Hanging against the wall was Moment of Truth XVI to XXV, approximately 1 by 1 feet each. These paintings by local artist Wai Pong-yu depict seemingly fossils, a shipwreck, a rainforest, and an underwater habitat of vertebrate and invertebrate, all melded together. The recent solo exhibition at Grotto Fine Art is his second while the first dated in 2009 by the same gallery. From favourite sports to career, the interview with Wai turned out to be profoundly metaphysical.
The paintings started from XVI; what’s happened to Moment of Truth I to XV?
They have all been sold when I started this series last year. Instead of occupying the whole painting with my dynamic lines, I created an empty space for a more organic form. Moving away from deconstructing Chinese characters I was drawn to construct details of rock and landscape.
My motto is that every painting should show progression from the previous, no matter how explicit or equivocal it is. The subsequent variations freshen up my mind and my feeling of being alive. I find ballpoint pens the best medium so far to assist me in injecting emotions.
I recognise some elements in your paintings in a way yet I push away my intuition and think laterally. Tell me how you made these.
I’m glad you had such an interesting reaction. The least I want to be asked is “what is it in your painting?” I could tell you what the image references are, for example, a humpback whale, a deep sea squid, tree barks, internal carotid arteries, and moon surface. But do these matter if you don’t find the connections?
In fact, I enjoyed the time I spent in Oxford last year. Some professors I newly met in the university could tell me a lot about what they saw in my paintings; their words empowered me. The class I attended there was art anatomy. Looking at the microscopic view of human muscles, skeleton and circulation systems, I was then deeply inspired by the wonder of human structure and its similarity to the nature and the universe.
On an ordinary day, my mood leads the way when my sight rests on an image, say a tree, an artery or a crystallised mineral. Then my mind wanders – a macroscopic picture of a subject formed billions of years ago and a microscopic image of another subject capturing in a thousandth of a second – what if they synthesise or meld?
Is it your interpretation of “moment of truth”?
Well … I don’t know. Perhaps the images I made reference to are true, or the synthesised forms are. To me, “truth” lies in the future luring me to get close. The journey should be adventurous and the outcome could likely be contradictory to my cognition. I’ll know the moment I feel it, touch it; it’s an instinct same as I know exactly when to stop and declare this painting is finished. I dare not to ‘complete’ it most of the time because it is a state of seductiveness.
Before we ‘finish’ this interview, do you have anything else?
May I talk about Hegel’s dialectic? (Opened a document from his laptop, Wai quoted:) “Mankind can only reach its highest spiritual consciousness through endless self-perpetuating struggle between ideals, and the eventual synthesising of all opposites.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about my practice – we can’t say mankind and nature are opposites, can we? Is spirituality true or being packaged? I keep on questioning myself, the images and the way I worked with them. There are some arguments by Husserl too… [Be adventurous. Keep on asking, young man.]
Visited Moment of Truth – the Synergy of Ink at Grotto Fine Art on 14 Nov, 2013.
The edited article was also published at a.m post, Dec 2013 edition.