約翰百德 (John BATTEN)
at 6:12pm on 27th October 2014
Sketch:standing, 1987, teak, collection of Mrs Tong Chiu Wai-yee.
(原文以英文發表，評論「誘惑觸覺 ─ 唐景森的藝術」展。)
Tong King-sum is one of an influential group of post-Second World War artists whose enthusiasm for art and aesthetic creativity is proof that Hong Kong’s ‘story’ is not only about a frenzied entrepreneurial spirit, sweatshop labour and property development.
Tong studied part-time, non-degree art subjects offered by The Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Extramural Department. These self-improvement, recreational art courses were some of the few available in the 1960s. It was here that artist Cheung Yee first taught him, and who later took Tong under his wing to further encourage and teach him the techniques of sculpture.
Tong concentrated his work to predominantly explore wooden sculptural forms – in contrast to Cheung Yee’s use of steel and bronze. Tong died in 2008, aged 68 years old, and in this small retrospective exhibition at the Hong Kong Museum of Art, a range of Tong’s sculpture shows his tight technical competence. He explores the human form and particularly the lithe, nude female torso. With subtle gradations of carving, Tong builds slightly muscled forms emphasizing the body’s tones and curves (see Sketch: standing attached). This is best seen at different lighted angles, and despite the museum’s odd placement of some pieces on fake green grass, the set-up is effective.
This exploration of the perfect human form contrasts with Tong’s own body. His wife and fellow artist Chiu Wai-yee, explains that Tong was “crippled, disabled and short in stature,” but he “created works of sculpture much taller and heavier than himself.” Tong walked with crutches for most of his life, but his own physical disabilities never impeded his determination and ability to work with mallets, saws and to polish large sections of wood to create highly worked sculptural pieces.
Tong was an active member of Hong Kong’s arts community for forty years and he and his contemporaries were Hong Kong’s first modernists and vanguard for contemporary art expression. This exhibition gives a good introduction of Tong’s position as a sculptor, in a continuum alongside Cheung Yee, Antonio Mak and Ha Bik-chuen and current sculptors Kevin Fung Yik-lan, Jaffa Lam – and multimedia sculptural artists Hanison Lau and Kacey Wong.
'Tempting Touch – the Art of Tong King-sum' @ Hong Kong Museum of Art
A version of this review was published in the South China Morning Post, 2 September 2014.