‘For both of us, it’s a way of seeing’: husband and wife hold second joint art exhibition in Hong Kong, 28 years after their first

Every day he travels from home in Shau Kei Wan in the east of Hong Kong Island to his small Kennedy Town studio in the west.

Yeung (above) and Sze are holding “Solo·Exhibition·Twice II: Of Seeing”: at Blindspot Gallery, in Wong Chuk Hang, Hong Kong. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

In the past, he painted the view from his window; now it’s blocked by a massive new building – ugly, he says, but at least it protected him during the recent stormy weather.

Sze, by contrast, has taken a more theoretical – and, to be gender-specific, more female – route. Unlike her husband, she is a trained artist.

In the 1980s, Sze left her adopted home, Hong Kong, to major in painting and drawing at Central Washington University in the United States. When she returned, she was a presence in exhibitions in the city in the early 1990s.

I look very quiet but inside me is not quiet

Sze Yuen

Her work, too, focused on Hong Kong; she liked to create sequences of miniatures executed mostly in charcoal.

Then she became a mother – to Joan, the couple’s only child – and much later, a carer for her own mother, who came to live with the family when she became ill.

In 2007, she received her M Phil from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Her dissertation’s title was “A study of the self-construction of Chinese women artists and the influence it brings to their everyday life experience in the social and cultural context of Hong Kong”.

Sze (above) likes medieval and Renaissance art, and is drawn to European religious paintings. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

Asked about her own self-construction, she says, in her soft voice: “I’m more laid-back now about whether I’m feminist or how people look at me in the art world.”

Guessing how this exchange might evolve, she adds: “Tong Lung always encourages me to do what I want to do. I deliberately chose my role. I wanted to spend time with my daughter and my mother.”

She was also teaching about the role of arts in society. “That was very fruitful, looking back at art history, thinking about art movements,” she says.

“Solo·Exhibition·Twice II: Of Seeing” is at Blindspot Gallery until October 28. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

Her mother died; her daughter grew up. “I’m not that much needed. I thought, why don’t I go back to myself? It was a spark that’s tickling me.”

Before the coronavirus pandemic, she went to visit Joan in Europe, where the art galleries re-fanned that dormant flame.

She has always loved medieval and Renaissance art. When the world shut down and life became confined, she began to work at home.

“Ching Lin Terrace” (2022), Yeung Tong Lung. Photo: courtesy of the artist and Blindspot Gallery

She is drawn to European religious paintings and, especially, to the predella – the strip of small images that runs along the bottom of an altarpiece and tells its own tale about the bigger images above. There could hardly be a better metaphor for the relationship between the works in the show.

Yeung’s are pleasurably vivid: they immediately draw the eye, playing with perspective, people and place. Residents of Kennedy Town will identify with some of his titles: Ching Lin Terrace and Whitty Street Fo Jeng (Gas Tank) Huo Jing. They’re so large, you have to step back to take it in.

Meanwhile, the scale and shadow of Sze’s charcoal works mean you must come closer to appreciate the glimpses of Hong Kong life.

“Today should be……Joyous” (2022), Yeung Tong Lung. Photo: courtesy of the artist and Blindspot Gallery

It’s not that her work feels in any way diminished – Trip I: Journey, is a triptych in which each panel is 1.8 metres long – it’s simply a different approach to the show’s shared theme: seeing.

Her creations are sombre, with spiritual references and a sense of loss. Although she’s more confident with charcoal, there are also several works in oil.

One, in particular – City View I: C Island – has real power. “I look very quiet but inside me is not quiet,” she says.

“City View IV: Day Night” (2022-23), Sze Yuen. Photo: courtesy of the artist and Blindspot Gallery

Blindspot, with its artfully peeling walls and echoing space, gives the show the sense of being in an abandoned church. Yeung has created a diptych, a double-panelled form popular with medieval religious artists (Tattoo House consists of a tattoo parlour and Kennedy Town’s Rock Hill Street).

The exhibition includes a series of sketchbooks so viewers can understand the creation of all his works.

The artists also write comments on each other’s work (Yeung’s are written in a blue exercise book in his studio); these are not for public view. They both smile about that process.

“When I write about his work, it also reorganises my reflections,” says Sze. “For both of us, it’s a way of seeing.”

“Solo·Exhibition·Twice II: Of Seeing”, Blindspot Gallery, 15/F Po Chai Industrial Building, 28 Wong Chuk Hang Road, Tue-Sat, 10:30am-6:30pm. Until October 28


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