The old sages didn’t fool around. Here is a triplet of Buddhist sayings, simple truths with a killer punchline.
1) Everything changes.
2) Anything can happen at any time.
3) No one is exempt.
Shakespeare had Richard II confess: ‘I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.’ David Bowie proposed: ‘Time may change me / But I can’t trace time.’ His title struck the note: ‘Changes’. These ideas of change and inevitability underwrite this exhibition.
We can all draw creatively from ancient roots if we wish: whether farming or writing a song or cooking a meal. Old traditions can be transformed — are always being transformed — and itself be the transformative idea, triggering new iterations.
In these works from several ongoing series I drew from the deep well of Chinese art traditions. Useful concepts: the understanding of art’s intangible qualities — its “spirit” — codified 1500 years ago as the most important part of art. The ancient abstractions of Chinese calligraphy, and the deployment of the void as integral to the image. Mark making that speaks of distinctive individuals.
The themes here are change, exile and perhaps, freedom. Change can be seen in the way words (Chinese characters, English script) are transformed into near illegible marks to become abstract expressions, a different kind of sign with only subjective readings. How ink landscapes become groupings of bright coloured shapes. The way digital technology can marry with analogue processes to create a contemporary Chinese scroll. Exile is the great theme of the last hundred and some years and enough has been said about it. I mention exile only because it is undeniable.
The idea of freedom is more subtle. Bold gestural mark making may suggest freedom — the manifestation of a body and mind unfettered. Another freedom is achieved when we discover the art that comes of personal necessity. When we grasp what we need to make we are released from convention, from fashion, from dogma, from self-consciousness. Then we are free to make the marks drawn from the deep well within.
W.H. Chong. Melbourne. May 2018.