How did it all start for you?
I left Hong Kong 38 years ago to study in the US. It was almost like my incarnation and the passion I discovered myself. When you know what your passion is, every day is a Saturday and not a Monday. Every day is a Saturday for a long time for me since I left Hong Kong.
You were trained an architect. How did you shift to object design?
Once I finished a space, I often felt that it was not exactly what I wanted. Furniture is very important. I used to look for things that I like but that became very, very difficult so I started making furniture myself [laughs]. And when you finished with a table, it’s still empty and you want something to place on it. That’s how I started from architecture to furniture and object design. I’ve been designing furniture for 20-something years and I’m doing object design full time now for the last three years. I still practice architecture when there’s a project and I also do sculptures.
Being Asian, having been educated in the US and worked extensively in Europe, how have these experiences shaped you as an artist?
America is huge and open. It’s the [art] scene where you get lost very easily. It’s a place that urges you to find yourself, where everything is possible and there is no right or wrong. Europe is different because the history is strong and you have to be able to situate yourself in both the social and the design context. It takes a lot of maturity to understand things in Europe, especially with design. Being Asian in that part of the world, you need to have a keen observation in terms of what you can offer and how to maintain the interest.
You also give lectures. How do you see art education in Asia?
Design is something you cannot teach from a book. It’s about how you situate yourself or solve problems. That kind of guidance is what I think at the moment is lacking, especially in China where they now believe that design has to be attractive and colorful. They also search for cultural identity. After the China has built such strong economic power, the country imports a lot – not just goods but also ideas and cultures. They start to realize now that it’s not suitable for them. There is strong reorientation now to really understand who we are and how to move forward.
How do you see yourself as an artist?
An artist also deals a lot with philosophy of who you are and aesthetic. I don’t believe that art should be exclusive but it should be able to touch people and move them towards positive attitude. The world is depressing. I don’t need an artist to tell me how depressing it is and get everybody depressed. The power of design and art is to influence. You can see that my works are very calm, almost like they’re living in the world untouched by problems. They are comfortably sitting there, quietly, with their own power without speaking too much.
Please elaborate on the works in this exhibition?
These objects are not exactly pure art because they also have functions, even though they don’t look normally like what they are. Function is a way to deal with people, to help them live better and provide them with options. Design has that mission. This is the first time I present them like this. I put them together in groups so you can look at them as still lifes. It’s like they’re families or good friends sitting together, belonging together. Also, you can look at them as 3D paintings. They address to the viewers frontally, the same way paintings do. Each of the objects is represented in two dimensions. One is as art and another is as utensil. I think is aspect is not quite explored in the contemporary art scene where art and design is often separated.
How did you create these works?
They are both handmade and machine-made. And I work closely with a lot of craftsmen. What I wanted to achieve is precision, and our hands are not so perfect so machines have to come into play. For most of the things, in a way, it’s necessary to make by hand. But we have to take into the account of the technological development that can make you do things even better, not just faster. In my works, I push technology to a point where absolute precision is achieved. I don’t believe in making things by hand just for the sake of it.
Why is the exhibition called “Aura”?
Air is a substance that is important, but we cannot see it most of the time. Look at an airplane in the sky: it is suspended with nothing around it to be detected visually. It is to tell you at in this space, this void, the presence of this optic exists. Music needs silence. Painting needs background. Object needs the air to resonate. It’s the solid-and-void relationship where the thing around the solidity is what gives power. And when they come together as a group they form an invisible dialogue.
Until 28 Feb. Serindia Gallery O.P. Garden Soi Charoenkrung 36, 0 2238 6410.