Puzzled Daydreams / Simon Lee Gallery / London / Jun 15 – Jul 3 / Margot Mottaz /
The irony isn’t lost on me that as I emerged from lockdown and into central London for the first time in months, I stepped right into the home of a stranger, albeit through a series of works on paper and large-scale canvasses by artist Chris Huen Sin Kan. Puzzled Daydreams marks the artist’s second solo exhibition with Simon Lee Gallery, and first in London, though it inaugurated the gallery’s online viewing room as the pandemic took its toll
on the UK in mid-March and prevented the show from opening to the public until recently, by appointment only.
Huen was born and raised in Hong Kong, where he still lives with his wife Haze, their two children, Joel and Tess, and their three dogs, Doodood, MuiMui and Balltsz, who all appear again and again as the loyal protagonists in the artist’s intimate works. As an inherent part of Huen’s daily life, they represent the ideal subject matter to consistently revisit the mundane, trivial moments that make up the bulk of human existence, as well as the possibilities, or rather limitations, of recording such fleeting instants through picture-making. “The experience of gazing,” the artist writes on his website, is “subjectively complete though objectively fragmentary.” In essence, he’s questioning how one can depict the present fully, if at all.
Pushing this reflection a step further, this new body of work incorporates the added dimension of temporality, and more specifically of the “specious present”. A term coined by the American psychologist ER Clay in the 19th century, the specious present defines the present as a collection of immediate pasts.
In other words, the moments between the past and the future that we tend to call the present are always already gone. This sustained interest in perception and time, in understanding how we see and therefore process the world around us, has guided the young painter’s practice from the start and reveals itself visually in the chaos of his spontaneous compositions.
The small, unassuming pencil drawings serve as quiet preludes to the large oil paintings. Unframed and held up by four modest nails, they invite close viewing to make out the various shapes and forms competing for attention in compositions that disregard any notion of linear perspective. Encountered first in the exhibition space, they train our eyes for what’s to come and condition us to seek out similar motifs in the paintings. From a distance, the two-by-three-metre canvasses possess the vitality, dynamism and overall effect of abstract expressionism and, up close, the finesse, lightness and gestural quality of traditional Chinese ink painting, with figures rendered in a small number of deliberate strokes.
In only a couple of years, Huen’s style has evolved from soft and painterly to dramatic and graphic – an impactful shift that translates into a more encompassing understanding of each scene through senses beyond sight, including sound and touch. In one painting, Doodood, Balltsz and MuiMui (2020), a rupture tears through the composition to give way to a lorry passing by; one can almost hear its engine roar. In another, Joel and Haze (2020), colourful Lego blocks are strewn across the floor; one can almost feel the twinge of stepping on them by accident. Negative space and sudden pops of bright colour among an otherwise muted palette highlight the frictional interplay between vivid recollection and faint memory.
Studying these domestic scenes, I realised there was nothing unfamiliar about this other person’s life – far from it. As I stood there in silence, the streets outside deserted, there was in fact a wonderful comfort in seeing someone else’s messy living room, full of life and clamour, simply because it was relatable and could very well have been my own.
迷幻白日夢 / Simon Lee 畫廊 / 倫敦 / 2020年6月15日至7月13日 / Margot Mottaz
短短幾年中，禤善勤的風格從柔和、層層疊疊的油畫感變的更具戲劇性，圖像也更為細膩，使得作品呈現出超越視覺之外的感官體驗，延伸到了聽覺和觸感。如油畫《Doodood, Balltsz and MuiMui》（2020年），作品構圖中撕開一道裂縫給經過的卡車讓路，讓人彷彿聽到了引擎的轟鳴聲。另外作品《Joel and Haze》（2020年）裡，五顏六色的樂高積木散落在地板上，你幾乎可以感覺到一不小心踩上去的疼痛。柔和色調裡的負空間及突然蹦出的明亮顏色交互作用凸顯出那些深刻與模糊記憶之間的碰撞和摩擦。