The Intricacies of Chrissy Kwok-Ying Cheung
by Jordan Arseneault
A sure-handed painter with a musical sensibility, Chrissy Kwok-Ying Cheung belongs to the tradition of lyrical abstractionists concerned with the psychology of colour and the forms of the subconscious. Working as an educator and graphic designer in Montréal, Cheung’s devotion to the techniques and materials of paint on canvas have brought her to a bold new place in her practice where mark-making bestows unspoken narratives and colours resonate with textured forms.
For her latest series, Intrigue, which comprised her solo show at the Art Gallery of the Eleanor London Côte-Saint-Luc Public Library in 2013, Cheung produced seven new works in highly honed abstraction with the large-scale “Attack” as her jumping-off point. The lemon-yellow cadmium and cerulean blue are richly readable through much of the series. As a colorist, Cheung claims a debt to the theories of Goethe and Chevreul, meticulously mixing her own pigments with acrylic. Her attention to the effects of simultaneous colour and contrast will at times harken back to her fascination with synthesia, the condition wherein colours may be heard or sensed in ways other than the ocular.
Her treatments carry traits of Delaunay, Kandinsky, and the late Paterson Ewen. With Ewen as an acknowledged influence, one might interpolate a cosmic or aerial view in many of Cheung’s canvases, which she will often paint from above, lying down on a plank structure she constructs in her low-ceilinged studio. Never painting at an easel, the artist will work from 360 degrees, often deciding which way a work will be hung only after it is completed. Though confined to the canvas, the multiplicity of spaces and emotions resist limitation to physical boundaries.
Cartographic suggestions in Cheung’s work complement the intricately detailed forms and textures she achieves by working her material in numerous layers over extended periods of time. While a catalyst for any given piece may be intuitive, arising in response to a work of contemporary dance or avant-garde music, her application of paint and (more rarely) mixed media, is forceful and deliberate. Nebulous areas are few, while lines, brush strokes, and marks of removal point to the time before and after observed events, both real and imaginary. In works like “Scenario No.1” and “Deconstruct” the variety of colours, textures and forms prevent the viewer from resting their eyes in one place for too long: there is always more to see, and somewhere for the mind to travel.
Unlike previous series in her oeuvre, like Non-Séquentiel (2011) and Every Method: No Method (2010), Intrigue contains an anomalous work that stands out as a point of departure from abstraction: “Shear” depicts a recognizable pair of scissors, a beneficent symbol from one of Cheung’s recurring dreams. In unraveling the dream, the painter was able to free herself from a period of creative inertia from which her latest series emerged. With both subconscious and methodical creativity, Chrissy Kwok-Ying Cheung creates sophisticated spatial territories that contain energies and substances for the eye to feel.