LAM TUNG PANG, Past Continuous Tense, 2011, charcoal, image-transfer and acrylic on plywood, 244 × 1560 × 5 cm. Installation view of “Planting Time” at Tang Contemporary Art, Hong Kong. Courtesy Tang Contemporary Art. 

Planting Time

Lam Tung Pang

Tang Contemporary Art
Hong Kong

Curated by Hong Kong-based architect and collector William Lim, “Planting Time,” artist Lam Tung Pang’s solo exhibition at Tang Contemporary Art gallery, is a commentary on humanity’s destruction and recklessness of the natural world. At the same time, Lam’s suite of works, which combines charcoal and acrylic on plywood, also reflects the artist’s fascination with the unconventional pairing of materials.

Past Continuous Tense (2011), a 16-meter-wide charcoal-on-plywood piece, is composed of 52 planks of wood on which is depicted a wildfire, with trees drawn in a manner reminiscent of traditional East-Asian styles. Fallen trees, erasure marks and burn spots are scattered throughout the forest, alluding to the devastation caused by humans to our natural environment. Miniature prints of ancient Asian texts are stamped randomly across the surface of the wooden planks, acting as a reminder of the erosion of knowledge over time. Due to its massive length, the artwork takes up both the back and right walls of the gallery space, creating an immersive landscape. A lone potted plant rests on a wooden table in front of the expansive work, its vibrant green foliage in contrast with the dark charcoal of the flora within the work, acting as a reminder of life that has been lost.

LAM TUNG PANGLandscape Through Planting Time No. 1, 2012–16, ink, charcoal and acrylic on plywood, 122 × 91 cm. Courtesy Tang Contemporary Art, Hong Kong. 

Contrasting the density and enormity of Past Continuous Tense are five works that dot the opposite teal-colored walls. These works were all pieces that were initially abandoned by Lam. It was upon seeing them scattered around his studio that he returned to these works, having had a renewed inspiration and approach to their completion. Here, Lam experimented with dimensionality: juxtaposing the flat surface of painting, he added protruding wooden blocks to create a three-dimensional shape. Landscape Through Planting Time No. 4 (2013–16) is a quasi-two-dimensional house constructed out of different wood pieces, resulting in a flattened yet sculptural object. Throughout these works, Lam’s stylization is reminiscent of traditional Chinese shan shui (mountain water) paintings. In Landscape Through Planting Time No. 2 (2014–16), for instance, the artist illustrates a mountainous region. However, unlike traditional Chinese landscapes, Lam builds upon the scene by adding objects such as rocks, houses and human figurines, inviting viewers to take a closer look at the details.

LAM TUNG PANGLandscape Through Planting Time No. 4, 2013–16, charcoal, scale-models and acrylic on plywood, 84 × 100 cm. Courtesy Tang Contemporary Art, Hong Kong.

LAM TUNG PANGLandscape Through Planting Time No. 2, 2013–16, charcoal, scale-models and acrylic on plywood, 82 × 81.3 cm. Courtesy Tang Contemporary Art, Hong Kong.

Further exploring the erosion of nature, Lam incorporates in his work a woodcutting technique that resembles painful scratching, done over the surface of plywood. The thin, slicing motion represents destructive human actions that are chipping away at our natural environment. In Landscape Through Planting Time No. 3 (2013–16), woodcuts cover a composition of trees by a riverside, with a cityscape in the background. The scene is captured under heavy rain as seen in the diagonal distortion of raindrops in the work. Similarly, movement can be seen in the rain of Landscape Through Planting Time No. 1 (2012–16), where long woodcuts add depth and texture to the scene of a lone figure balancing a carrying pole during a stormy night.

“Planting Time” presents a poignant reminder of the reckless pace at which we are destroying our environment. It suggests that, without an awareness of our actions, we will one day see only the burn and erasure marks of the beautiful nature that was once there.

Installation view of LAM TUNG PANG’s exhibition “Planting Time” at Tang Contemporary Art, Hong Kong, 2016. Courtesy Tang Contemporary Art. 

“Lam Tung Pang: Planting Time” is on view at Tang Contemporary Art, Hong Kong, until July 30, 2016.