CHENG TING TINGAs If Lying Under the Sun, 2017, carbon transfer on cotton, dimension variable. Courtesy the artist and Gallery Exit, Hong Kong. 

Fall In Fall Out

Cheng Ting Ting

Gallery Exit
Hong Kong

Gallery Exit’s first show of 2017 featured young Hong Kong painter, Cheng Ting Ting. Located in an industrial building in the South Island district, the vast space is sectioned into three main themes for Cheng’s solo exhibition. A graduate from Hong Kong Baptist University, Cheng explores daily life through an autobiographical lens. Her colorful semi-abstract paintings reflect upon various stages in life—from youth to adulthood—addressing her memories of growing up in Hong Kong.

Visitors first encounter four hanging cotton sacks that each have carbon transferred drawings. Entitled As If Lying Under the Sun (2017), the block-colored fabrics—in green, ochre, navy blue and white—contain an amalgamation of illustrated figures between the fabric folds. The loose material evokes pillow cases, which furthers the feeling of relaxation alluded to in the work’s title, while the active poses of the people in the drawings and block-colors mimic school camps and sports teams. This wall installation stood out within the exhibition as it was the only three-dimensional work in a show otherwise dominated by paintings.

The quotidian act of lying down is picked up in the series “Foreshortening Caused by Lying” (2016), which is comprised of three paintings depicting the same single figure lying on a bed, all from the perspective of one standing at the foot of the bed. Faced with enlarged feet that taper into the figure’s petite head, the paintings bring the viewer into a private space, enhancing feelings of intrusion.

CHENG TING TINGDorm, 2016, oil on canvas, two panels, 200 × 310 cm. Courtesy the artist and Gallery Exit, Hong Kong. 

CHENG TING TINGIce-Skating Tutor: Mr. Cheung, 2016, oil on canvas, 150 × 120 cm. Courtesy the artist and Gallery Exit, Hong Kong. 

Cheng’s reflection on private space in Hong Kong carries through in the large-scale diptych Dorm (2016), which focuses on a scene in an overnight camp. Multiple figures are depicted within this sleeping environment, a situation based on Cheng’s personal experiences of being away from home for the first time on a primary school excursion. Saturated colors suggest the heightened tension or excitement of the students who occupy their individual bunks but co-exist within the same space. While this imagery conjures events in Cheng’s childhood, it also makes a reference to the claustraphobic domestic spaces of Hong Kong.

The dynamic brushwork characteristic of Cheng’s paintings immediately catches one’s attention, but are more than flicks of pigment and painterly gestures. When taking a closer look at Cheng’s work, one can see that the depiction of figures and narrative is an instrumental part of her practice. The eight paintings of the series “Ice Rink” (all 2016) show figures from the ice rink—they are either a student, a coach or an employee. Cheng has chosen to depict a popular setting in Hong Kong, where indoor ice-skating is a common past time, and a welcomed relief from the often high-temperatures of the city. Each painting shows either a single skater or a small group contained within the rink. Some, such as Ice-Skating Tutor: Mr. Cheung and Ice Rink Staff: Raymond portray forlorn individuals lost in thought. Within the wider, nearly empty rink that surrounds the figure, the sports facility doubles as a place of introspection, revealing the deeper psychologies of the subjects, perhaps marking moments of emotional revelation for the artist.

Juxtaposing the tepid scenes from the ice rink is the spirited paintings of “Trust Fall” (all 2016), which transitions from an individualistic mentality to one focused on the collective. The three paintings of the series capture moments of a person’s trust fall into a larger group: Trust Fall I provides viewers a glimpse of the figure’s body as it seemingly descends out of the picture plane, while Trust Fall II and III show the full-figure of the person in mid-air as he falls into the arms of his teammates below, emphasizing mutual support within a group.

Cheng’s autobiographical paintings begin with questions of one’s personal space and the role of an individual in society. While tracing events in the artist’s personal narrative, the imagery evolves with more awareness of others. Not only do Cheng’s paintings reflect upon her own stages of growth, both personally and outwardly, it also reveals a universal message that as one matures, an awareness of one’s responsibilities to larger communities is ever-more urgent.

Installation view of “Trust Fall” (2016) as part of CHENG TING TING’s exhibition “Fall In Fall Out” at Gallery Exit, Hong Kong, 2017. Courtesy the artist and Gallery Exit. 

Cheng Ting Ting’s “Fall In Fall Out” is on view at Gallery Exit, Hong Kong until February 11, 2017.

Ye Eun Nam is an editorial intern at ArtAsiaPacific.

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