As an artist led gallery, Unit London is dedicated to supporting its artists and providing a focussed space in which they can express their ideas. The Platform exhibition series engages with topical social, political and cultural issues, inviting artists to explore the concepts that motivate their work. To align with the core social principles of the programme, 10% of all sales proceeds are donated to a charity or non-profit of the artist’s choosing. Stephen Wong's nominated charity is Ocean Recovery Alliance.
To mark the opening of this Platform exhibition, we decided to delve into the intricacies of Wong's artistic practice by asking him a few questions.
When did you decide to become an artist?
SW: I had this image of a painter with an easel in a natural landscape when I was a child, I can’t remember where this came from. A still see a piece of paper as an eternal space for me to create and explore. So, I decided to be an artist before really knowing what an artist I would be.
Where does your fascination with travel come from?
SW: When I first decided to paint landscapes from nature, around 10 years ago, I really had no idea about the hiking trails in my city. So, I went to search in some hiking booklets for certain locations with pretty sceneries. But after the hikes, I found that what really fascinated me was the journey I had experienced. I tried to paint from my memories, sketches and imagination to reconstruct the travels I had. This is why 'travel' is important to my landscape paintings.
What is it about nature that attracts you most? Why have you chosen this subject matter?
SW: In the city we easily get tired by the packed schedules. We walk only with purpose and clear destinations. But in nature, we can walk for the sake of walking, we are surrounded by organic forms and the ever-changing nature, which can inspire us. When we try to embrace it , we will feel we are just a tiny part of this world.
A Road Trip In Google Earth: Mount Fuji, Japan, 2021, Acrylic on canvas, 30 x 40 cm
Which artists most influenced your work?
SW: In 2011, I travelled for the first time to the UK and visited the V&A Museum. I was excited to see the oil sketches by John Constable. From that moment, the more I read about his paintings and ideas, the more I become enlightened. His insistence towards painting the landscapes he lived around and understood, strengthened my decision on the expression of Hong Kong’s landscapes.
Many painters like Hokusai, Hiroshige, Felix Vallotton, Albert Marquet and David Hockney also had great influences on my painting in terms of the use of brushstrokes and colour tones.
Is there anything outside of art or nature that inspires you?
SW: I love to read novels, manga and watch movies, all these could inspire my ideas of art. Novels of Miura Shion are my favourites. Playing video games like GTA, Zelda allows me to travel around in the virtual world. I sometimes would do sketches when I came across some fascinating sceneries in the games.
And of course, hiking is always my inspiration for painting. In Hong Kong the natural areas are so near to the city, so I like to walk there from time to time.
How do you decide which landscapes and places to paint?
SW: I don’t have too much of a plan or premise of a theme before painting. Usually I focus on walking and looking when I hike. But usually what interests me is the intervention of humans in nature. For example, some very tiny hikers walking on the trails far away, or some tunnels appearing in between two mountains and the people standing at the observation deck.
How would you describe your pictorial technique, particularly with respect to colour?
SW: When I paint, I pay less attention to the resemblance to the real places. The pictures I create are based on my memories of looking and sketching, as well as imagination. So the compositions and use of colours are dreamy and subjective.
Which artist would you pair yourself with for a dual exhibition?
SW: John Constable. It would be my greatest honour if that could come true.
Are you still searching for that 'perfect' setting?
SW: I always think that the next place I stop and paint would be the perfect setting.