【Opening Talk】Fung Lik-yan, Ji Wenyu & Zhu Weibing

Leo Gallery
Jul 24, 2019 10:09AM

This is an Opening Talk held in Leo Gallery, Shanghai on June 8, 2019. Guests: Artists Fung Lik-yan, Ji Wenyu & Zhu Weibing.

Leo Gallery Exhibition 2019.6.9 - 2019.8.17, Venue: Leo Gallery Shanghai. Closed on Mondays Address: Ferguson Lane, 376 Wu Kang Road, Xuhui District, Shanghai, China.

Artists: Ji Wenyu & Zhu Weibing、Fung Lik-yan Kevin and Anchor & Translator Zhang Ting

Zhang Ting:Okay, please allow me to repeat in English. Good afternoon dear friends and guests, thank you for coming to the due exhibition opening of Kevin Fung Lik-yan’s “Multiplicity” and Ji Wenyu & Zhu Weibing’s “Affairs Going On”.

Anchor & Translator:Zhang Ting

Now let me shortly brief our three artists background:

Born and raised in Hong Kong, studied in Canada, Mr. Kevin Fung Lik-yan has lived a double life as a professional engineer by day, and an artist by night for many years. After gaining a diploma from Professional and Continuing Education, University of Hong Kong, and following the renowned sculptor Tong King Sum, Kevin Fung switched from his trained profession as a common working staff, to an artist in 2011. Kevin Fung has participated in a number of exhibitions in Hong Kong and mainland China as well as overseas, and his works are collected by many galleries, museums and private collectors. Kevin Fung has been appointed by The Leisure and Cultural Services Department of Hong Kong Government as Museum Expert Adviser on 2014. In 2018, he has received Certificate of Commendation from Home Affairs Bureau of Hong Kong SAR for making outstanding contributions to the development of Arts and culture.

Set aside Kevin Fung, here are a lovely couple Mr. Ji Wen Yu and his wife Mrs. Zhu Wei Bing. As a South-North marriage, Ji was born in local Shanghai and Wu was born in Heilongjiang, North China. Since 2003, they started to co-create art pieces by the material of fabric or textile, and made lots of soft sculptures with strong visual delights. Except domestic exhibitions, their works were invited in numerous exhibitions overseas such as Aarhus Art Museum Denmark, Grongingen Museum Netherlands, Rauma Art Museum Finland, Museum of Modern Art in Valencia Spain, Kunstmuseum Bern Switzerland, Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art Australia, Biennale Italia-China Turin Italy and so on. Their works are collected by institutions and museums such as The Schaufler Foundation Collection Germany and Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern of Art Brisbane Australia.

Thanks again for the chance from Leo Gallery and our artists, now let’s start to talk about our exhibition.

Zhang Ting: Thanks again to the three artists, who have provided us with a very rare opportunity to communicate face to face. Let's start with the themes of this exhibition. First of all, I would like to ask Mr. Kevin Fung. The theme of your solo exhibition is “Multiplicity”. What is the concept and thoughts behind it?

Kevin Fung

Kevin Fung: The theme of this exhibition is Multiplicity. In fact, I am being ironic here with the title. When I worked on this theme, the first thought popped up is dual identity. People in today’s society have multiple identities – at least one online, and one in open public, which seems very interesting to me. Another view is that with rapid social development, we individuals are always influenced by group thinking, which is quite the opposite of Multiplicity. We remain individuals yet trying to go along with the mainstream, which is what I want to explore in my creation.Zhang Ting: Mr. Fung’s motivation for creation and concept is actually based on the fact that people in modern society have multiplicity and singularity at the same time. I also would like to ask the same question to Mr. Ji Wenyu and Ms Zhu Weibing about the exhibition theme. The exhibition theme “Affairs Going On!” is very interesting. How do you think about the theme? The titles of your works also seem to be straightforward and humorous. Are they also the styles of your work?

Ji Wenyu

Ji Wenyu: Everything we create, experience and explore is about everyday things in all aspects of life. When we were selecting works at Leo Gallery, we couldn’t think of a theme as the works are very diverse, covering different aspects. Later, it came to our mind that we always pay attention to all aspects of daily life,which may be affairs or may not be affairs. That’s why we use this relatively straightforward theme at the end. This is our style.

Zhu Weibing

Zhu Weibing: Our works are relatively wide-ranging. They are always about trivial matters in life. In fact, each of us is entangled in these trivial matters. This has become something that each of us often talks about and laughs together. When you don't pay attention, you will find that a certain thing will soon be passed and forgotten. But once you focus on it in a careful way, you will find many interesting aspects. In fact,these small yet interesting aspects have given us a lot of inspiration.As our works are wide-ranging, when we talked about the theme, “Affairs Going On!” just emerged by itself.

Opening Talk View

Zhang Ting: I would like to ask questions about the content created by the three artists. First of all, I would like to ask Mr. Kevin Fung. Your work was based on wood in the early days.Why did you choose wood in the first place?In this exhibition, you also have some works of stainless steel, copper or other materials. What do you think about the use of materials?

Multiplicity:Fung Lik-yan Kevin Solo Exhibition view

Kevin Fung: I started my art career with wood as the main medium. In Hong Kong, like all well-developed metropolitan cities, we lives in apartments packed in the concrete jungle and there is basically no chance to get close to nature. There is no forest there so I loved solid wood since childhood.Wood, in addition to its warmth, it also has aroma which no other material possess.Different woods have different smell, which is not found in other materials. This makes the creative process very enjoyable and that drew me to using wood as my first choice of medium. For example, the work "Herds" in this exhibition is made of camphor wood from Taiwan's Sanyi, which has a natural and special aroma. However, some of the my work cannot be constructed with wood alone, so I have introduced other materials such as stainless steel and bronze in my work.

Fung Lik-yan Kevin, Herds, Iron plate base, work attached to plate with magnet, Taiwan Sanyi camphor wood, about 32 to 35 cm tall, 25 x 25cm footprint Set of 5

Kevin Fung : Sanyi is quite an interesting place, as a matter of fact, the Chinese movie “The Story of A Small Town” was shot in Sanyi. During the Japanese rule, the government planted quite a lot of camphor tree there to extract camphor oil. After the war, some woodcarving masters came to Sanyi to use the camphor trees to make wood carvings. Like Fujian's Putian, Sanyi is a simple and good old place. Started in 2017, I went Sanyi to exchange with the local woodcarvers, spend some times once a while to do some wood sculpture. This time I went to Sanyi to buy a log of 5 metres long and 60 cm in diameter to create these wood carvings.

Zhang Ting: I am very grateful to Kevin Fung for bringing us such a story. I would like to ask Ji Wenyu & Zhu Weibing in terms of the material. You two mainly focus on fabrics and ready-made textiles. How did you choose the material of cloth at the first place? Does it have any restrictions on the creative techniques, and if so, how do you overcome the limitation? How did you understand the material?

Affairs Going On! Ji Wenyu & Zhu Weibing Solo Exhibition view

Zhu Weibing: The reason why we chose fabrics is not the same. Mine is very simple: I used to work on fashion design, so I naturally thought of using this material simply because I am familiar with this material. Another reason has something to do with my childhood memories: When I was a child, my mother made clothes. She gave me the broken fabrics and extra cloth. I hid them like treasure and made some small things out of them. That’s why I have intimate emotions about cloth. The use of cloth in contemporary art is completely different from that of fashion design. It has many limitations, and It's not an easy material. There is challenge but the challenge is part of its characteristics, so it's quite interesting to play with it all the way till now.

Ji Wenyu: I started working with Zhu Weibing from the end of 2003. I didn’t feel much about cloth at first. And also I had a crisis in my painting career, which is, the problem is gone. Everything can be foreseen before I even started to paint. The crisis was big as I felt there was no more challenge and new possibilities for me. Zhu Weibing often showed me the cloth, constantly instilling in her feelings about cloth. Her feelings were basically on the gentler and more feminine side of cloth. That’s when I tried to work on cloth, and found out the problems that cloth is in fact very stubborn. It does not follow your order. It cannot show realistic figures as when you fill cotton into it, something neither round nor square will come up. It always has its own character. During the creative process, many random results might occur. This cheered me up. I finally came out of the bottleneck period, and started to work together with Zhu Weibing.

Affairs Going On! Ji Wenyu & Zhu Weibing Solo Exhibition View

Ji Wenyu: We have different starting points, at first I felt “cloth” is very limited, but on the other hand, the possibilities of “cloth” is huge. It can be filled with cotton to become a round sculpture. Or it can be just itself, with nothing added to it.And even in some aspects, it is anti-sculpture.Cloth is not just add-ons, it has some very individual characters. So girls like to add colours on their costumes. With its vast opportunities, it wipes out all the crisis in my painting career.

Opening Talk View

Zhang Ting: Ji Wenyu & Zhu Weibing focuses on the“manual”process in their creation. I also would like to ask you two about your opinions on insisting on manual work, as many creation can be done in factories or studioes these days

Ji Wenyu & Zhu Weibing Compromise failed Cloth, wadding 227x108x84cm 2018

Ji Wenyu: Art is closly related with techniques. Now even with the help of computers or other people, technique is still required. Manual work is actually a kind of "technique" in artistic creation. I think this is still very important. It increases the artist's charm in creation. I still insist on manual work, as it is also an experience. On the other hand, if one is only obsessed with manual-work experience and proficiency in craftsmanship, then his art is dead. His creativity will be greatly limited by manual work.

Zhu Weibing: The communication between people these days go through machines. It seems that people are separated. I still like to touch the materials directly, as there is a kind of contact and dialogue between me and the objects with a warm feeling. No matter what era it is, people still have this kind of psychological need, which is necessary.

Ji Wenyu & Zhu Weibing, Good Eyesight Wire, wadding, foam, cloth, thread, glasses 107x38x22 cm 2014

Ji Wenyu: Just now I said “cloth” it doesn't fully follow your instructions. It has a lot of possibilities with its own character. It can also produce a lot of surprises. This is because of the "manual work" in the process of creation, which makes me more determined in using the material. When a concept grows up in the process of creation, it shall not be handed over to computers or any one else. I myself really like the process of growing the idea, which is also the process of controlling and being controlled, achieved by “manual work”.

Zhu Weibing: There will be many changes in the process of creation. We directly contact the materials in the process of creation, and thus we control them in a better way.

Fung Lik-yan Kevin, Herds, Iron plate base, work attached to plate with magnet, Taiwan Sanyi camphor wood, about 32 to 35 cm tall, 25 x 25cm footprint, Set of 5

Zhang Ting: Actually, we have seen that there are many traces of hand-carving in Kevin Fung’s works, especially in his works of wood. For Kevin Fung, how do you think about this kind of manual work?

Kevin Fung: I like to leave the chisel marks on wood sculpture, because this is the representation of the creative process. Every artist's method is different in this regards. This is very important, especially in the aspect of “working with your hands”. Nowadays, people start to use computers to create three dimensional works and 3D print them out for factories to fabricate. It is interesting to note that; there is only a few professional computer software powerful enough that we can use for digital creation and also a few ways to convert the virtual model in the computer to real form such as 3D print and CNC. Not to mention we are likely to go to the same factory for fabrication. This will result in the same technical limitation faced by each artist as the creative tools are similar; the same software, the same limitations, the same factories. At the end the artists all subject to similar constraint and would be influenced to similar direction by the technical limitation in the process of creation and production. Another problem is that anything done by the computer can be “redo “ or “undo”. This takes away the “risk-taking”. There is a lack of “impulse” and “mistake” which is the fun part of making art.

Zhang Ting: Today we see that in the two exhibition halls, all the works are closely related to the factor of “people”. I want to ask the three artists to talk about this. For Kevin Fung, your work is basically a combination of figurative figures and abstract shapes to reflect “urban life”, and most of the “people” here are single white-collar individuals. What is your idea about this?

Fung Lik-yan Kevin, Launch, Free standing bronze, stainless steel, Approximate 2m x 1m x 1.4m (h)

Kevin Fung: Living in China nowadays is tough, think about it, we can't afford to buy a small apartment for one, two or even three generations with our salaries. That kind of pressure make life difficult, we work hard every days to make ends meet and the feeling of going to work is like going to jail. We may be ourselves at home, but every morning when we put on shirts and ties, take the subway to work , we assume another identity and become someone else. What image can I use to represent this group of people? From the very beginning, I used the image of “shirt” and “tie” which is a uniform for an office/ urban worker. I have left out the detail and make the figures a bit abstract so it is not representational to a particular person.Zhang Ting: For Ji Wenyu & Zhu Weibing, the human characters in the two works are not the same as those in Kevin Fung’s works. They often appear in the state of the group. These group relationships also reflect some narrative landscapes and social phenomenon. What is your idea about this?

Ji Wenyu & Zhu Weibing, The Water Is Very Deep, Wood, cloth, foam, copper wire, thread, gauze, 210×75×16.2cm 2013

Zhu Weibing: There are many groups of people in some of our works. Most of the “people” do not have faces, so they do not represent a certain person or a certain group of people. There are not many people who really have their own ideas in life. Most of them just follow what other people are doing. We pay more attention to this phenomenon. It does not matter whether they are male or female, and it does not matter what jobs they are doing, we are just to represent such a group of people.

Ji Wenyu: What we express is something that everyone has a common understanding, or has been doing according to what they have been familiar with. Our “people” are all without faces. They are a kind of herd, who follow the social norm, that’s where we see the absurdity.

Zhang Ting: The following questions are about the concept of creation. I would like to ask what kind of artistic concept of Kevin Fung is what you have always adhered to or pursued in your creation?

Fung Lik-yan Kevin, Habitat, 2019, Free standing Stainless steel, Dimension: 1m x 1m x 2m(h)

Kevin Fung: I used to work as an office worker and never thought of being an artist. When I started in the very beginning, making art is fun, relaxing and enjoyable; it is just a work-life balance for me like singing karaoke a hobby to reduce stresses after work. Switching to a full time artist now I am still trying to maintain the same mentality; making art should be fun and enjoyable. This is the principle that I have always adhered to. Another rule I tried to stick to is that my art should make connection with real life; contemporary life.

Zhang Ting: I also want to ask Ji Wenyu & Zhu Weibing the same question. You once mentioned three common creative principles: the works can't be like crafts, can't be like toys, and can't be like folk art. Could you talk more about these three principles?

Ji Wenyu: This is actually the principle we set at the beginning of our cooperation. Many of our things are inspired by these three aspects, but we are opposed to the stylized things brought about by these three aspects. We are not limited to the methods and ideas. We must express the current age and humanities, so we must avoid these at the beginning.

Zhu Weibing: Art emphasizes spirituality and the artist's own feelings.

Fung Lik-yan Kevin, cells/selves, 2019 Free standing painted bronze, 100*58*63 cm, 2018

Audience: I want to ask Kevin Fung. You said that you are studying science and engineering. What kind of major did you study? Does it have anything to do with your artistic creation?

Kevin Fung : I studied both electrical and computer engineering, and worked as engineer and management in the telecommunications industry for almost twenty years. This really has nothing to do with my art. When I switched my career to being an artist, I purposely “de-skill” myself, to clear my mind of all those.

Audience: I would like to ask Ji Wenyu & Zhu Weibing. Ji Wenyu used to work in painting. Now, with the special material of "cloth", is it intentional for you to discover this kind of social image that is deeply rooted in our mind?

Affairs Going On! Ji Wenyu & Zhu Weibing Solo Exhibition View

Ji Wenyu: We observe in our life and express what we observe, whether positive or negative sides.

Audience: The three artists express their artistic diversity in both techniques and themes. I want to ask why contemporary art usually expresses social pain and depression. I have seen more works of art in negative themes which reflects on social problems, while early works of art have more positive sides. Why do the current trends and themes of art are mostly about the negative sides?

Kevin Fung: In the past, art purchase and collection was the rich-people’s thing. If you had no money, it is impossible to buy a piece of art and hang it at home; so it is for the elite. The rich and the elite people do not have much trouble, so to speak, so their focus are more aesthetics. Of course, now, we have much more opportunities to reach out to art, there are art galleries, museums, which means the patrons/ viewers for art are different, so of course the content adjusted as well with the change in the recipient.

Zhu Weibing: There is not much emphasis on negative things in our works, nor positive things. We did not deliberately emphasize them. This is just a process of reflection and contemplation, a space for introspection, which may be the attitude of contemporary art.

*All interpretation, right of final explanation belongs to Leo Gallery

Leo Gallery