Towards the end of the interview, Chow ponders about the future of his artworks and wonders about future audiences: “what will they see?”. “One day, we will move on from 2019 and it could be for the better or worse.” Chow ponders about the future and wonder what future audiences will see in his artworks. Chow wonders what emotion and thoughts his artwork will evoke in audiences who have never experienced the events in 2019 and he hopes that his artworks will serve as a cultural artifact for future audiences for this very reason.
Images courtesy of Gallery EXIT and the Artist
Text by Patti Lam
Portrait by Alan Cheung
“PORTRAITS FROM BEHIND”
2020.3.14 – 5.16
Opening reception – 14:00 – 17:00
Opening hours – Tuesday to Saturday 11:00 – 18:00
Gallery EXIT 安全口
香港 香港仔 田灣 興和街25號 大生工業大廈3樓
EXIT, 3/F, 25 Hing Wo Street, Tin Wan, Aberdeen, Hong Kong