2017

Enfante   參差


Date: 27 June - 4 August 2017
Artist: Cheng Ting Ting 鄭婷婷
Venue: Chi Art Space, 8/F, New World Tower 2, Queen's Road Central, Hong Kong
Organizer: K11 Art Foundation





installation view



Apart from my artistic endeavours, I am also a part-time art teacher, giving lessons to young children. I am often fascinated by the individuality of each of my students. Children that age are not afraid to act on their impulses and be themselves. Each unique character and each subtle action of theirs highlight their own pace of development, as if they were on a continuum separated by time.

-  Cheng Ting Ting



selected works


 

Where Are Our Heads?     我們的頭在哪裏?
2017     Oil on canvas    120 × 150 cm



         



































Dance Practice    跳舞練習
2017    Oil on canvas    100 x 60 cm






curatorial statement

Cheng Ting Ting is in a unique position amongst the young generation of Hong Kong artists who often adopt a inter-disciplinary approach to art-making. She is passionate about painting, and is committed to responding to the issues pertaining to contemporary art with her painting. For her, art education in Hong Kong is plagued by the same issue that is beleaguering other areas of education – that teaching and learning are dictated by a range of standardised objectives. When these objectives are tailored to align with the misunderstanding of grand narratives in contemporary art which only concerns the society and politics, and that artistic creations must be predicated on these set purposes. Student artworks are assessed in the exact same way as works of other academic disciplines – marks are assigned based on how well those preset objectives are delivered. This format of assessment, usually used in conventional academic disciplines, is ill-fitting when it is applied in the open-ended subject of art. Worse, such predication overlooks the benefits students can reap in the process of creation. The most widely adopted art pedagogy these days clings to mimesis and considers it fundamental to attaining a certain ‘aesthetic correctness’. However, there is no absolute correctness when it comes to aesthetics. This pedagogy deprives students of the opportunity to learn about the beauty of painting, colours, or composition, let alone acquiring any meaningful insights concerning the process of artistic creation. As a result, students are merely trained to become craftsperson. 

The invention of photography supplanted the social function of painting as the medium of representing reality  At the end of the 19th century, a widely held believe that painting was to become a dying art. However, instead of bringing about its demise, photography has freed painting from its functionality, and thus its social role. As Deleuze explains, ‘painting has neither a model to represent nor a story to narrate. It thus has two possible ways of escaping the figurative: toward pure form, through abstraction; or toward the purely figural, through extraction or isolation. 1 

The scenes portrayed in Cheng Ting Ting’s artworks are based on her observations of reality as well as her own subjective perceptions. Lines and symbols on the canvas stemmed from her dialogue with the painting in the painting process. Characters are then placed in the setting constructed by colours and lines. Composition is important to Cheng’s practice. In classical Western still life paintings, that is one of the artist’s favourite styles of painting, all the different chalices, flasks, knives, and forks become characters of their own and are being purposefully placed on the canvas. Tension is spawned from the order of things and the hierarchy the artist careful created. Cheng places a strong emphasis on the relationship between the characters and space; stories of characters may unfold separately on the canvas, but her work merges the disjointed stories to form a coherent piece. Another feature of her work is her use of strong colours. For Cheng and many of her contemporaries, colours are not merely there to represent reality; they form another creative space. Her use of colour is not determined by emotional values. Instead, she utilises colours in terms of warmth and coolness, brightness and darkness, heaviness and lightness to achieve a balanced composition and to highlight the relationship between the characters and the space. Although Where Are Our Ears? and Where Are Our Heads? are made up of similar but different colours and symbols schemes to reiterate two similar scenes within the same vein of ideas. Constant experimentation of the same theme through the use of different colours and symbols is one of Cheng’s most important artistic practices. It also allows a glimpse into her assiduity to composition.

Enfante pivots on Cheng’s experience as an art educator to young children. It is her habit to set simple goals for her students. These goals elicit a wide range of reactions from the children. Those who were able to comprehend instructions better complete the tasks with ease, while those who have a hard time taking in the instructions are often at sea. Sitting around the same table shows how the children in different stages of developing; even children of the same age are not all on the same page. These nuanced differences in her observation became the starting point of this exhibition.

Given the current education climate in Hong Kong, discrepancies amongst children’s capabilities do not sit well with parents. Other children’s achievements often become pointers for parents who stop at nothing to raise their children to be the elites in their classes. This kind of coercion is prevalent not only in early childhood education – competitions in young children’s interest classes is only the beginning of the life-long comparison amongst peers that Asian education style often feature. Through her paintings, the artist suggests that such differences in capabilities and talents are in fact a form of beauty and should be celebrated. It also leads her to reflect her own childhood experiences, examining if she was also tied down by any kind of comparisons and rushed through a childhood which she should have taken pleasure in.

As she is capturing these fleeting moments on canvases, she is reminded of her mother’s stamp album. Stamp collecting is an absorbing hobby. Some people are very serious about their collections: be their collections on a theme, a country, or a particular genre, they are determined to acquire all relevant items. Post offices from all over the world issue a myriad of philatelic products such as commemorative stamps, souvenir sheets, and first day covers to satisfy philatelists’ demands. However, most of the hobbits stamp collector would not commit such an amount of labour and resources to complete their collections: they approach their hobbies in a more casual manner. Before electronic communication became ubiquitous, people often soaked the opened envelopes in water to dissolve the glue on the backs of the stamps, stamps were then collected when when they are air-dried. This style of collection often allowed the collector to assemble only fragments of a complete sets. When they were put into the album, those dainty stamps became fragmentary imageries, waiting to be coalesced into a story with the imagination of the viewers. The artist book Cheng has made for this exhibition is based on the format of a stamp album. It begins as the few drawings that she manages to find from her childhood, and then she creates a series of new drawings as a visual response. This book, showcased alongside a series of new prints, is her reflection upon her journey as an artist and her creative origins.

In recent years, Cheng has been making art in her studio, which limits the kind of works she is able to make to one particular wall in the space. Coincidentally, the artist had spent time in the exhibition space and observed the people and happenings within the space for a period of time. During the exhibition, Cheng will create new paintings at the venue, in the hope that a change of scene will bring about new stimuli for her artistic practice.

Hong Kong media and art organisations, who adopt a utilitarian angle in their interpretations of contemporary art, often propagate, intentionally or unintentionally, the notion that art must serve a purpose in society. This type of utilitarian aesthetics precludes the necessity in the cultivation of other artistic values, visual or otherwise. It impacts adversely on the long-term development of local culture and aesthetics, rendering artists to become mere technicians of social services. Because her exclusive passion for painting, the artist hopes that by incorporating new mediums such as projection and print making, she is able to expand her artistic practice and experiment with new forms of image making. 

 

1 Deleuze, Gilles. Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. Continuum, 2012.


在香港新一代慣以跨媒介創作的藝術家中,鄭婷婷是屬於少數以繪畫作為主要創作媒介的一位,她醉心於她純粹的繪畫世界中,去回應當代創作所帶來的問題。於她而言,香港的藝術教育跟其他教育一樣,均以概定的劃一目標為標準,尤其是為了迎合當代藝術中對社會、政治等的宏大敍述,覺得藝術創作必有一定的前設, 無視創作過程為學生帶來的好處,然而計算分數時以學生作品能否說明這些前設為標準,這種普遍在其他學科大多採用的評核標準,其實並不適合在藝術類開放型的學科中使用。尤其是現時學校的繪畫學習中,以模仿作學習基礎,務求達到一個美學的正確性,但美學並沒有絕對的正確,這教學模式下沒有讓學生學到繪畫的美感、顏色或結構,更枉論對藝術創作有甚麼得着,最後只能把學生訓練成呆板的工匠而已。

攝影發明後,慢慢取代繪畫表現(represent)現實的社會功能,到了十九世紀末,人們開始覺得繪畫已經步入死亡的階段,殊不知攝影的發明將繪畫從功能性釋放出來。正如德勒茲所論,繪畫既已沒有故事也沒有原型需要去敍述,所以有兩個方法去脫離具象:以抽象手法而趨向純粹型式化(pure form)或萃取特點而趨往純粹造型化(pure figural)。

鄭婷婷的作品描繪的場景,既是藝術家觀察到的現實,也是她自己的主觀感知。畫畫時藝術家與作品之間的對話,促成畫面上各式各樣虛構的符號與線條, 將人物角色放到以顏色與線條全新建構的環境中,形成了不一樣的風景。她重視畫面的組成與結構,在她喜歡的西方古典靜物畫中,林林總總的杯子瓶子刀刀叉叉陳列在畫面上,成為場景中的各種角色,主次布局、層次編排為作品做成張力。她的創作中經常強調角色的鋪陳與及空間的關係,畫面上的人物雖各自展開各自的故事,但經過藝術家的處理,聚合成為一個完整的段落。作品設色絢爛是藝術家的另一個創作特點,與很多當代畫家一樣,作品的顏色並不是為了陳述現實,而是另一個創作的空間。她對顏色的使用並不是以希望表達的情緒掛勾,相反以顏色空間的冷暖、明暗、輕重,在畫面上的布局來衡量,以強調角色造型與背景空間的關係。《我們的耳朵在哪裏?》與《我們的頭在哪裏?》兩張同系列的作品中,利用相近但不同的顏色與符號去重申這個她看見的兩個景像,重組不同的顏色與符號去反覆嘗試同一主題,是鄭婷婷的重要創作方法之一,而她對結構的執着也可見一斑。

是次個展「參差」題材環繞鄭婷婷的幼兒美術教育工作時,在教學中為學生定下一些簡單目標,不同的小孩對這些指示反應大有不同,對指示較為理解的小孩可以輕鬆完成功課,但比較不明所以的小孩就一臉茫然。圍着同一張桌上的孩子成長步伐各各不同,那怕是年齡一樣的小孩,都會有所差異,她觀察到這些小孩的狀態,成為整個展覽的開端。

在香港的現今教育環境下,這些差異往往成為家長作為比較自己與別人子女的指標,強迫自己的孩子成為班上的精英,這一種逼迫不只出現在幼兒的教育中,這些幼兒興趣班很有可能只是一生成長的先聲,相互比較、直至成年方休是東方教育的特點之一,藝術家透過畫作提出這些步伐上的差異其實都是一種美,而回想自己是不是也受到這些比較的束縛,匆匆過了一個本該好好享受的童年生活。

利用畫布捕捉這些吉光片羽時,她聯想到母親的集郵簿。集郵是一個有趣的嗜好,有一些人很認真要把一個主題、一個國家、一個種類的所有郵票都要完整收集,而世界各地的郵政局也會出版一些紀念郵票、小全張、首日封五花八門的郵票品種,去滿足這些郵票愛好者的要求。但絕大部分的普羅大眾都不會願意花這種時間和資源去搜羅齊全,而以一種隨性的方法去收集。從前電子通訊還未有很發達的時候,喜歡集郵的人很多時都會把收到信件的信封泡水,讓郵票膠水溶解,從信封脫落後風乾,以得到各地寄來的郵票。但這方法收集到的郵票往往只是完整郵品的一小部分,精緻的郵票放到本子裏就成為了一個個圖案碎片,留待觀者的想像去把零碎的故事補足。鄭婷婷為今次展覽所製作的藝術家書,找來自己小時候所剩無幾的繪畫,就着他們以繪畫作回應,放到集郵簿內,加上一系列全新的版畫作品,為自己的繪畫歷程做一小小的探討,探索自己的創作脈絡。

鄭婷婷近年的繪畫創作都在自己的工作室進行,難免受到同一個空間的束縛,恰好她有過長期觀察這空間所發生的人與事的經驗。在展覽期間,她將會在現場嘗試繪製新的油畫作品,希望在不同的空間會為她帶來新的創作衝擊。在香港,不管是傳媒還是藝術機構都有意無意地宣揚藝術須有一定的社會目的,去符合他們對當代藝術的理解,這種功利美學忽略藝術所需要對技術的修養,長遠阻礙了本地文化與審美上的進步,使藝術家都變成了社會服務的技工。鄭婷婷是位對繪畫非常純粹的藝術家,這一次希望利用新的媒介,如投影、版畫等,延伸她一貫的藝術實踐,嘗試新的繪畫表現方法。