On view for the first time, Macau sculptor Tong Chong’s displays a series of exemplary free-standing wooden sculptures three years in the making. In our interview with the artist, he talks about his influences, his motivation and how he captured the spirit of Eastern culture in his latest collection.
Which artists inspire you?
My work takes its influence from elements of Chinese folk art and indigenous culture, with calligraphy as my greatest inspiration. In addition, they are three teachers that have had a profound impact on my art: Mio Pang Fei, who introduced me to contemporary art; Kwok Woon, who challenged my artistic thinking; and Lai Yat Fong, who led me to discover a passion for sculpting. Each nurtured me to become the artist I am today.
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When did your life as an artist begin? Tell us about your background.
I fell in love with drawing when I was a child. In 1990, I went to China to study art and honed my sketching and watercolour skills. I returned to Macau a year later, where I met Mio Pang Fei at the Visual Arts Institute at Largo de Santo Agostinho.
Since then I’ve gained experience beyond drawing, thinking about art in more depth, comparing Western and Eastern cultures and understanding art at a spiritual level, building bonds with fellow artists who have helped expand my artistic horizons. I returned to university in 1997, balancing work and academics and received my Master’s degree this year.
What motivates you as an artist?
I have always enjoyed drawing from a very young age, just drawing randomly without purpose. As I am more mature and experienced now, I realise that my life revolves around art. And gradually, people began referring to me as an artist.
What mediums do you work with and why?
I focus on painting and sculpture, which are main forms of my artwork. For sculpture, I prefer using wood because of its natural beauty and the temperature of the material. Recently, I started to focus on seal-carving and calligraphy to understand the complexity of lines and fonts, which parallel the process for painting and sculpting.
What inspired you to create the works assembled in the Restless Nature exhibition?
Each piece of work in this exhibition is the outcome of three years’ meticulous research based on new techniques applied to plywood. The exhibition's spotlight is on three collector pieces, which accentuate and capture the spirit of Eastern culture.
What difficulties did you experience working with plywood?
It is difficult to come across natural raw materials in Macau, making it a challenge to find suitable wood and glue. The artistic concept is represented through the woodcarvings on the sculpture with the help of glue. Developing a glue adequate for wood sculpture is vital to ensure quality of work. Different conditions including temperature and humidity, as well as dust particles, can have an effect on how the glue will adhere to the wood. Shaping and sanding the wood was also a challenge due to the complexity of the material.
Do you encourage people to touch your sculptures? If so, why is touch so important?
Sculptures are created to be touched. Sculpture is an haptic art form, it is three dimensional and through touch, the audience can understand the beauty of the carving and the proportion of the wood.
How would you describe your personal iconography? Is there a theme you can look back and see consistently in your work?
Nature and ecology are constant themes in my work. I’m interested in exploring the universal relationship between nature and humanity.
What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
Be creative, be imaginative and never overthink.
What is your dream project?
My dream is to see more art exhibitions in Macau to connect the public with the beauty and depth of art.
July 5-September 6
Taipa Village Art Space, 10 Rua dos Clerigos, Taipa
+853 2857 6118, taipavillagemacau.com
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