Interview: Nancy Tong
Luca Curci talks with Nancy Tong, one of the Honorable Mention winners during the ITSLIQUID International Contest – 8th edition.
Nancy Tong’s art practice explores themes connected to her childhood memories, daily life experiences and identity using painting, installation, sculpture, video, and public art. Tong employs art as a means for articulating her inner emotionality and psychological landscape. Memory is the cornerstone of her body of work. Some of her earliest childhood memories are of her father working on his revolutionary designs for carton packaging. The art of folding precipitated the nexus of activities in her family’s daily lives together. Born in Hong Kong, during the British reign, a place where Chinese and Western cultures are well blended, Tong began to create abstract paintings while studying at art school and her work suffuses with this mixed culture. Tong has exhibited her work in solo and group shows internationally, including in Korea, France, Australia, Serbia and Hong Kong China. At present, she lives and works in Hong Kong.
Luca Curci – How did you get to your current artistic practice?
Nancy Tong – My beloved father was a commercial advertising designer in the 70s. He had a renowned reputation in the industry for his designs and his Chinese calligraphy. When growing up, therefore, I had this figure of what an artistic person is looming quite large in my life from early on and I have been deeply influenced by my father’s attitude and philosophy in art. His work remains a vivid memory and experience for me and will continue to be so for the rest of my life. I realized that in order to have my art accepted in the art world I needed to formalize it through study. I obtained my bachelor’s degree in fine arts, majored in Painting at RMIT University (Melbourne Australia) in 2019. I began to create abstract paintings while I was in art school. My palette, still to this day, is closely related to my childhood memories and everyday life experiences. I take a geometrical shape as my starting point to create a three-dimensional rejection flatness by folding and crumpling – a metamorphosis that amalgamates the historical tradition of abstraction.
LC – What is art for you?
NT – For me, art is a way of life, a way of expressing myself. Art makes me think and it leads me to reflect on myself. It gives me space to be with myself and brings me closer to my innermost needs and feelings. Art provides me another perspective on how to interpret the world around us. It has the possibility to change the world.
LC – Are your artworks focused on a specific theme?
NT – My artwork investigates the psychological state of mind within the science of folding. The three-dimensional-based painting is my latest body of work – “Fold”. The artworks are a spontaneous, harmonic and abstract composition born out of the destructive actions and emotional expressions of my subconscious to the impermanent ever-changing environment of our world.
LC – How do you feel when you see your work completed?
NT – Knowing when a work is truly completed is challenging for me although I seldom return to make changes after finally declaring it resolved. The most difficult step is the final step. The final step to completion is folding and rumpling the painting, as there are not many changes that I can perform to alter the work after it has been folded. Each fold can be done only once. It cannot be unfolded and refolded. I feel a mesmerizing emotion upon finally declaring and artwork completed. On one hand, I deeply enjoy the whole creative process yet on the other hand I am fascinated by the spontaneous unanticipated result of the resolved work.
LC – What is your creative process like?
NT – How I am true to myself and how I feel about the surrounding environment with a painting. I don’t know that this is something I have greatly explored while studying at art school. Two-dimensional paintings are very static, but I like the idea of movement and the sense of what that movement has. There is a transfer of feeling through the canvas, paper and paint that gives a sense of amazement, and this makes me want to do more. I experiment with the feelings generated by materials and mediums. I convert folds into form and movement, combining notions from traditional Chinese ink art and contemporary art into my own geometric, organic sculptural work. The non-objective minimalistic motif is the result of the crisscrossing of lines created by the disruption of shapes painted onto the canvas. These folds create a maze-like array of irregular yet dynamic lines within three-dimensional formations. The folds infuse my emotional expression of my inner psychological state into the lines. As a contemporary artist, I am not merely the continuation of my father but also the extension of Modernism and Post-Modernism.
LC – What are you currently working on?
NT – Work on paper has always fascinated me especially Xuan paper (rice paper), a kind of paper that I employed during my training in Chinese calligraphy. I’m now experimenting with its various possibilities.