CHENG Ting Ting: Recipient Absent
11 May - 22 June 2019
The works collected in this exhibition, ranging from humble drawings to large canvases spanning up to two metres in length, are all inspired by daily life. In these pictures, CHENG examines what most people would consider ordinary, even boring things - a worn-out boot, a pair of trainers, an old fridge - and finds them to be full of meaning.
While the works in "Fall In Fall Out", CHENG’s previous solo exhibition at Gallery EXIT, revolved around autobiographical themes and often featured a protagonist or groups of people, human figures are notably absent from her more recent paintings. Instead, everyday objects such as chairs, plant pots or drinking cups have taken the centre stage. In CHENG’s mind, these mundane objects may have as much to say as a person - if one is only willing to pay close attention. She paints them in exactly the same way as she paints people: from memory and through an autobiographical lens. She recalls the impact they had on her, the history they share, and the connections that may have formed between them.
Sometimes, a glance is all it takes for an image to be imprinted in her mind, such as the sight of brightly coloured bananas laid out on supermarket shelves ("Green Banana and Yellow Banana") or the chance arrangement of spit-out cherry stones on a piece of scrap paper ("Pearls"). Other scenes work their way slowly into her consciousness, like the potted plants in her studio or the shoes on the rack she is facing every morning during breakfast.
Although they focus on inanimate objects, CHENG’s paintings are deeply personal. She has little interest in naturalistic representation. Rather than trying to reproduce exactly how pots, chairs, or shoes look like in reality, she chooses to show how she feels about them. Often depicted in thick, nervous brush strokes, the objects she paints become tools to investigate her own condition and place in the world.There is an air of alienation about these works. The objects they show have little spatial context and, as a result, appear to be floating in a vague space. In many paintings, leaves and other plant parts intrude into the visual field, as if the canvas was overgrown by vegetation, like an abandoned house taken over by Hong Kong’s overwhelming flora.
This sense of displacement is furthered by the title of the exhibition: "Recipient Absent" refers to misdirected letters CHENG keeps receiving in her studio. These letters, mostly outstanding bills addressed to previous tenants, are a constant reminder of someone’s absence, and leave her with the strange feeling of receiving something intended for someone else.Perhaps paradoxically, her paintings are not inaccessible at all - they are approachable, even welcoming. CHENG makes no attempt to hide her painting process. She applies paint very selectively and often works with transparencies, leaving large parts of bottom layers and canvas visible. It is as if the artist allows us to look over her shoulder as she paints these works, and invites us to join her on her exploration of daily life.