Someone enjoys asking why yet someone is not keen on answering it. In the interview with Yiu Chu-tung, asking “why” led to a one-sentence close-ended answer. After several attempts, I simply acknowledge the beauty of asking questions and the fun of interviewing. Not to say Yiu was not cooperative; instead, he tried his best to talk “what” and “how” his aesthetic practise is about. Perhaps, the artist concerns the process of making art rather than the reason of it.
W – Wendy WO
Y – YIU Chu-Tung
W: What made you become an artist?
Y: Taking my drawing lessons as early as five years old, I was determined to be an artist at fifteen or sixteen years of age. I was so keen to pursue my passion in art that I quit school after completing Form 5. I worked as a labourer in the day and as an artist in the evening; I enjoyed this lifestyle a lot.
W: Then why did you study aboard a year later?
Y: Why? The tuition was not that expensive.
W: Well, then did you continue drawing with pencils?
Y: Yes. In the painting course, I was introduced to modern artists like Picasso and Cézanne; everything was an eye-opener to me. Though I did some watercolour, I still kept using pencil as my practice throughout the undergraduate years in Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University (RMIT).
W: For a loyalist to a particular medium, did you encounter challenges in those days when others were so eager to explore various materials and mediums?
Y: Definitely yes. I have seen an installation work named A Drawing. A white object, a placement of light source and the shadow of the object along with the photograph of the scene constituted that installation work. In logic, the three conditions are indeed necessary to drawing; people may think contemporary art is only about subversion and thus restoring a drawing as an object and light and shade, but it bent a necessary condition to be a sufficient condition.
W: Your paintings are tranquil. Is it because you are logical and rational?
Y: I am expressive and sometimes emotional! The way I express my emotions is through concentration. I would spend thirteen or fourteen hours a day drawing; if I am not making art, I feel like nothing to do.
W: What do you concentrate on in your creative process?
Y: I do painting as a depiction of what I see or remember, in great or omitted details – realism, if you want, is only a technique. To me, the concept of drawing is composed of not only the technique, but also the process and the past. I would not adhere an object to my painting, which is an often-heard comment, merely for innovation’s sake. This is not drawing.
W: You must have given some thought to your seven years’ artist career, I am sure.
Y: Drawing has been marginalised in contemporary art education, be it local or overseas. Do not forget drawing has a long history. What is drawing? I doubt the tactic of placing an object or imposing a concept. A musician improvises with tonal values and so do I approaching drawing with techniques like contrast between light and shade, composition, as well as perspective. In one of my previous series I have explored perspective such as one-point, rectilinear, bird’s eye view, macro, etc.
W: But you attempted once then moved on. Why?
Y: Been there, done that.
W: You drew the sight of people’s back too. Why?
Y: My brushstroke represents hair better than face.
W: This time you drew the streets of Fo Tan industrial area. Why?
Y: My studio is just nearby (the gallery is also in Fo Tan). I know this place well enough.
W: Why was the exhibition called “Amazing Grey”?
Y: I know a song called “Amazing Grace”.
W: Thank you (for attending my interrogation).
The edited version of this article was published in a.m.post March edition.