Sophie Cheung 張馨儀

Biography

Early Life, The Power of the Tactile

 

Sophie Cheung Hing Yee was born in Hong Kong in 1983.

She has loved drawing since childhood. At that time. green was her favourite colour, as it was the colour of the walls in the estate where she grew up. Her early artistic efforts involved drawing images from magazines and cartoons. Her father taught table tennis and made high quality, bespoke ping pong rackets for his students. The artist’s interest in tactile items such as erasers may partially stem from the memory of her father crafting plastic panels for their grip. 

 

An Advocate and Ally

 

Sophie Cheung’s first job after school was teaching children art in a private school. Even at this time, she already collected and annotated their used erasers as traces of memory and activity.

 

Her passion for teaching was partly rooted in her emphasis on the rights of all individuals in society to fulfil their full potential, particularly those who face additional hurdles through marginalization or disability.

She is a life-long advocate for disability rights, and spent ten years working in this field. She worked as community facilitator in an NGO in mainland China, and a contributor to the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities  (CRPD). In 2015, Cheung published a book titled: Disabilities CV: The Stories of the Persons with Psycho-social Disability in Hong Kong which examines and re-conceptualizes the multi- faceted meanings of disability and the disability experience in an attempt to effect a paradigm shift towards social inclusion, challenging the dichotomous relation between barriers and resources. Between 2016 and 2020, she ran her own organization – Disabilities CV – with the aim of examining mental health justice.

In a complex world of competing priorities and constant urgency, Sophie Cheung’s art became a source of solace and personal empowerment. 

 

Academia

 

Sophie Cheung’s academic career has taken place against the backdrop of societal engagement. She graduated with a BA (Fine Art) from RMIT University (2007), a Diploma in Fine Art from Hong Kong Art School and a Certificate in Visual Arts at The Art School, Hong Kong Arts Centre (2004).

 

She recently completed an MA in Applied Anthropology and Community Arts at Goldsmiths, University of London (2022).

Influences

 

Sophie has a number of artist influences, which include Francis Bacon, Huang Binhong, Sanyu, Wesley Tongson, Annie Wan, and Wu Guanzhong. The exploration of the psyche, shining a light on hidden truths about ourselves is a shared characteristic of these artists.

She is also driven by issues which are important to her, including children’s mental health.

 

Key themes

 

The artist is intrigued by the theme of freestanding – allowing objects to become subjects. Her practice is informed by the concept of the subjectile, a paradoxical fusion of both subject and object. In furthering her assertion, she harnesses mundane tools such as erasers, pens, or newspapers as metamorphic objects that possess subjective integrity.

Further themes include impermanence, a highlighting of transience and in betweenness. Her work rejects boundaries of time and of history.  

 

An Ambiguous World of History and Discord

Sophie Cheung’s practice includes the Erasing News series, which involves the act of rubbing erasers onto newsprint.

At once liquid and solid, her artworks create a contemporary tribute to Chinese ink through the four ink plates known as CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and key).

When the erasers are combined into one artwork, they assume a group identity whilst retaining their individual stories and motives. The result hovers between the past and the present, a synthesis of viewpoints, sorrows and celebrations, merged into a state which is constantly temporary.

The use of erasers is an act of simultaneous addition and subtraction, as they take on the volume and impact of the print, whilst losing some of their own volume. This interim state in between hard and soft is a property which ties the medium into the artist’s exploration of the interim and the in between.

Drawing together colliding visions, Weltanschauungen and cultural memories, the series soothes a cacophony whilst occupying a transient status of impermanence, pausing amidst time and space.

 

East Meets West

 

Sophie Cheung continued to investigate in betweenness whilst studying in London. Using the eraser to rub UK newspapers, she was surprised to find that UK newspapers often used colours which were softer and lighter than those of Hong Kong newspapers, and in fact closer to the hues of traditional Chinese ink painting. 

 

In the fifth of her Erasing News series, London Hue (2021), she combines newspapers from the two cities. The rubbing is a simultaneous act of retention and vanishing. Historical interpretation and competing geopolitics meander into abstract colour.

 

Ongoing Development

 

Inspired by the skies of London, Sophie Cheung’s latest series removes the intermediary of newsprint, promoting direct application of agency and direction by the artist.

 

Drawing straight onto the eraser with a ballpoint pen, Sophie continues to probe the interim and the impermanent. Outside of her control, colours morph and develop for seven days after they have been applied. What remains may echo the glazing of a classical kiln, or the bright shimmer of a suburban sunset.

 

Recent Exhibitions 

 

Recent exhibitions include Stains of Time at Gallery HZ, Hong Kong (2020), HKFOREWARD20 at 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong (2020) and Soften Stones at PRÉCÉDÉE, Hong Kong (2018). Sophie Cheung was awarded as the first runner-up in the Hong Kong Human Rights Arts Prize in 2018, presented by the Justice Centre of Hong Kong and supported by the European Union in Hong Kong and Macao.

Exhibitions