Stephen Wong Chun Hei is recognised for his arresting landscape paintings of Hong Kong and well-known landmarks, based on the artist's hiking trips or satellite imagery in Google Earth, that create an immersive environment for imaginary travel.Read More
Landmarks and familiar scenery are rendered otherworldly in Stephen Wong Chun Hei's paintings, which increasingly employ vivid and saturated hues. Wong's conception of painting as a way of travel resonates with 'Dream Journey', a concept in traditional Chinese painting that describes a person's experience of distant places by looking at painted landscapes from the comfort of their homes.
Although Wong began drawing at a young age, and had been interested in painting for a long time, he initially produced multimedia installations because his then-environment at the University of Hong Kong favoured conceptual art. The artist turned to painting after his graduation in 2008, first capturing landscapes from video games then shifting towards the hills and trees of Hong Kong.
Wong's paintings start from actual landscapes, but the artist does not attempt to replicate life, only creating reinterpretations of his subjects from his sketches and imagination. Playing with colours and perspective, and sometimes rearranging details of the topography, Wong paints resplendent scenery that has often been described as being dreamlike. His increasingly bright colour palettes animate the landscapes, 'suggesting there is something alive within every element and being' as Elaine YJ Zheng notes in Ocula Magazine.
The effect is pronounced in paintings like The Cloud Play (2016), in which masses of clouds spread over and through the tall trees, suspended in time, and Drive to the Cliff (2020), a nighttime painting that shows a small figure and a bonfire on the tip of the cliff.
Cyclists, campers, drivers, cars, and ships of minute scale wait to be discovered in Wong's paintings, drawing the viewer into the landscape and prompting them to travel the winding roads and strips of beaches. Bright greens and blues, with occasional pinks, further fuse reality with fantasy as with the paintings and works on paper exhibited in Wong's solo presentation MacLehose Trail at Bonhams Hong Kong in 2022.
The notion of travel took on a new definition for Wong during the pandemic, when he was compelled to cancel his trip to Kyoto and used Google Earth to travel the city. This virtual trip evolved into paintings of distant landmarks, accessed through satellite imagery, that the artist presented in A Grand Tour in Google Earth at Hong Kong's Gallery EXIT in 2021 and Dream Travel—alongside his Hong Kong landscapes—Unit London in 2022. Wong's Google Earth works are accompanied by small toy cars, placed atop each canvas, that also appear in the painted scenes.
Stephen Wong Chun Hei has presented his work internationally in solo and group exhibitions.
Solo exhibitions include Dream Travel, Unit London, London (2022); MacLehose Trail, Bonhams, Hong Kong (2022); A Grand Tour in Google Earth, Gallery EXIT, Hong Kong (2021); 夢前集碎, Knowhere, Hong Kong (2020).
Group exhibitions include Shining Moment, Tang Art Foundation, Hong Kong (2021); Hong Kong Experience, Hong Kong Experiment, Hong Kong Museum of Art (2019); Ensemble, VT Salon Art Space, Taipei (2017); At the still point of the turning world, Galerie Ora-Ora, Hong Kong (2014).
Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2022