After his two-month residency in New York, the artist Chan Sai-lok boiled down his memorable experience into a massive piece of red color.
During his residency programme in the Flux Factory art space in New York, Chan visited galleries, art spaces and studios of various scales to have dialogues with numerous local artists. New York has always been a hybrid society with an eclectic mix of cultures and ethnicities. This can be seen in films and literature that feature Chinese migrants who are struggling to survive, activists who strive for promoting social equality, artists who can barely make a living, as well as celebrities who are always under the spotlight. The 50 stars on the flag of the United States of America represent the 50 U.S. States, while the 13 stripes stand for the original 13 colonies. The three colors on the flag also have their own symbolism — White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness, and valor, and Blue signifies vigilance, perseverance, and justice.
紅色是勇氣。阿三將在紐約的體驗化成一遍勇氣，更藉著不同文學的作品呈現在紐約生活的失落與掙扎中的的勇氣。黃碧雲的小說〈愛在紐約〉是合法或非法移民面對生活種種困境與矛盾的意象，亦是七、八十年代美國經濟蕭條下社會氣氛的寫照；白先勇在《紐約客》的兩個短篇〈Danny Boy〉及〈Tea for Two〉，回顧愛滋病爆發之初，性小眾族群無助之身世，及紐約市面瀰漫惶恐不安的陰霾；郭強生長篇小說《夜行之子》則以「九一一事件」雙子塔倒下為背景，看清楚大美國主義下個體的生存狀況。阿三更把這些文學作品中的摘錄，以不完整的中文字體放在畫作上，那仿佛人生總是不完整，都是瓣瓣的碎片。
Red is the color of courage, a medium that Chan uses to express his experience in New York. Through the narrative of literature, Chan, once again, presented to his audience the frustrations of living in New York as well as the courage that arises from the struggles. In Wong Pik-wan’s story “Love in New York”, she narrates the hardships of the legal and illegal immigrants, in which readers are allowed a glimpse into the economic depression that struck the United States in the 70s and 80s. The two short stories “Danny Boy” and “Tea for Two” as collected in Pai Hsien-yung’s New Yorker tell readers the helplessness felt by the sexual minorities during the AIDS epidemic in New York. From his short stories, we can sense how New York City was overwhelmed by a great fear. Set against the fall of the Twin Towers at the September 11 attacks, Kuo Chiang-sheng’s novel Nightly narrates the existence of individuals under the shadow of Americanism. Chan turned excerpts from these literary works into broken Chinese characters on his paintings, as if comparing life to incomplete fragments.
Red is the bright and energetic color that decorates festivities like Lunar New Year and Christmas. Unlike the usual cheerful connotation of the color, the stunning red color in Chan Sai-lok’s exhibition represents fragmentary life and the cruelty one faces when trying to survive. Love in New York 1 (1 of 5) is complemented by a line from Wong Pik-wan’s story of the same title that writes, “I keep seeing new chapters of life unfolding in front of me. I just find them way too heavy for me.” Constantly feeling discouraged and frustrated made us ironically wish that our life could be shorter.
The glaring redness in the exhibition hall seems to be communicating the message, “I think everything can appear so brutal in this constantly evolving city.”