WOAW Gallery is pleased to present a duo-solo exhibition of works by Kitty Ng and Tae Dong Lee. Entitled “The Record, the Double, and the Singular,” the exhibition initiates a dialogue between two contemporary artists who start their paintings with their personal archive of photographs. In the first half of Camera Lucida ( 1981 ), Roland Barthes argues that photography is a medium of death; when the camera captures a moment, it records the passing of that very moment. Ng and Lee, however, view photographs as catalysts for the singularity inherent to the processes of recollection and distortion.
By indulging in images from their archive, they allow for a certain fantasy to take hold of them — a fantasy from the present, that deepens and changes the original memory associated with the photograph. By giving in to the centrifugal force of speculation, their memories become muddled with their lives today. They reduce, add, revise, and ultimately transform the image, etching onto the canvas the irreducibility of their singular response.
Spatial and temporal speculation lies at the heart of Tae Dong Lee’s practice. From the comfort of his studio, Lee traverses his family photographs and uproots them of their context, concurrently opening up the image and his practice to conjecture. The distortions of his memory that take place through this process combine the vitality found in the vivd landscapes of Jeju Island with his interiority. The figures found in the photographs — himself, his parents, and his siblings — take new shape and form against a renewed terrain.
In “An Exceptionally Bright Night” ( 2022 ), three figures — the artist and his parents — sit atop horses, eddying in the lush blue-green pigments that make the environment. Echoing the mysticism of Peter Doig, the work absents spatial markers and engenders what the artist calls a “phantom place.” In “Escaping” ( 2022 ) and “Escaped” ( 2022 ), two images that share the same source image, we are offered an insight into the ebbs and flows of the artist’s interiority. Utilising darker hues, the former offers an elegiac lament while the latter indulges in a reluctant jubilance.
It is imperative for Kitty Ng that her photographs reinvent themselves through her paintings. Taken over the course of her college years, her imagery is composed of friendships and kinships rooted in a quotidian intimacy. Her subjects can be seen in a dorm room, the streets of Shanghai, in the comfort of a home, in a dorm room, or even on something as mundane as a walk. As rings true with most beautiful banalities, each stroke on the canvas is placed with yearning, a yearning to reconcile the fallibility of relationships — that they change, dissolve, and take new forms.
Ng’s studio practice began with making collages in Photoshop; in works such as “Forward We Go!” and “S to S,” she supplants intimate memories with friends and family and combines them with jovial moments. The resulting compositions are playful, charming, and full of a lived life. During her residency in Shanghai, she started moving away from college but retained the figurative impulses she developed through them. In the series of works titled “Love Languages” and “Bittersweet Fantasy,” she embraces the selective nature of memory, leaving behind few details and white space to surround it.
Ng and Lee firmly reject ideas of nostalgia that have become the ascendant trend in figurative works. They reject the stability the personal archive might suggest. They reject, and they reject. Their voices converge in the act of failing to double the memory. Our minds are always in flux, we are affected by the troubles of the every day, the whims of the heart, and the travails of existing. Unlike mechanical processes, our bodies cannot reproduce exactitudes. They can barely do approximations. It is this singularity that distinguishes us. We fail, fail, and we fall. And therein lies something gorgeous.
Join us at the opening reception on 22 Aug at 3 & 5 Sun Street from 6-8PM!