Artist in the Neighbourhood Scheme III

When Words are Sweet...... Paintings by Au Hoi-lam

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Date: 23.9 - 10.10.2006
Time: 10:00am - 6:30pm
Venue: Experimental Gallery, 3/F Hong Kong Arts Centre
Address: 2 Harbour Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong

Date: 14 - 29.10.2006
Time: 10:00am - 8:00pm
Venue: Exhibition Gallery 4-5, Hong Kong Central Library
Address: 66 Causeway Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

Those who grew up in the 70s or 80s will likely have clear memories of traditional exercise books, the back of which was printed with a times table rhyme and the 26 alphabet characters from A to Z. It was treasured in our childhood as a handy helper when we needed to write down new vocabularies or play the ¡§Tian Xia Tai Ping¡¨ game with our classmates during lesson breaks. To Au Hoi-lam, this stylish exercise book has also become the perfect medium for recording the details of her life. Be it creative ideas for new paintings, scraps of picture drafts, memorandums, or her own feelings on a wide variety of subjects, they are all recorded in her exercise books, which serve as both a diary and an album of her private life.

The seven-year art training that Au Hoi-lam received at Jockey Club Ti-I College has given her a strong foundation for her pursuit of painting. After leaving college, she was trained in the Department of Fine Arts at The Chinese University of Hong Kong , where she further continued her studies in art and painting. While many of her peers devoted themselves to a concept-led and experiment-oriented creative approach, Au Hoi-lam was undoubtedly one of the few who fully committed herself to painting in all its forms. Her artistic creation has been reviewed as¡K her works do not adhere to any fixed mode of expression, whether concrete or abstract. Instead, she ceaselessly explores the many skills, colours and themes of painting. Among her early works, Debris series (Fig. 1) is an abstraction of pencil shavings; Garden of Eden (Fig. 2), The Rain has Washed the Trees (Fig. 3) and Conversation with the Giant (Fig. 4) emphasise the use of colours and texture rather than a figurative expression. From Polish My Skin (Fig. 5), Get a Glimpse of the Blue Flower/ The Giant Disappears (Fig. 6) and My Study Exercise 1 (Fig. 7), we can even see how she has used geometrical blocks of colours and scrappy words to give her works a quiet and gentle mood, while also revealing an inclination towards pure abstraction.

Again using large colour blocks, Au Hoi-lam created a dreamy and delicate series of works entitled Memo (Fig. 8) from 2003 to 2004. On the pastel-coloured paintings, she has used pencils to repeatedly draw tiny patterns, like a primary school student writing copybook. These tiny patterns include screws, small houses and skirts, which are not only visual symbols of her thoughts at the time of painting, but also a trail of existence, which she has faithfully recorded on canvas. It's not easy to identify any rational reasoning or clear line of thought from these paintings, but incomprehensibility is exactly what Au has sought to achieve: Painting is own confession to herself, she shows the audience but simply paintings.

In this exhibition ¡§When Words are Sweet¡¨, Au Hoi-lam demonstrates her concept of ¡§painting = memorandum¡¨ to the fullest extent. Touched by the Poem of You and I written by Guan Daosheng, the wife of Zhao Mengfu, Yuen Dynasty, she created a series of works depicting sweet love. Various figures, both human and otherwise, reveal insipid, scrappy moments of affection in her life. Things in pairs, including toothbruhses (Fig. 9), slippers (Fig. 10) and cell phones (Fig. 11), as well as tokens of love including handkerchiefs with printed patterns, soft words of care and sweet promises between lovers (Fig. 12)... all these things are bound up with Au Hoi-lam's recollections and aspirations about love. And yet, since this sweetness comes from past memories and only exists as recollections, it also carries a kind of bitterness. Moreover, because the ¡§ sweet ¡¨ images that appear in the paintings could refer to present or bygone times, it is difficult to distinguish between reality, memory and longing. Through painting, Au Hoi-lam reflects on her life experiences, pursues her inner aspirations, recollects beautiful things in life, and clings to bygone precious moments... in this mixed state of mind, happiness and pain both come easily. Indeed, by trying to feel her existence through a thin veil of pain, she has fulfilled her purpose of self-therapy.

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