Installation view of TREVOR YEUNG’s “In-Between” at Blindspot Gallery, Hong Kong, 2018. All images courtesy the artist and Blindspot Gallery, Hong Kong.


Trevor Yeung

Blindspot Gallery
Hong Kong China
TREVOR YEUNG, Seven Layers Practice 03, 2018, graphite on paper, 31 × 23 cm.
TREVOR YEUNG, Seven Layers Practice 03, 2018, graphite on paper, 31 × 23 cm.

At the mouth of Trevor Yeung’s solo show at Blindspot Gallery, visitors faced a choice: enter through the left, via an unfettered entrance, or the right, through vertical, blue-gray plastic strips. This forking of pathways inevitably recalls Robert Frost’s much-cited and misinterpreted poem, “The Road Not Taken” (1916). According to the original text, the marginally more overgrown road is, in truth, just as rewarding as the other—yet in the poem’s conclusion, the narrator’s self-assurance of “I took the one less traveled by / And that has made all the difference” reveals our revisionist tendencies toward history and memory in order to make sense of the present. This ambiguity of consequence, choice and tension between our past and present selves coursed through Yeung’s latest exhibition, and also revealed the artist’s maturation from his previous solo show in the same space, two years prior.

Whereas “The Sunset of Last Summer” (2016) featured tightly manicured, hermetic environments, “In-Between” presented an unassuming panoply of intersections that lend themselves to more open interpretations. The quietest of these interventions is the sparse, obscure drawing series “Seven Layers Practice” (2018)—permutations of graphite markings on paper evoking half-realized figures clinging to one another, or a thin, mossy tangle of hair in a sink basin—arranged in a row as if to encourage a visitor to stroll back and forth between the frames. An exercise in restraint and abstractness, the work is perhaps the most subtle of Yeung’s works in his practice to date, yet is still an excellent example of his ongoing interests in relational aesthetics and “composing” experiences for viewers. 

Other works in the show, although more literal, are infused with similar oxymoronic complexities. The Borrowed Relief (Moon of Home) (2017) features a piece of mangrove driftwood, adorned with a hanging disc of jade, that appears to be hovering above a circular mirror, the deft angling of the overhead lights casting a lunar-like silhouette on the wall behind. The polished mangrove fragment visually references the archetypal gnarled penjing trees seen in traditional Chinese gardens or their miniature facsimiles, scenes familiar to Yeung, who was born in Dongguan and raised in Hong Kong. Yet the wood limb is incomplete; separated from its trunk, it resembles an itinerant wanderer—much like Yeung himself, who travels frequently for work—dispatched far from home, who has come to long for reconnection with their roots. The mirage-like effects of the piece force a dialogue between expectation and reality; the floating of the wood is in fact an illusion, as several pointed growths connect with the reflective surface beneath, and the “moon of home” referenced in the title is but a shadow. 

This theme of longing was augmented by the curation of the exhibition space itself. To visitors entering from the left, Moon of Home was immediately visible, marinating the subsequent amble through the space with the intensity of nostalgia. Yet to visitors entering from the right, the work was mostly hidden until the end—save for a tell-tale shadow on the ceiling that crept over the dividing half-wall—symbolizing the subconscious lingering of hiraeth, a complex Welsh notion that describes a yearning for a home that once was, or that never existed. 

Installation view of TREVOR YEUNG’s The Borrowed Relief (Moon of Home), 2017, mangrove driftwood, marble, mirror, gold, string, 56 × 50 × 50 cm, at “In-Between,” Blindspot Gallery, Hong Kong, 2018.

Installation view of TREVOR YEUNG’s Pigeon Wings (Single Rose), 2018, synthetic flower, porcelain, string, 31 × 19 × 6 cm, at “In-Between,” Blindspot Gallery, Hong Kong, 2018.
Installation view of TREVOR YEUNG’s Pigeon Wings (Single Rose), 2018, synthetic flower, porcelain, string, 31 × 19 × 6 cm, at “In-Between,” Blindspot Gallery, Hong Kong, 2018.

The exhibition was not lacking in flora and fauna, two recurrent motifs in Yeung’s oeuvre. Yet in the context of “In-Between,” various plants—whether live, withered or synthetic, as in the hanging flower vase, Pigeon Wings (Single Rose) (2018)—seem not so much objects or vehicles of narratives, as seen in his earlier works, but subjects of their own, with their own stories. Growing Onion (2015), a copper dish of garlic and onion bulbs placed on a small, cloth-covered table can be considered a performance enumerating the ways in which we, as individuals, progress, away from the familiar and often with the assistance of invisible forces. Left in the space, the work appeared displaced from a home kitchen, invading the public arena as unattended, pungent matter. Unseen was a bowl of water attached to the table’s underside, surreptitiously providing nourishment for new, jade-green shoots to emerge, much like the wild grasses of the road less traveled in Frost’s poem. In the context of the new turns in Yeung’s practice, this older work represents the need to recontextualize history in order to move forward. 

Ysabelle Cheung is ArtAsiaPacific’s managing editor.

Trevor Yeung’s “In-Between” is on view at Blindspot Gallery, Hong Kong, until November 3, 2018.

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