In 2016, after moving to Houston, Texas from Auckland, New Zealand, my forays to local museum collections sparked a return to painting. Using photographic images from the book Houston’s Forgotten Heritage as a starting point, my paintings re-interpret the content of these historical images, and render new relationships to the present through my use of color. I went on to explore photographic images from other sources, including YouTube videos and children’s encyclopedias from the 1950s. My paintings employ the use of saturated color and meticulous techniques in a bid to tease out previously unnoticed details, to highlight the construction of the source images, or to emphasize the mythological or symbolic qualities that exist in the mundane. In these paintings, I use color and compositional elements in a non-natural way to jolt the viewer out of taking what they see for granted, nudging them to accept instability of history as told through photographic images.
Featuring Liyen Chong, Emily Wolfe, Liz Maw & Yvonne Todd at Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland, July 2018.
A family of Swans enjoy themselves by the water-side. The young Swans or “Cygnets,” seem to prefer the water.
In Deer Park, Wanganui, the deer are tame
Serial Killer in Cerulean Blue
Cadmium Yellow Light
Serial Killer in Dioxazine Violet
From gallery press release: Houston-based LIYEN CHONG’s new work shows a significant and exciting stylistic shift in the artist’s practice while still continuing her exploration into colour, now in the medium of painting. Imagery and captions are sourced from a children’s encyclopedia published in the UK in the 1950s that she came across several years ago. In these paintings, she says, “I’m separating image from naturalistic colour as a way of protesting the visual world and proposing a different kind of perception, one that is mediated by colour.” Included in this show is a series of paintings of a tigrillo (a.k.a. tiger cat) in different colors. “By painting the original image in an upside down orientation, I’m forcing myself to respond to the formal qualities and practicing a certain kind of abstraction, skimming the line between formalism and conceptualism.” It also coincides with an exhibition of previous work “She watched her wings fly, her mouth shut, her feet run” by Chong at the Wallace Trust Gallery opening 24 July and running till 16 September.