To build rather than to break – William Tong

When did you start to get in touch with art?

I liked painting ever since I was young, but I didn’t study anything art-related at school. I didn’t even choose art class in secondary school until I studied design. After graduation, my work was about design which was quite different from art or creations. I was working and painting on the side and didn’t really think about being an artist – it was just my interest.

William Tong - Airport Three Runway System

William Tong – Airport Three Runway System

What are your works about?

Houses are the most frequent theme of my work. At the beginning it was just like designing website-like houses. It was similar to putting works into different houses for appreciation. Then I started painting, which made me start to feel the pressure of living in Hong Kong: high-rises everywhere but I really look forward to living in a house quietly. I have been living in old buildings and I don’t agree with tearing down old constructions for urban development. Old buildings have their own charm with history and stories. I like outlying islands and especially old buildings that convey historical feelings. You can see my imagination with ancient elements such as old industrial buildings in my works.

William tong - Amazing Fish - Fusion (Rubbish)

William tong – Amazing Fish – Fusion (Rubbish)

Apart from houses, what other themes are there in your works?

Following the changes in the society, I realised there are more ridiculous things that impress me and I feel that I have to draw them out. In my works, I will reflect my feeling and imagination related to those social affairs. But if I have a choice, I don’t want to put them in – a calm scene without agony makes me happier.

Why are there no people in your works?

I think people are mostly destructive, plus I like environments with no human beings. I like serenity.

What are the sticks?

Bamboo scaffolding. It always appears in the city but is also kind of related to the nature. I hope to relate human beings and the natural environment with the simplest link.

William Tong - Lamma Wind Farm

William Tong – Lamma Wind Farm

What is your creative process?

The theme is surrounding places in Hong Kong or places I have been to. With my camera, I will photograph some scenes with deeper impressions as a record. When I am back to my studio, other than sketching, I will also think about its history and stories with my imagination and paint them on the canvas that forms my feelings. For example, a painting of fruit stalls in Yau Ma Tei would be starting with existing short buildings, and then I would blur the background with a lot of trees. The reason is for the history of the location: it would have been a forest if humans were not living there. I think scenes to paint would all be about its past. 

“People destroy to achieve their goals.”



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