Closer to Truth: painting or photography? 

Someone asked which one I liked more: painting or photography. I didn’t know the answer. It depends I said.

What I do know after investigating both mediums in my work is this: painting lies closer to truth than photography. Paintings (unless you’re merely copying, but that’s a another discussion) reach deeper into yourself, and who you are. It forces you to ask questions and sometimes does not give you a clear answer. It exposes your insecurities and strengths through your creation. You can analyse every action or reaction in a painting. Strong forceful lines and bold strokes versus tentative light actions. On how you go over a section of the canvas, repeatedly until you ‘get it right’, or whether you have the patience to wait for sections of the painting to dry before applying another layer. Believe me, you can end up with big lump of grey! I have seen it in some Philip Guston’s later work. It tell you something about his mindset at the time.  A painting can expose you more than standing naked in the gallery. Truth.

GustonPainterIII.jpg
Philip Guston, “Painter III,” 1963, oil on canvas, 66” x 79” (private collection, London).

Photography on the other hand can deceive you. The photographer can manipulate the image to make you believe what is in the image is real, when it clearly isn’t. Photography is only a partial truth. Fashion photography is a facade/fantasy, meant to inspire and convince. Sure there is a huge amount of creativity involved in fashion shoot and it involves creating illusions, whether it be of wealth, power, coolness or a pure distain for life. I think, even in documentary photography, there is a huge opportunity to distort the truth, to give false claim to what is really happening. It is however probably the strongest case for truth. I think of the young Vietnamese girl Kim Phúc running naked; it is as it is.

TrangBang.jpg
Napalm Girl by Nick Ut

Nude photography attempts to bring one closer to the beauty of the human form. It’s close to truth, but equally close to a lie as well. It is presenting an aesthetic based on the author’s own interpretation of beauty within the human body. So what about portrait photography? Yes it must be the truth right? I think very few portraits does truth justice. They’re rare ones that reach to that level of openness. I can think of one such portrait that come to mind that reveals an inner truth, which is Annie Leibovitz’s photograph of John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

900x900x2.jpg
John Lennon and Yoko Ono by Annie Leibovitz, December 1980.

… to be continued.

Abandoned place; abandoned me….

A few days ago I posted several images from a shoot I took at an abandoned school here in Hong Kong. The series is called Children still play in Kwai Chung. The photographs were of window openings from the inside of the schoolrooms looking out to the outside. What I wrote in my description was the following:

“Abandoned places can be frightening places, but this one felt very much alive because of the new found graffiti that adorned the walls of the building, reminding me of a modern day carnival or amusement park. A child could play here freely. Entering the empty rooms though, I found a quiet beauty inside, mixed and layered with chaos, art, nature, the decaying walls and myself.”

Here are few of the images:

Then this morning, it dawned on me that the photographs were more than the above description. It was a clear reflection of how I was feeling about life at the present time. Recently, I feel like I’m divorced from the world. I am on the inside and it’s dark/lonely; meanwhile everything else is out there. The graffiti on the walls are like my own creativity, I’ve felt like I have been suffocating the past few months. The paying work has been scarce and I have turned inward in my own little bubble, my studio.

There were times when I would get exceedingly depressed, but this was more so the case before my own awakening. I could control (or at least understand) my own situation in life. My awakening allowed me to witness my self and my feelings from a far off vantage point. I have become, in a certain way, numb to life and existence on this plane of consciousness.

I feel most alive when I draw, paint and photograph from my soul. I get lost in the moment, and everything seems to be completely fine. There is nothing wrong; no pain, no suffering, no fear, no anxiety. Sometimes, I do not eat nor drink in those moments of intense being. But these kind of moments are dangerous when one needs to pay the rent and bills, the stuff that the pragmatic world requires of us to deal with. That is when I panic and have anxiety about how to get by in this world at the mature age of fifty-three.

The photographs in the abandoned school are trying to tell me something… You see, the window openings I found at the site are completely open, free to pass through.

To see the entire series: Children still play in Kwai Chung

 

Letting your unconscious mind do the work, as it’s more creative than you ‘think’​.

Several months ago, I came to the conclusion that I was going to start make one drawing a day, so that by the end of one year, I would have 365 little creations. To alleviate the fear and pressure (which we have enough in our daily lives already), I decided that to do this, the drawing would be done on A4 paper, nothing intimidating.

Then several weeks in, a friend of mine posted on an event called 1000 Drawings, whereby guests came to doodle, paint or draw on A5 sized paper. When the organisers collected 1000 drawings, it would then be sold for a nominal price of HK$80 (about US$10) I went to the first one and created 3 mini-doodles. The event was a blast!

People came around to me and thought my work was so creative and cool, and asked what I was thinking of. I said I was thinking of nothing. I don’t think about what I’m creating, but to let the pen just move or guide itself. I call it ‘unconscious creativity’. What surprised me even more was that the creativity or ‘wilder’ side became more apparent on A5 paper than on my usual A4 paper, as I could get something out faster, and faster means less thinking! A5 and doodling is the perfect combination. What’s best is not even think about anything while doodling. Let it just happen. You are not trying to make anything pretty or cool and you are not looking for approval. It’s just putting pen to paper.

When you think of it, doodling is exactly just that. If you have ever doodled or scribbled little drawings onto paper when sitting in a conference or classroom, that is the kind of non-thinking behaviour that is akin to what I’m doing here. It’s mindless, or MIND LESS. Move the mind out of the picture, literally, and let go.

Have a cup of tea and doodle away. Maybe buy yourself a simple doodling pad. It doesn’t even have to be a nice one, preferable A5 size and just let go. The 1000 Drawings HK event augmented by own doodling path and have started a mini-collection I call MISHMASH.

doodles_mishmash

Last week, I held a small doodling session in my studio and invited anyone to drop by to have some fun. What I found when observing people get into their doodling, was that they became very focused and drawn INTO their drawing. I recall the room becoming very silent, although there were about 12 of us. The doodlers became intensely present, which is what I feel and experience when I become thoroughly involved in my own painting or drawing. And when one is in that mode of experience, nothing else matters. There are no problems in life, no fears, no obstacles, no identity. You just are. This is why many of the best and greatest artists become entranced by the profession. Money, relationships, identity become secondary elements to the experience of creating, which to them, is life.

http://normyip.com

Painting: a symbiotic process of constructing and destructing in hopes of something new and refreshing. 


Above: Work in progress: a detail from my latest painting using acrylics and pencil on canvas. It’s highly experimental and filled with gestures and markings that I have never done before. I believe painting is the most difficult medium to do really well. In my recent discussion with another artist, I said that painting this way was a process of first constructing, and then deconstructing. If it’s too obvious, it’s boring. You build something up, then obscure it. You create it, then effectively destroy it, yet in an unconscious methodology. And hopefully after several iterations, some new and exciting is born. The frightening thing is that in the destroying/deconstruction, you risk ruining the entire thing. It sometimes freezes me. Should I? Or shouldn’t I? That is always the question as one is making marks. You put yourself on the line. One wrong move and it might be I unsalvageable. 

This is reason why some paintings sit on the side, unfinished, for many months or years. Because you’re afraid that if you work on it further, you’ll ruin it. I know this for a fact. This is why you hate (loathe) it when someones asks you how long it took to paint a painting. How do you explain yourself to ones that just don’t know? In the end though, I have found that doing nothing is usually the worst thing to do. It is far better to face the fear of failure, than to let it sit idly by. The risk of failure is worth it. Movement is better than non-movement. I have thrown away canvases thick with paint from hours of agony.

I don’t want to end on sour note. Knowing the risk, there is always the chance that the painting will turn out better than you thought it would, that in the process of adding and messing it up again, that something utterly beautiful will appear. The law of the unexpected, the law of accidents has worked for me many times, far greater than the safer route of doing something repeatedly over and over again. People who have come to know me find that I do many different things, and the reason for that is because I hate being bored. I rotate and evolve my mediums of interest from one thing to another. And in that rotating is new energy, new life, and best of all, beauty.

http://normyip.com

Premonition of a tumultuous year…. 

There are days when I feel the world around is going in a frenzy and I’m idling standing by watching the everything from a distance. Then other days it’s the reverse, where I’m the one who is a frenzy and the world is lagging behind. Although much has happened recently, I have this deeper feeling that everything has become stagnant, a silent foreboding. I feel completely lost. Is it because CNY, the year of the rooster is around the corner? The calm before the storm? 

My first Open Studio experience…

On January 14-15th, 2017, I held my first Open Studio event to showcase the various artworks in my working environment in Chai Wan, an industrial neighbourhood in Hong Kong, known more-so for it’s photography studios, printing houses, garages and storage facilities. The works that are shown in this album are pieces that have been gathered from past exhibitions and shows, meanwhile I have also included some new works. There is always this feeling that the older works are ‘left-overs’, the ones that didn’t sell. Some frames have worn-out corners that have been nicked and scratched from moving about, and paintings where paints have aged, but have now settled. For some photographs, they look and feel nostalgic, matured over time, like fine wine. I feel they hold more authenticity than when I first printed them, having tested and grown over the years. And when I look at some of my graphite artworks, some of the matting has yellowed, and I look at my hand-written signature, the size and placement — they look somewhat amateurish, but I feel it’s entirely okay. I realise that I have grown and my aesthetics have evolved, so there is nothing to be embarrassed about. I love the artworks dearly as if they were my children, my creations. All the works shown here are available for direct sales from me, if you are so inclined to make a purchase. For any enquiries, please email me at nwy@normyip.com.

I want to thank all the people that took the time to drop by. The past week has been intellectually stimulating and rewarding, gaining insight into the work that I do, and in hearing how art can fit within a commercial perspective, while maintain integrity and authenticity in the work that is created. Special thanks to Luke Chapman, Jeff and Cherry Chaicharn, Geoffrey, Patrick, Philippa Ho, Jefferson Ortaleza Mendoza and others. I really enjoyed the conversations and for sharing your experience and knowledge with me.

What I know from the past few days is that dialogue is really necessary, a need for honest and real communication one-on-one with curious and like-minded people with different perspectives to share and talk about art. It does not come from chatting on the internet with fans, or watching youtube interviews of well-known artists. I want to get past the fluffy exterior and into the guts of what is going on. I have always felt that critique is so vitally important in the development of any artist, to learn to take the shit when the art is shit, and to accept compliments gracefully know when you’ve hit on something good. Good honest sincere art exposes you, leaves you naked, a target for judgement.

Doodling and freeing the mind….

I have found a new fascination with doodling, something that is done by many while talking in the phone, in classrooms, or maybe in conferences (when you zone out from what the speaker is saying). As an artist, strangely, I rarely doodled, but would walk up to a canvas and start working right away. Most of the time, since my work was more along the lines of abstract expressionism, I approached the canvas with an open liberal mind. Then about a month ago, I started to doodle again on A4 paper, to free up my hand on another level or scale using the medium of a ink marker, vastly different from a paint brush or piece of cloth. The tool determines a particular outcome, as much as the size of the artwork. In the samples shown below, these were all created on A5 card paper stock, thick enough to give the feeling that there was a level of importance to what I was doing, but small enough to not be too serious about the output. It was all the right elements in place for me to create without inhibitions and supposedly ‘without thought’. In my investigations I found that not knowing what exactly to do was beneficial to the level of creative output. I wasn’t afraid to draw spiders and insects, something I sort of fear on the daily basis — I hate cockroaches! I drew symbols like crosses, pluses and minus, and ones that did not make any sense. It wasn’t going to matter. I drew shapes and forms that looked like children’s work and latices and fill-in patters of dots and hashes that reminded me of my days working as an architect. At a charity doodle event, the lady across from me said my drawings were like the inner working of my mind, which was so true.

I am wondering if there is something more that can be gained from this particular experience of doodling, and letting things just go, where anything is allowed and nothing is taboo. Could this be something that the everyday person could benefit from? I know that colouring books have been the rage recently, but I personally don’t feel attuned to that. The blank paper and a pen/marker seems much more appropriate. I believe creating the shapes is by far more liberating, offering a more free and creative approach to the tactile experience than choosing colours to fill ‘within the lines’. If anything, we should be crossing and connecting the lines!

To see more of my doodles, please go to http://www.normyip.com/mishmash/

 

First dream of 2017… about consciousness…

My first dream of 2017 had me sitting in a plain room with no decoration. A man walks in this room wearing a button-down shirt and sits himself across from me. He asks me “What are thoughts on the consciousness”? I started to answer him citing different levels on consciousness….

I feel as though the majority of the human race is in low level consciousness, which includes things like mass consumerism, killing, money-driven goals both from an individual and corporate level. The year of 2016 was certainly a shock and eye-opener to the reality of this mode of thinking. Eckhardt Tolle called this low level of thinking ‘unconscious’.

Perhaps 2017 will bring about a small bit of awakening from this kind of thought pattern. Wakening includes small big things like 1) we are all the same as part of a greater ‘whole’, 2) that nothing is ‘real’ as form is an illusion (scientifically this has been shown the case too), 3) spirituality at its core essence is pointing to the same source, for example 4) Buddha and Jesus was talking about the same inner experience and 5) that ‘you’ are not your thoughts, nor your body, as it part of the form or illusion. Also 6) that there is more to what meets the eye in our limited vision of experience (this one get into the preternatural area).

Well, my first post of this kind. I can presume some will disagree with my writings, but I felt this was to be shared, as I started to waken from the dream.

AIDS CONCERN CHARITY AUCTION 2016 – Thoughts as your art goes up for Live Auction!

IMG_8662.PNG
I just want to reiterate how pleased I was at last night’s Aids Concern Charity event, which was far above my expectations. My donated artwork ‘Rapture, No. 2’ was sold during the Live Auction component.
 
Sitting at my table along with the other artists, namely Nic Gaunt and Bex Gaunt, whose photograph was auctioned off above their retail price at $44K! (A hearty congratulations to them!) I could see that Bex was a bit teary when hugs were being exchanged.
 
Then my piece came up to the stage… I was at nerves wondering if anyone would bid. And for what felt like an eternity, someone put in the first reserve bid of $10,000. Seconds passed (which again felt like another eternity…), and someone bid $12K. Suddenly, the bids went higher.. 14K, 16… when Peter Sargant went to the stage and said a few words taking me back in time to when we first met and of the conversations we had. It really touched me. He passed the mic back to MC… and the bids went up, reaching 20K, 22K and finally, 24K! The gavel went down and it was SOLD!
 
At that moment, I was in disbelief at just what happened. I went to the back room to where the artworks were on display to try to find out who the bidder was, but I don’t think they knew who it was still. The website just indicated ‘Anonymous’.
 
Towards the end of evening as I was going to the after party, someone tapped me on the shoulder. It was someone I knew from long ago. He said rather nonchalantly that he just bought my painting. I was thrilled to know who the owner was; I knew the painting would be going to a good home. Thank you Anonymous! It means a lot to me.
 
It is the first time in all my years in Hong Kong, that my artwork has been shown and auctioned at such a large charitable event. It is for a cause that I am deeply connected to, meaning AIDS. I grew up during the time when the disease was running rampant in Toronto — exactly at time when I was just coming out. It was a very confusing time for me then. Friends, very young were dying and know one knew what was the cause. It is why I support various AIDS charities. I do not have the financial means to offer money, but this was the best thing to happen where I felt my art made could kind make some kind of difference.
 
Thank you Aids Concern: Andrew Chidgey, Frankie Fan, Jennifer Chan, and Marco Wong.
 
For more about Aids Concern in Hong Kong:

Thoughts behind ‘Two Worlds One Mind’ by Norm Yip & Alexis Reynaud

The opportunity to exhibit artwork in Zurich once again was a delight to see and experience. In a joint effort between myself and fellow artist Alexis Reynaud, we both brought visual variety to Gallery Box, a new gallery space in Zurich that opened last year by Thomas Sarbach, a painter and artist as well. It was Thomas, the one who made the introduction of Alexis to me and suggested that we group together for this show. Initially, I had concerns that my work alone was not enough to do a show successfully at his gallery, given the large space of the venue.

The original idea was to have an exhibition of my Pulsation painting only and some of my more intellectually stimulating graphite drawings to accompany the show. I would leave my Asian male photography out of the show. As things transpired over the months, Thomas was keen to see my Asian male images included as part of the exhibition, seeing as how Alexis was keen to show some of his nude photography work too. Thus, in the last weeks prior to the opening, there was a rush to get photographs printed and framed.

Alexis Reynaud included male and female nudes painted in black and covered with a high gloss finish/sheen, resulting in a high contrast black to white erotic images. Shot using sharp lighting (most likely a strobe), it was a foil to my images, where softness and slightly blurred images appear. The feelings from each of our works are similar, but one thing remained clear: the desire to create beauty using the human body as the vehicle for expression.

ALEXISREYNAUD-BLACK-NUDES-NL56.jpg

BARRY, No.3.jpg
Norm Yip, Barry, 2016, Pigment ink on paper, 50 x 75 cm. 

As for our paintings, my work is abstract, taking influence from Jackson Pollock’s action paintings, but at a much smaller scale and with a more stylised control of brushwork. Alexis however took the Samurai as his subject matter, creating a highly energised set of paintings using only a selective colour palette of red, blue, yellow, and the neutral colours of black and white for his works. Sweeping expansive strokes compared to my smaller controlled ones. The common thread to our work was clear: the desire for self-expression through the use of the brush, and not so much about attempting to create something real. Yes, Alexis’s work is more figurative, but to me, the essence is in the expressive brushworks, and if viewed more closely, abstraction.

15002279_10154113464204211_7593742401373098855_o.jpg
Alexis Reynaud, Musashi 00017, 2016, Acrylic on canvas, 61 x 46 cm.
Pulsation, No. 2.jpg
Norm Yip, Pulsation, No. 2, 2016, Acrylic on canvas, 210 x 140 cm.

What is fascinating for me is the desire for both myself and Alexis to take on the medium of painting and photography as a modes of expression, to which Thomas, the curator, found intriguing. The title Two Worlds One Mind is entirely appropriate. Speaking for myself, I took to painting as far back as 1999, when my first studio collaboration/partnership began with Meli-Melo Artist Alliance. Painting spoke to me in ways that was different than photography. It was in fact more tactile and real than photography. With painting, there was a purposeful engagement with the brush, canvas, the mixing of colours, and the application of medium to surface, a process that is entirely unique and special.

Just before the Pulsation series began, I had reached a mini plateau, and I was ready to move my work in a different direction. And then it happened: the Orlando shooting where over 50 people were shot dead in a gay bar. That incident brought forth feelings, which I then translated into the artwork.

The exhibition for me is important, as it is the first time for me showing my paintings abroad/overseas. I owe a huge THANK YOU to all that came to the exhibition opening, and of course to Thomas Sarbach and Alexis for their support and generosity during my time there.

By appointment only:
Tel +41(0)763446060
Mail: gallerybox@gmx.ch
http://www.gallery-box.net/