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No.9 Er / Figure

Diptych (with hidden painting mounted behind)
Oil on canvas panel
12 x 9 in / Frame: 14 x 11 in

Transitional 2x4 - series


Lam Wong: Transitional 2x4 01 Figure




Lam Wong: Transitional 2x4, installation view
Installation view: Lam Wong: Mind Transition, 2019 at Canton-Sardine



About the series - Transitional 2x4

A series of diptych paintings, each showing a fixed frame and depicting motion figures paired with a monochromatic colour-field counter part. Behind each piece of artwork is a hidden painting that is permanently mounted. They are created with layers of calligraphy and paint, drawing from a famous concept in the Diamond Sutra: The Buddha’s teaching on the impermanent and empty nature of all phenomena. The hidden paintings are both talismanic and abstract in nature. Below are the original texts that have been used in the hidden paintings:

一切有為法 如夢幻泡影
如露亦如電 應作如是觀

All conditioned phenomena
Are like dreams, illusions, bubbles, and shadows,
Like dew and like lightning;
One should contemplate them in this way.
(English Translation)

The Transitional 2x4 series was formed with a realization of a single thought - "Everything and every situation happens only once." All experience is unique. It is a quiet contemplation on time and impermanence. The frame of each painting symbolizes Nowness, and the content (the walking figures inside the frame) depict the movement in time – an expression of Impermanence in all forms and colours. Like an ever-flowing river, the walking figures seem to transition into other frames in a mysterious way. I like the idea of my paintings having conversations with each other.

My newer paintings are very often inspired by my older works. The idea of the undercover hidden paintings and the pairing of two paintings on each panel may come from my earlier work, a large diptych called Westcoast (MOA) 2008, which feature two Buddhist monks on the left panel and a same-sex couple on the right. The setting was the Museum of Anthropology at UBC in Vancouver British Columbia. The aesthetics of this new series, upon revisiting them after completion, feels like a subconscious extension of two of my earlier paintings titled 1964 The Poignancy of Music, and 1964 The Poignancy of Poetry, set in Mark Rothko's studio in Soho, NYC which I painted between 2010 to 2012. They are the projected ideal of how painting should be made, and what should be felt.




Notes from Transcendental Colours and Love of a City

Lam Wong / Jan 2018

Spring 1994. I was on a gruelling Greyhound bus trip from Edmonton to the east coast Canada. The trip was an attempt to do a rough survey of this great country before my move back to Hong Kong, to live and spend time with my then girlfriend, Mei (now my wife and life partner). While the bus was circling around Lake Ontario, through what felt like an eternity, I plugged in my Diskman and set the music to The Durutti Column’s monumental album, Vini Reilly (*FACT244). Eyes closed. My mind drifted away to places I did not know existed. It must have been around the OPERA II track that the colours started to come. No Warning. Flashes of bright orange, hued purple, unknown shades of blues, heart-breaking sorrowful greys. All the flying chroma of ultra-blissful lucidity. And lights. Lights worked as threads filling the gaps between the ever-mutated colour forms to link them all together. Like a roll of monochromatic film that was running away from secrets, and into the purgatory of brilliant exposure. A point of no return. I kept my eyes closed and rested in that space, enjoying the light forms and the colour show. With no particular focus, no visions or stories, letting the formation of transcendental colours beam through my eyelids. I remembered I was happy. It might have been the first time I really felt happy, in the sense of timelessness. Without a centre, overwhelmed with colours. Embraced by light in a bright white hole of infinite space. Forgetting self. Right, that must have been my first experience of the transcendental. Entering into the void. That power completely took me over. My head was floating in the nowhere air while the body was cruising at 100 kilometres per hour down the highway. My country.

Spring 2010. A two-day extravaganza at the Hong Kong Art Fair (ArtHK10) in the heart of Wan Chai, a district I used to work in during 1994. The stage was set for world-class artwork, art lovers and the curious alike. I found myself again overwhelmed with colours. This time with gigantic primed white walls and endless streams of crowds in the air mingled with excitement and the scent of commerce. Art economy. Determined to take in every piece of artwork, I ended up exhausted and in urgent need of food. Rushing across the pedway that connects the slick modern convention centre to the chaotic local boutique markets, I found myself sitting at a tiny table in a Hong Kong cafe, facing the front door, looking out into the street. Mind blank. After quite some time sitting motionlessly with my tired body, my eyes aimlessly glazed out to the busy street, to the river of unending pedestrians and moving bodies. Railing right and left like colourful sound waves. The walking figures were flashing in and out of the doorframe. Suddenly, the light went on in my head. My consciousness merged with the force and motion of the people. I quickly took out my camera and setup the tripod on the dinning table in the middle of the tiny cafe. Snaps away. The patrons probably thought I was mad. But they said nothing. I was happy to archive a certain instance of the walking people of Wan Chai and the moving colours of their bodies. Wan Chai is artsy and chaotic. It has everything I love about Hong Kong, the city I grew up in during my teenage years, and a place I continuously visit since immigrating to Canada in 1987. Although Hong Kong has undergone strong political currents and challenges in recent years, it still remains exciting in its own beautiful chaotic way. The series of paintings. Transitional 2x4, is dedicated to the people of Hong Kong. An homage. May peace come in the ever-changing mood of time. My city.




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