An Artistic Dialogue on Inner Cultural Borders: Paintings by Erik Chong at Urban Gallery

An Artistic Dialogue on Inner Cultural Borders: Paintings by Erik Chong at Urban Gallery

by Brenda Clews
December 8, 2014

Erik Chong, in his show at Urban Gallery, 'Shifting Borders: Seen and Unseen,' uses Chinese calligraphy techniques on rice paper to create minimalist modern urban paintings. Many are imbued
with geometries of the city that remind one of rhythms of a Mondrian filtered through a colour field sensibility that has the presence of an Olitski. They also echo Chinese tradition in their colours and simplified geometric landscapes. ‘Sunset On The Roof (Cityscape Series)’ shows both of these elements along with Chong’s signature brushstroke, a grid painted painstakingly by hand with a bamboo brush and Sumi ink. While his paintings have a stark purity, the blacks and vermillions and golds are sumptuous and rich, and the grids that form many of the paintings are nuanced, like threads interweaving in a loose burlap material through which light shines and in which we find
various sheens of washes, greys, muted vermillion, faded yellows. These grids are organic, drawn by hand, and yet are set within rigid geometries and the stark square and rectangular borders of the frames. The sense of cloth, another echo of a strong Chinese tradition, is also found in paintings like, ‘Emperor’s Cloth,’ a large textured painting of gold gouache where Chong worked the paper with the wet brush until he achieved a type of repetition not unlike a grid in the way the paper shrank and expanded in puckers until it became a chromatic field of texture. Many of the paintings remind me of the city at night and in fact one carries that title, ‘City at Night,’ and it was interesting to overhear that the rhythms of the city in Chong’s paintings are drawn in part from his experience as a driving instructor. Buildings and their
lights subtlety imbue the room of Sumi blacks and bright Chinese reds, of sunsets and dreamscapes, of a natural landscape of light and dark, of the sun and skies of lucid darkness amid cityscapes alive with their own grid patterns of electrical inner light.
‘Shifting Borders: Seen and Unseen,' paintings by Toronto artist, Erik Chong, runs from December 4, 2014 to January 10, 2015 at Urban Gallery, 400 Queen St East, Monday-Saturday 11AM - 5PM, Thursdays 11AM - 8PM. Do phone as the doors are sometimes not open during Gallery hours: 647-460-1278.

From Urban Gallery’s website:

SHIFTING BORDERS: SEEN AND UNSEEN: Abstract paintings with hidden images somewhat resembling architectural blueprints, which experiment with geometric and chromatic patterns. The artist’s intention is to force the viewers to question perspective as well as the creative process itself.

ARTIST STATEMENT: The ancient practice of Chinese calligraphy continues to inspire me to push the boundaries into new forms. I use a repetitive brushstroke technique that sometimes carries my paintings to the verge of
abstraction. Unlike many of my contemporaries, my appropriation of calligraphy does not simply romanticize the past – rather my creative process explores past, present and future by addressing subject matter both old and new. The purpose of my work is to offer a unique take on the evolution of cultural histories, narratives and identities -and to question these ideas both in a private, personal way and on a public scale.

-Erik Chong, November 2014

Brenda Clews is a Toronto poet and artist and may be contacted through her website, Photo of Erik taken by Brenda.

The photographs of the paintings were taken by Kaspara Albertson, a Toronto photographer and special events and wedding consultant at Urban Source Creative Catering.

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