criticismDispatches
Sunday, October 5th, 2014

Painting from the Barricades: Self-Portrait with a Yellow Umbrella


Jessica Cheung, Self Portrait, from the Umbrella Revolution series, 2014, unfinished.

Jessica Cheung, Self Portrait, from the Umbrella Revolution series, 2014, unfinished.

Jessica Cheung is too busy and nervous to sleep right now, and anyway she has two lives to live in parallel these frantic, momentous days: painter and pro-democracy demonstrator.

In fact, there has been no let-up in her painting since street protest was added to her schedule; on the contrary, the urge to record her participation, to witness the sensation of facing tear gas and the agents provocateur of the Triads, has only intensified the lure of the easel.  Ordinarily, Cheung balances a day job in marketing with a burgeoning artistic career in her native Hong Kong, having graduated the New York Studio School in 2010.  The sketches are works in progress, and she plans to show them at a hotel fair in Singapore next month, the Bank Art Fair.

These plein air oil sketches are a riposte—or a plucky attempt at one at least—of a truism of art history that mechanical images have entirely usurped hand made ones in news reportage.  To the almost instant ubiquity of the aerial shots of mass protest, which by their nature elude the iconic not to mention any sense of individual expression, Cheung translates the qualities of Hong Kong’s Occupy movement that has galvanized her and the best part of her generation.  Eschewing anger, frustration, even the melodrama of victimhood, these quick and factual yet exploratory and soul-searching pictures are quiet, deliberative, honest and purposive.  They have the incendiary eloquence of hope.  DAVID COHEN, Publisher and Editor, artcritical.com

Statement by Jessica Cheung, :

These are dark days in the history of Hong Kong.

Thousands of pro-democracy supporters occupy the streets surrounding Hong Kong’s Financial district. We want a real democracy. We want an open election for the Chief Executive of Hong Kong. We want the resignation of our existing Chief Executive, Chun-ying Leung.

That’s the purpose of the Occupy Central movement. However, our government used pepper spray and tear gas against unarmed and peaceful citizens last week. Now, they even allow large groups of triad gang members to attack pro-democracy participants. Female protestors have been sexually assaulted. I am not sure what will happen next. Everyday is full of fear and worry.

As a Hong Kong-based artist, I think I have a mission to speak up for our freedom and our hometown. My self-portrait in “The Umbrella Revolution” series shows the outfit protestors wore in preparation for pepper spray attack on the first day of Occupy Central on September 28.  But what followed was tear gas, spraying innocents whose only weapons were umbrellas. I feel hopeless and helpless, because my hometown is very sick now. I strongly call for the end of the violence from this brutal government, waking up the rest of local residents and pro-government supporters to understand that what we are doing is correct and we are not being used or controlled by anyone.  The whole world is watching now, why don’t you guys open your eyes! Please stand up for the future of Hong Kong.

Jessica Cheung, Self Portrait, from the Umbrella Revolution series, 2014, unfinished.

Jessica Cheung, Self Portrait, from the Umbrella Revolution series, 2014, unfinished.

Jessica Cheung, Self Portrait, from the Umbrella Revolution series, 2014, unfinished.

Jessica Cheung, Self Portrait, from the Umbrella Revolution series, 2014, unfinished.

 


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