On March 31, Tung Pang was working with his favorite material – plywood. As he said in a 2012 documentary by the Art Promotion Office, unlike how paint only lies on the surface of the canvas, plywood can allow the color to permeate while showing its texture and grain underneath the paint. [1]

Tung Pang working on the rice field

On this ceiling-high wooden surface, soft tones of blues and greens are applied with rough and broad strokes, suggesting a simple, agricultural setting for the life-size farmer figure in the foreground. Wearing simple peasant clothing, the farmer stands in a large bow and raises a bale of rice over his head with two muscly arms. As he looks up to the bale and the sky above, his face is left unrevealed to us. Short strokes of white paint scatter on the painting surface, giving a sensation of the gentle blow of wind that accompanies the growth of the rice plants from their tender immaturity in Summer to their ripening in Fall. By juxtaposing two seasonal scenes, this painting evokes both the planting and the harvesting of rice – a stationary on both Hong Kong and Japanese people’s tables.

“秋風色変”: a phrase taken from Tung Pang’s design

Making this picture, as Tung Pang said, was like having a dance with the figure. To me, the way Tung Pang gave shape to the rice plants with each stroke was as if he was actually growing them as he stepped into the rice field, bending down in a posture not unlike that of a rice farmer.

Plywood panels are in two colors

Speaking of color, the unpainted surfaces of the plywood were actually not of the same tone. Some were of a darker brown and some a lighter beige. It is also not hard to notice the uneven cut of the wood. The edges of the rectangular and square panels do not line up with each other, yet, they seem to have been deliberately arranged in this way. This became clearer later when he was cutting a piece of plywood panel into thinner strips. He deliberately avoided cutting in straight lines, and arranged the sanded strips in a seemingly random way, leaving irregular gaps in between.

Tung Pang and Tiffany preparing plywood strips

One can also sense this rejection of regularity in the overall design of the installation work. As he explained, the work would make use of multiple media, including plywood, fabric, paper, of different sizes and shapes, as well as readymade domestic materials such as blinds and furniture. These overlapping layers of images and textures merge the exterior with the interior, the natural world with the domestic space. Even the four seasons are incorporated into a continuous band of imagery. However, the richness in detail of each component and the variety of surfaces would indeed trigger surprise in the one looking. 

Tung Pang working next to painted blinds

[1] For more about Tung Pang’s documentary by Art Promotion Office, see “藝遊鄰里計劃V:觀察‧寫-林東鵬作品展 Artists in the Neighbourhood Scheme V: Works by Lam Tung Pang,” uploaded March 8, 2012, video, 5:11, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qyeOUnXZAg.

Emily Liu
Emily Liu
Student Intern