Click on an image above to read the fully archived article.
At right : Dauntlessly, Charlie Buddha 1
2015, ballpoint pen on paper, 52 x 79cm (21 x 32'').
Artwork © Pongyu Wai.
Above : Dauntlessly, Shade of a Flower 2017, ballpoint pen on paper, 96.5 x 178cm (38 x 71'').
Left : Bauhinia (detail & in-full ) 2007, ballpoint pen
on paper, 154 x 102cm (61 x 41'').
Bottom : A Moment of Truth 1 (2011), ballpoint pen
on paper, 29.7 x 21cm (12 x 9''). Artwork © Pongyu Wai.
For more art, information & contact : waipongyu.com
Artistic indulgence has always played a part in
Wai's work—''Spontaneity is important in the
process of my drawings,'' he insists—but current
events have seeped into recent works. Wai now occasionally touches upon sociopolitical topics
in a new series, Dauntlessly, which he describes
as ''a series of drawings about skepticism of
justice.'' Dauntlessly, 14 Year Old Chalk Girl
(2015) references flowers chalked onto the
wall of a government building by a Chinese girl,
whose subsequent arrest made headlines.
Dauntlessly, Charlie Buddha 1 (2015,
pictured BACKPAGE) references the killing
by Islamic extremists of the staff of a French
publication which had satirized Muhammed.
Wai's most recent addition to the series,
Dauntlessly, Shade of a Flower (2017,
pictured above), repurposes the motif of Chalk
Girl. ''The girl was arrested by 10 policemen,''
explains Wai. ''She was sent to a children's home
and detained for two nights until a kind judge
released her, as the situation had created strong
criticism. I am showing her flower as an extension
of the protest.'' Shade of a Flower was selected
for inclusion at Ink Global, an expansive group
exhibition held in early August, 2017, at the
Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
This year's event commemorated the 20th
anniversary of Britain returning Hong Kong to China.
In sharing such views with the
artist, Serfaty became not only a
fan and supporter but a mentor of
sorts, even if at times perhaps reading
into the artwork aspects which the
artist, himself, had not considered
in their creation. ''We talked a lot
about my drawings. He knows me
well but I might not know myself well,''
says Wai, speaking straightforwardly
with more down to earth humility
than much of what's been written
about him. ''I think he actually shows
me perspectives which I have not
looked at,'' Wai confirms. ''He exposes
me to other literary works where I can
find inspirations and similar ideas.''
Article continues BELOW the jump ...
PENNAME by O. Lebron originally posted August 12, 2017
Explaining Wai Artist・Country
TITLE ・DATE ・MEDIUM ・SIZE
Art, from top-center :
A Moment of Truth 52 (detail)
2017, water pigmented ink on inkjet print
(photo by Anselmo Reyes), 29.8 x 42.3cm (12 x 17'').
A Moment of Truth 51 2016,
ballpoint pen and ink on paper,
33.3 x 24.5cm (14 x 10'').
Artwork © Pongyu Wai.
Among his various studies at CUHK, which included
Chinese painting, Wai cites an Experimental Drawing
class as a particular source of influence on his creativity.
''I discovered that I liked to use lines to express my
feelings'', says Wai. He used lines to ''explore links
among patterns, ideas and emotions'', and
ballpoint pens began providing those lines.
He considers the pens a ''thinking tool ''
which takes him beyond his limitations.
''Word is my limitation. That’s why I feel
free when ballpoint pen is a drawing
instrument to me.'' But words did
not completely limit Wai. For a time,
earlier works were sometimes
accompanied by poems which Wai
explains as ''an attempt to give
some verbal expressions''
to his visuals.
PENNAME by O. Lebron originally posted August 12, 2017
Explaining Wai Pongyu Wai・Hong Kong
TITLE ・DATE ・MEDIUM ・SIZE
Within a year of graduating from CUHK in 2006, Wai was
selling artwork and considering himself a ''professional artist ''. His talent, and the invitingly contemplative compositions it manifests, attracted word-of-mouth
attention within Hong Kong. Positive reviews in Asian art media helped spread the word regionally, then across
oceans. Paul Serfaty, a British art writer and collector
based in Hong Kong, was one such early supporter who
wrote at length, and great depth, about Wai's artwork. Over
time acquainting himself with the artist and his work,
Serfaty has noted the many diametrics of ''being and not
being'' he sees in the work; the ''abstract and real ; big and
small ; meticulous and spontaneous''. Serfaty sees a
''poetry'' in Wai's visuals and elaborated in further
coverage, calling Wai's art ''Beguiling but not dramatic;
intellectually rich but not cerebral ; detailed and relatively small in execution but not small-scaled in vision; identifiably unique but not ‘iconic’; evolving but not predictable.'' More than a mouthful, to be sure, but Wai's artwork lends itself
to all kinds of such mindful impressions, interpretation
and speculation; one can write volumes contemplating
such work, and Serfaty has. ''The artist has
also said he perceives an elasticity between
image and imagination,'' Serfaty relays from his
conversations with Wai. ''The closer a
rendering approaches 'perfection', the less
it calls on our imagination. The more ill-defined
the perfection, the more our own awareness
is tested. It is a role of art to assist
this imaginative process.''
Continuing from ABOVE ...
Even if the artist, himself, neither consciously knows where his lines are going from the start nor has an explanation for them in the end, his intuitive strengths are unquestionable. Regardless, the seemingly random strands of line strokes show different things to different viewers. What looked to me like a satellite-view outline of Japan in A Moment of Truth 27 (2014) turned out to be sheer coincidence. ''I don’t draw figuratively. I don’t imagine a part of (a piece) as mountain, river, animal, or other forms. Human body parts are also included—they can be veins, nerves or muscles. I do draw them (in AMoT) but they are no longer what they were.'' Wai elaborates: ''Looking at the drawing, we might still be able to tell what individual parts look like, but distance, time and perceptions are no longer meaningful.''
Wai began his A Moment of Truth series in 2011 with the idea of ''exploring a state of nature which is beyond our human sensations.'' Wai's artist statement introduced the ongoing, evolving project as ''drawings which take a point of view that in a dimension there is no determination about all space, time, objects, perceptions and intuitions. Space and time have become independent fragments of instants. In the drawing, they are represented by different appearances of fragmented objects according to the way we perceive their existence in space and time. None of them is dependent on each other in the drawing, and none of such formations represents a necessity for such combinations.'' By drawing many different elements together, he feels, ''a new dimension is created. Not only there is a kind of harmony, but also a kind of contradicting tension. I always think this new dimension is not permanent. It can only exist very briefly. That’s why I used 'A Moment' in the title. And the 'Truth' refers to the gathering of true characters.''
In A Moment of Truth 51 (2017, pictured HEADLINES 1),
elements of Wai's Rorschach Test-like composition present the
possibility of more literal, and extreme, interpretations. Some
viewers might unassumingly enjoy what is nonetheless an
explosive image, but, with feathery color and linework seeming
to radiate from some imaginary point of impact, viewers could
very well be witnessing a beautiful bird at the very moment it is
struck by a bullet. There's an undeniably elegant violence to
the piece which illustrates the subjective power of art
regardless of the artist's intentions. Wai offered no reply when
presented with the impression. The use of color in AMoT 51
shows Wai expanding his palette, utilizing ''new ingredients''
and experimenting with their application: ''Colors are painted
at the back of another piece of paper, and diffuse to the
drawn surface when both papers are wet.'' Wai's preferred
drawing surface is Japanese washi paper. Here it aids in his
innovative process, and its textures also add to the mood of
this and many other compositions.
Pongyu Wai・Hong Kong
The term 'East-meets-West' is regularly applied to Eastern artwork exhibiting Western influence, affectations or aspirations, but it doesn't apply here. In most respects, the work is neither East nor West. Just art. The only identifiably Western feature, in fact, is that it's been created using the long-under-appreciated but belatedly exalted ballpoint pen. With the artwork now appearing in farther reaches of the globe, I find it more appropriate to say West-meets-East, so introductions are in order: World, meet Mr. Pongyu Wai from the crossroad city of Hong Kong, bearing true Pearls of the Orient in the form of fine ballpoint pen art. Mr. Wai, meet the world.
Wai had been determined to become an artist since
he was five years old but didn't really begin what he would
consider "training" until he was around sixteen, and use
of ballpoints, although wielded as incidentally as
anyone via grade school doodles, didn't fully materialize
until he'd begun attending the Fine Arts Department
at Chinese University of Hong Kong. Wai describes
his upbringing as ''working-class and poor'', with
the only art 'DNA' in his family limited to drawing skills
on his father's side. He does not consider himself an
ardent follower of 'ART ', per se, but museums and
galleries are ''major destinations'' when traveling,
which he does as often as possible—no doubt thanks
to a ''sporty'' mother whom, Wai says, instilled in him
a sense of ''adventurous curiosity''.
Wai is represented by Grotto Fine Arts in Hong Kong, and his work has also been shown in group exhibitions and art fairs outside of his homeland. The Asian Art Museum in San Francisco (USA) and Ashmolean Museum (University of Oxford, UK) have acquired his artwork. Among recent accomplishments is Wai's inclusion in the book Ballpoint Art (2016). Wai is among the finest of new names introduced by writer Trent Morse. Wai will be 35 in September; In 'art' years, that means we may still look forward to his best work over several more decades of love, loss, adventure, experimentation and perhaps the occasional reinvention. With his polite, friendly disposition and a bright smile more analogous to that of an aspiring artist entering art school than a professional artist ten years into a career, more accomplishments seem assured・
Wai withheld the flower's political connotations from explanations related to the exhibition, which he describes as comprised of ''mostly politically correct paintings; 'beautiful' landscapes, animals and plants''.
Whether conceptual, social or political in essence, the imagery Wai conjures is always a joy to look at or get lost within. His compositions often teeter precariously on the page, but hold their balance in spite of movement present in Wai's pen strokes. He has a recognizable way of aligning those strokes, which give the paper of some pieces a crumpled texture, or a fabric-like appearance to others. Inked elements seem to rise from or sink into the page. Paul Serfaty fittingly describes Wai's seismographic application of lines as ''the visualizations of sound waves, or ocean tides, or pure rhythm put to paper.'' In Bauhinia (2007, pictured HEADLINES 2), a simple floral graphic is combined with an alignment of red lines, giving the washi paper the appearance of a flag billowing in the wind. Other than these rare instances of color, Wai sticks to black ballpoints, and, unless collaborating on an unrelated piece with another artist, concentrates on one piece at a time. For one current collaboration, Wai says, ''I am using as many colours as I can find.'' Wai spends anywhere from a few minutes to a year to complete a piece, but most average a couple of weeks. Shade of a Flower clocks in at 10 days despite it being one of his largest works to-date at approximately 3 by 6 feet.
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A poem Wai wrote for a 2008 drawing A Rhythm of… makes note of disparate elements one might see in his artwork :
A rhythm of ...
Salt of the sea. Grains on the sky. Caves in the dawn. Stones in the dusk. Zephyr. Shores. The cliff.
Birds fly without wings. Rocks surf yet dry. Lives and lines lie in the rhythm of your mind.
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