青年藝術家吳森枝 青年藝術家吳森枝




Suspence in ink/ 筆墨不默青年藝術家

吳森枝








(2016年11月)「Atelier of Atmosphere」(JCCAC L7-06單位)室如其名,整個空間混雜著墨水、塑膠彩、樹脂、宣紙和畫布的獨特氣味︰書香、浪漫、簡約而神秘。工作室內除了作畫工具和物料外,基本上沒有多餘的裝飾和雜物,一幅闊4米、高2米、足以覆蓋一整道牆的超巨型新水墨畫,顯得格外「養眼」。

這幅名為《Endless Isolation》(一組兩幅)的畫作,將於下月(12月)「JCCAC藝術節2016」再度展出。「它們雖然是水墨,但很好打理,就算染了指紋,用布抺抺就好。」吳森枝(Tristan)淡定地說。你故意讓它們鋪上一層樹脂,就是為了好打理?我們笑問。「哈哈,如果是這樣的話,我一定『畢唔到業』……」

J︰JCCAC T︰吳森枝(Tristan)

J︰《Endless Isolation》是你兩年前的畢業作品,當中運用到水墨、樹脂、塑膠彩和宣紙。這亦為你一系列的創作定下基調。水墨配樹脂,不論在中畫還是西畫的創作上,都算是另類組合。當初為甚麼會想到結合這些南轅北轍的物料?

T︰水墨和宣紙很「中畫」,而塑膠彩和畫布則是西畫常用的物料——可能因為這樣,這些作品常常被歸類為「新水墨」——將它們放在一起,與個人身份認同有點關係吧!我在內地出生、香港長大,讀書時多次出國,常常被誤認是日本人。好想藉著創作,探討個人身份。物料和人一樣,都蘊藏著各自的靈魂,讓它們自由發展和演化,是喚醒靈魂的過程。

至於樹脂,我覺得它的狀態很能夠呈現時空和歷史。就像我們正身處L7-06單位這個空間傾談,而樓上樓下則同時發生不同的故事,大家就在同一個時間點上相遇。你看它,從側面可以看到不同層次。(森枝拿著作品《Piece》介紹)

J︰很有時空凝結或壓縮的況味。感覺很玄!與中國水墨畫的概念有相當吻合的地方。你自小沉迷水墨畫嗎?

T︰沒有。唸初中的時候,甚至想也沒想過要去接觸藝術。我讀書成績不特別「標青」,中四那年擔心不能順利升學,才選上好像不用唸甚麼書的視藝科。跟不少在香港唸藝術的同學一樣,課程多以西畫為主。直至升上大學,才正式接受中畫訓練。我領會到畫水墨要控制的原來不是墨,而是水,這對我往後的創作思維影響很深。

J︰畫水墨畫的重點不在墨,而在水。很深刻的觀察!

T︰像唸藝術吧。相比起在課堂上學習繪畫技巧,籌辦聯校藝術活動的經驗更難能可貴。我中四參與「藝聚」(聯校組織),中六任主席,有幸在香港大會堂舉辦兩屆「藝聚聯校視覺藝術展」,獲得不少與人合作的機會。這不但讓我接觸更多愛好藝術的同學,學習從不同角度欣賞藝術和作品,更體會到做藝術家並不如想像般隨意。原來很多行政事務和文件是要「坐定定」去完成的。

後來獲香港浸會大學取錄唸視覺藝術。我相信讀大學並非只顧埋頭苦讀,一直希望「走遠啲」,於是大學一年級的暑假便申請到意大利唸短期意大利文課程。剛巧遇到威尼斯雙年展,眼界大開。

J︰參觀威尼斯雙年展,對一位唸藝術的大學生來說,簡直夢寐以求!

T︰真是相當震撼!從文藝復興經典作品,到當代概念藝術,展場內都應有盡有,藝術創作真的有許許多多可能性!回港後開始以水墨創作,並進行了一系列關於物料的實驗;嘗試透過不同的創作手法處理同一個基本意念,一口氣創作出共45幅的《Time》系列。這個系列後來獲選到德國參展,就在那一年,我踏足Documenta。

從德國回來後,我又到了台灣東海大學交流一年,修讀藝術課程之餘,亦選修了心理學。我小時曾在醫院住過一段時間,或許影響了我的世界觀。修讀心理學,讓我對於記憶及時間有更高層次的領悟,亦驅使我透過藝術創作,克服以往一些內心的恐懼,並找到屬於自己的題材。

一從台灣回來,我又參加了大學的海外交流活動,到加拿大當兩個月的實習平面設計師,順道到多倫多和美國紐約、華盛頓等參觀博物館和畫廊。回來後轉為兼讀形式完成大學最後一年課程,一面創作畢業作品,一面全職任平面設計師以支持學業及生活。

J︰不停飛來飛去,感覺很「浪子」噢!你2012年及2013年先後在德國德累斯頓及日本名古屋展出作品;2014年畢業,畢業作品獲Tuna Prize評審提名創作獎;同年入圍「香港視覺藝術獎」(前身為「香港當代藝術獎」);並前往英國倫敦作駐留藝術家,作品於英國皇家藝術學院展出。你著重物料運用,構圖抽象、以黑白色為主調的風格,就是這樣一步一步建立起來的嗎?

T︰遊歷對創作相當重要。不得不提的是當年前往倫敦作駐留藝術家的體驗。其實遞交申請時信心不大,只本著「見識下」的心態大膽一試,希望聽聽評審對自己作品的意見,畢竟在香港只選了兩位藝術家參加。有幸獲選,是意料之外。

在倫敦駐留期間,我們每星期都獲安排與當地藝術家及藝評人交流,作個別評賞(Critique)。這種模式不但讓藝術家獲益,對於推進當地整個藝術生態的發展亦有相當正面的幫助,雙方的進步都很快。我還趁機到波蘭走了一圈,非常喜歡這地方。

J︰成績大家都有目共睹。最近有幾個展覽,我們都能看到你的身影和作品,包括「SHIFT」視覺藝術院十週年展、紐約「Affordable Art Fair」、「墨啟未來」水墨藝術聯展,以及12月份的「水墨藝博2016」和JCCAC藝術節2016等。同時恭喜你入圍「Cliftons Art Prize 2016 香港」。對於個人發展,你有何想法或計劃?

T︰和以前「簽畫廊」的模式不同,現時香港藝術工作者多為「自由身」,得以更自由自主地創作,同時亦更講求自律性。從事藝術創作,其實有不少實務須認真處理。例如裱畫,聽起來很簡單,但從找供應商,到洽談細節至完成,我都要親力親為,務求做好件事為止。另外還要兼顧做訪問、拍攝等宣傳工作。

為支持自己從事創作,我全職在一所學校當文員。我是故意找與藝術無關的工作的——工作只為應付生活,而我要把所有精力留給藝術創作。實際上,繪畫,尤其是創作大型作品,需要很多體力勞動。

計劃嘛……暫時還沒有很紮實的長遠計劃,不過短期目標是希望到海外修讀碩士課程。其實我已報讀幾間心儀學府,亦獲部分學校取錄,不過因為學費問題,現在還在努力中。無論如何,面試亦是學習的一部分,而且看到對方願意聆聽自己和提供有用的建議,是非常鼓舞的事。反正是一定會去完成的!有些事情現在不做,以後就不會做的了。

(2016 November) The name of Tristan Ng Sum-chi’s studio - “Atelier of Atmosphere” (JCCAC Unit L7-06) sums up all that is inside; the space is filled with the smell of ink, acrylic paint, resin, Xuan paper (rice paper) and canvas, diffusing the elegant simplicity of mystery. The studio is sparsely decorated. Other than art supplies there was not much else, except for a 4 by 2 meters new ink wash painting which catches and pleases the eyes.

This painting entitled Endless Isolation (a set of 2) will be in the public’s eyes again at JCCAC Festival 2016. “Even if the painting was composed with ink, it is still very much manageable, so in case you smudge some fingerprints on it, they can be easily wiped off with a piece of cloth.” Tristan explained calmly. “So that is the reason behind coating it with resin? For easier cleaning?” we asked jokingly. “Well, if that is the case, I would have never been allowed to graduate!”

J: JCCAC T: Tristan Ng Sum-chi

J: Endless Isolation was your graduation artwork 2 years ago. It makes use of calligraphy ink, resin, acrylic paint and Xuan paper, and set the tone for the development of a series of work. Pairing up calligraphy ink and resin is an interesting combination for both Chinese and Western painting. How did you come up with this idea in the first place?

T: The combination of calligraphy ink and Xuan paper is very common in Chinese painting, while acrylic and canvas are traditionally used together in Western painting. I combine them to create a new kind of ink wash to reflect my self-identity. I was born in the mainland China and grew up in Hong Kong; on my travels I was often mistaken for Japanese. I really wanted to explore my self-identity through artistic creation. I think materials are just like people, they have their own souls. So allowing materials to express themselves is analogues to waking up their soul.

Resin by nature it captures space and history. While we are talking in this room, different stories are happening simultaneously on different floors of this building. You see, from the side of Piece you can view the different layers. (Tristan shows to us.)

J: Sounds quite mysterious! But the compression of space seems to complement concepts in ink wash painting. Did you have any early training in ink wash painting?

T: No, art was not part of my young life at all. It just happened that I was not particularly good with my secondary school studies, so I was worried about the options I had for higher education. I chose art because it was the one subject that did not require as much “studying”. As was normal for secondary school curriculum, the focus was on Western painting. I only started to study Chinese painting when at university. The realisation that the key to ink wash painting is about controlling the water and not the ink has a huge impact on my creative thinking.

J: What an insight!

T: But there is so much more to learning about art than what is technical or taught in class, like organising arts events. During form 4 and form 6 in secondary school, I had the chance to join “Art Focus” (a joint school organisation), and organised the “Art Focus Joint School Visual Arts Exhibition” at Hong Kong City Hall. I thought that learning to work with people and acquiring administrative skills were so important for my growth as an artist too. And widening my network of friends who were similarly passionate about art opened my eyes to appreciating art and creativity from different angles. I discovered that one cannot become an artist by being casual about it. Even artists need disciple and administrative skills to manage their own development and work.

When I got accepted to study at the Academy of Visual Arts of Hong Kong Baptist University, I knew that university education was not just about learning things academically, but should be an opportunity for opening the eyes and mind to wider perspectives. I wanted to go out and explore, so I applied for a summer course organised by the university to study Italian in Italy during the summer of my first year at university. I had the chance to visit the Venice Biennale which took my breath away.

J: To see the Venice Biennale is such a dream for any art student!

T: It was so amazing! From classic to contemporary, Renaissance to conceptual - I never knew that artistic creativity has so many possibilities! I started to create works in the ink medium after returning to Hong Kong and went through a series of experiments on materials. I tried different approaches to express the same artistic concept and came up with a series of 45 paintings called Time. This series of work was selected to participate in an exhibition in Germany. So that year I also went to visit Documenta for the first time.

After the summer in Germany, I took a year off as an exchange student to study art and psychology at Tunghai University in Taiwan. The fact that I was hospitalised for a period of time when I was small affected my outlook on life. But studying psychology allowed me to understand memory and time from a wider perspective. It provided me with artistic focus and made me want to overcome my internal fears through artistic creation.

Upon returning from Taiwan, I went straight to Canada to take up a graphic design internship exchange programme organised by the university. Whilst there, I went to visit museums and art galleries in Toronto, New York and Washington. To complete my final year at university, I opted for part-time study so that I could hold down a full-time graphic design job in order to support myself financially while creating my graduation artwork.

J: You sure are very well-travelled! Your works were exhibited in Dresden, Germany and Nagoya, Japan respectively in 2012 and 2013. Your graduation artwork was nominated for both the Tuna Prize and Hong Kong Contemporary Art Award in 2014. Then you won a place for residency at the Royal College of Art in London. You seem quite particular about materials, abstract composition and monochromatic themes. Did your overseas experience shape your art and style?

T: The chance to travel and experience new things fundamentally shaped my artistic creativity. The residency in London was especially important to me. I submitted my application not believing that I have much chance of being chosen. I merely thought that it would just be a nice opportunity to hear the critique on my works from well established artists on the panel. The competition was fierce, with only two young artists being chosen from Hong Kong. I was so lucky to have been one of the selected.

During my residency in London, I benefited from the weekly critiques on my work from various local artists. It not only helped us young artists to learn and develop, but also has a positive effect on the whole art scene by driving forward artistic creativity and development. I also went to Poland for the first time and fell in love with it.

J: Everyone can see how much you have achieved! You and your works remain very visible in recent exhibitions, including “SHIFT: AVA 10th Anniversary Exhibition”, “Affordable Art Fair” in New York City, “Futuristic Ink”, “Ink Asia 2016” and JCCAC Festival 2016 in December. And congratulations to you on being shortlisted for “Cliftons Art Prize 2016 Hong Kong”. What are your thoughts and plans for your personal development?

T: Not many artists sign exclusive contracts with galleries anymore. Nowadays most artists work independent and enjoy more artistic freedom. But it also means that self-discipline becomes very important, especially with managing practical matters yourself. For instance, framing. Sounds simple enough but you have to attend to all the details yourself, including sourcing materials and discussing with suppliers, and overseeing the whole process from start to finish. It is pretty exhausting. On top of that you will also have to arrange and go to interviews, photoshoots and promotion activities.

To support myself, I am working full-time as a school administrator. It is an intentional choice to separate my artistic life from how I earn a living. I need to reserve all my energy for artistic creation, as it takes a lot of physical strength to create large paintings.


I do not exactly have any long term plans right now, but am hoping to study for a master degree abroad. I have already been accepted by a few universities, but could not go yet since I am still saving up to pay the tuition fees. No matter what, I enjoyed the interviews. They were great learning experiences. It was so inspiring to be able to talk about your work and get constructive feedback. One way or another, I am determined to go abroad to study for a master degree. It is just something that if you do not do now, you will never get around to doing it.




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