Contemplation On "Trace"
"Trace" - Lewis Lau Solo Exhibition
2023.05.09 - 2023.06.03
Life has always been the root of artistic creation. Some choose to transform the pieces of life into patches of vivid colours on the canvas, while others choose to represent the many faces of life in a naturalistic way. Hong Kong-born contemporary artist Lewis Lau is a person that exists in between these two modes of painting.
The title of our exhibition “Trace”, which means “wandering in the sea”, refers to the act of moving towards a certain goal in the water at one’s own pace. Two years ago, Lau moved to Britain and left his home city to embark on a new chapter of life. When facing unfamiliar things in a new environment, people often experience a mixture of excitement and homesickness in their hearts. When Lau, who is familiar with Eastern culture, encounters unfamiliar things in a foreign land, the strong cultural and historical atmosphere of that exotic place creates a subtle relationship with his inner state. This inspired him to create a series of fantastical oil paintings representing the clash and fusion between Chinese and Western cultures. Through painting, Lau rediscovered his passion for life and art in a foreign land, even if it meant the need to swim against the current.
What makes Lau so unique as an artist is his sensitivity towards the passing of time. Time witnessed how Hong Kong changed from a former British colony to a present-day international city, and it also looked over Lau when he left Hong Kong to begin a new life in Britain. Time, as a friend or enemy, has never left Lau’s side as he travelled to every corner of the world. When he arrived in Britain, it almost felt like the streets interspersed with old-fashioned and new buildings were whispering to him. But at the same time, the traces of time left in buildings, streets, and sculptures after being slowly deposited by time are so moving.
The landscapes of Lau look like they belong to a dream world. When viewing his paintings, one is captivated by the dancing colours on the canvas while his or her mind conjures up an image both of illusion and reality with an ineffable sense of mystery. Lau’s treatment of colours is meticulous. By contrasting light and shadow, he can create either a harmonious atmosphere or a sense of unease in the pictures. In Link, Lau depicts a building composed of European-style columns and a traditional Chinese ceiling. In the foreground of this painting, there is a carpet decorated, inspired by a representative pattern of the famous British artist William Morris, as well as three potted plants - plum blossoms, orchids, and bamboo. If we follow the gaze of the two English hounds, our eyes are directed to the vast meadow outside the building. In the middle of the grass field, viewers will find the dog-shaped flower sculpture by Jeff Koons looming up to the blue sky. From China to the West, from interior to exterior, from the past to present, the painting reflects the origins of artistic styles and the meanings of artistic inheritance. Ultimately, which country, culture, or person does art belong to?
Oil on Canvas
91.44 x 121 .92 cm
If You Just Close Your Eyes
Oil on Canvas
91.44 x 121 .92 cm
In If You Just Close Your Eyes, we are led into a forest where a piano carved out of a tree trunk is placed in the centre of the canvas. In the middle of the forest stands a piano made of tree trunks, and in front of it is a trendy COMPANION sculpture also crafted from tree trunks. The COMPANION sculpture, created by American street artist Kaws, is a representative work of contemporary pop art, while the piano represents the artistic achievements of the classical period of European civilization. As the COMPANION sculpture conducts the unplayed piano with empty hands, one can witness the collision and blending of classical and modern civilizations. Perhaps, when Lau strolls alone in the forest in England, he associates with the essence of art.
In addition to the fictional places and scenery, Lewis Lau's works also occasionally depict things that can be easily found in real life, such as the stairs in the Central Market in Hong Kong, the red telephone booths in England, or the Cambridge once written by the famous poet Xu Zhimo. As we may know, the Central Market in Hong Kong has been revitalised into a cultural and commercial place, and the red telephone booths are almost no longer in use. This shows that if things do not keep up with the times, they will be eliminated by time or become cultural shells without practical use. However, when buildings, artworks, streets, and statues that bear the marks of time are surrounded by flowers, plants, and trees that thrive in nature, the endless vitality of time and the inspiration of art could burst forth from them.
Oil on Canvas
34.7 x 44.7cm
Therefore, time brings not only disillusionment and disappearance but also new growth and blooming. In Lewis Lau's works, we can always find that seemingly old and abandoned things are sprinkled with incredibly shining dots of bright oil paints, as if telling us that even in adversity, there is still hope and strength to move forward. This understanding may be what Lau, who is in a foreign land, wants to bring to everyone's contemplation.
The French sculptor Auguste Rodin once said, “Beauty is everywhere. It is not that she is lacking to our eye, but our eyes which fail to perceive her.” It is through Lau’s paintings that we can find beauty and hope in dark times. Just like the fireflies in Iridescent Cloud, the light will eventually guard us to the destination we desire. Ans a member of Hong Kong art world, Touch Gallery aims to bring a new breath of life into the city’s contemporary art scene. Therefore, we are proud to present the works of Lewis Lau as part of our efforts to nurture a new generation of artists. This exhibition not only showcases the artist’s personal and artistic character, but also represents our gallery’s commitment to a brighter and more colourful future.