Untitled, Charcoal on Paper, 2011, by Ming Ying Hong.
Ming Ying Hong
The Green Building Gallery
In the range of visual art that presents itself in Louisville galleries, I find I often respond most strongly to simple ideas boldly executed. Ming Ying Hong, a young artist from Lexington, Kentucky, provides a fine example of this principal in a new exhibit at The Green Building Gallery.
The two best examples face each other on opposite ends of the space. The north wall is filled by a large charcoal drawing that appears to be a self-portrait. (All of the work is essentially untitled, although some include a simple one-word descriptive.) The quality of the image is rich, with a tactile visual texture that is strikingly complex, while the unfussy composition, framing the head and upper torso of the human subject, is slightly epic in its impact because of the scale of the piece. The effect is heightened by the fact that the paper itself has been heavily manipulated to create a crumpled effect, exploding the perceptual boundaries of two-dimensionality and transforming the “flat” drawing into a three-dimensional sculptural object. Drawing becomes sculpture.
A fascinating companion is the video projection on the south wall, “Untitled (Alex).” Another graphite drawing with the same head and shoulders framing is overlaid by a video image of the artist herself submerged in water, with only her face breaking the surface. The position of each element is carefully synchronized so that they blend together visually. At first the drawing dominates the viewer’s perception before the video exerts dominance, and the two elements coexist simultaneously in conflict and harmony with one another, creating a palpable tension: tension between the two mediums, the static drawing and the moving image, and tension in the confusion between genders. The video can be viewed on YouTube, but the impact is much greater in its large-scale projection in the gallery. Drawing becomes video, video becomes drawing.
Ming Ying Hong with her piece, Untitiled (Crumpled).
Photo by Steve Goldberg.
Both simple ideas lead the viewer to discover powerfully suggestive emotional and psychological elements in the work, the specifics of which may be highly subjective, but the presence of which is unmistakable. The expressions on the human faces reflect tension and strife resulting from struggle. The manipulation of the media and materials may be part of the reason, as if the subjects’ pain results from the manipulation itself. At least, this was my subjective response.
One other large piece, “Untitled (Crumpling),” again blurs the line between 2-D and 3-D, an assemblage of small paper fragments that combine to create an abstract, almost purely graphic piece of sculpture. Several much smaller works comprise the remainder of the exhibit, each one a jewel of densely rendered graphite drawing.
The work is focused and detailed yet influenced by organic process to an unexpected degree. It is an engrossing investigation into the ripening potential of a young artist with a fertile mind for the byplay between the physical and metaphysical.
Tim & Dair Mathistad
Katie & Chris Haulter
Kathy Todd Chaney
Angie Reed Garner