As part of our December Mostra Meet the Artists series, we spoke to Jade Ching-yuk Ng (Abbey Scholar in Painting) about forgotten architecture, voids, and authenticity.
You work in painting and printmaking, and your interest lies in deconstructing symbolism within history and real-life characters and making them part of fictions. Which direction is this interest taking in a city like Rome, where there is a constant struggle between history and real life?
Snakes, shells, arrows, sun, chariots, horses…and naked roman goddesses seduce many people because of their ubiquity around the city. These symbols were once the idols of superstitious believers, similar to today’s repetitive advertisement on YouTube, a form of propaganda. By communicating via specific icons the audience is compelled to believe in another product or figure.
Rome seems to me to be a man-made metaphysical playground, where iconic figures can be found just lying around. The painted marbles inside churches give the illusion of surface but do not allow us to penetrate into the centre of the material. A historical city could become just another simulation.
The past has always held power over people’s spiritual beliefs, and Rome’s overloaded classicism overpowers reality. I am not sure what to think when people relate Rome to Aristotle’s metaphysics. I often question how to perceive symbolism not by considering the physical objects themselves but rather by taking a virtual bird’s eye view of the city and turning into a pataphysical form. In particular our visit to Santa Maria sopra Minerva made me wonder how we could not only travel into the frames within the frames of the frescoes visually, but also pull ourselves back to any frames we want – then we would really have the freedom to see beyond the history that is given.
Another struggle might be the ‘authenticity’ of materials at ancient sites. The trip to Ostia Antica made me think about the importance of ‘fake’ and ‘real’. The old brick and the new brick gradually submerge into one. Authenticity is not restricted to a certain time period, but should be seen as a progressive change over time.
Is there a specific sculpture/character/piece of architecture that has particularly inspired you in these past three months?
I have been particularly inspired by Manzù’s rather violent bronze reliefs at St Peter’s Basilica where they are placed at the front gate before walking into the church. I was intrigued by how a religious place could manipulate your emotions. If I were to caricature religion, it would be as the pigeon lady outside Piazza del Popolo.
I also enjoyed looking at Giuseppe Perugini’s Casa Sperimentale. It is a real shame that it is abandoned now but it does make us aware of the forgotten architecture beyond classicism.
The moulding workshop at Cinecittà impressed me so much, especially after talking to the props maker whose family has worked there for three generations since the Mussolini era. It is incredible getting to know how they casted from the original sculptures and reproduced them for a film set. When you walk into his workshop, it reminded me of a blow-up Rome with collages of fragments lying around, piling on top of each other. The gigantic fingers and the tiniest heads all morphed into a room that becomes a toy town. The experience of weaving through his workshop gave me the sensation of looking at objects using a zoom-in and zoom-out lens to picture the random displaced relationship between the props and me.
Last but not least, the relationship between the mouth and the staircase in the Parco dei Mostri di Bomarzo fascinates me, where the monster’s mouth turns into a frame, which is the enlarged body part, encouraging you to walk into the space physically but once you enter, it is only the void.
Jade Ching-yuk Ng (Abbey Scholar in Painting)
Jade’s work is currently on show alongside the six other resident artists in December Mostra, opening hours 16.30-19.00 until Saturday 22 December 2018.