Round You Up
Yeung Hok Tak
Perhaps because Yoshitomo Nara once organized an exhibition for Yeung Hok Tak in Kyoto, a friend of mine offers the following comparison of their works: “The big-headed girl drawn by Yoshitomo Nara has a pair of slanting eyes that lack innocence, looking either angry or sad. However, whatever drawn by Yeung Hok Tak, from common people, boorish men to views and objects in Hong Kong, are always colorful but tinged with a pang of nostalgia for the olden days. Both attempt to depict sadness through sweetness.” I feel that there is no need to try and analyze or understand Yeung’s drawings nor to compare or contrast them with others’. Arbitrariness is the most moving quality of his drawings.
The exhibition “Round you up” features more than three hundreds pieces by Yeung, among which many are small-dimension paper drawings. The three-hundred-plus drawings showcase his signature “ma-lak” or boorish men style, as well as his imagination and poetic thoughts towards the city. There are drawings closely resembling those sketched by primary school boys, showcasing boys’ being school bullies; a boy carrying a Gundam crossing the street against the backdrop of buses and housing estates from the olden days; hills big and small above Victoria Harbor, which one cannot tell if they are soil or landfill dumps; the extraordinary sight of “wai-lo,” or people smoking at street corners or back alleys that can only be seen in this city; as well as Lion Rock being replaced by Unicorn Ridge. His drawings will bring laughters and tears to those born and raised here. Whether it is just a random capture of a city view or a range of kids’ imaginations, they are mostly a thing of the past, thereby stirring up feelings of nostalgia and regret.
Yeung has done illustrations before, and he has also worked for advertising and design companies. These jobs demand a focus and precision in getting messages across, and therefore are full of calculations. Having switched his role to a painter, he no longer needs such calculations and considerations when he draws, thereby enabling him to do as he pleases when it comes to colors, proportion, framing or the selection of views and objects. Therefore, the hills depicted in his drawings are not in the right proportion, and familiar buildings are placed in an unknown space. The form of the exhibition is also arbitrary, with paper drawings and manuscripts randomly lying on exhibition booths or combined together and hung on the wall.
If painting is a process in which artists internalize his emotions and then present them on canvases, then Yeung’s depiction of the common folks, combined with his image, has transformed into a poetic quality unique to this city. These familiar but highly imaginative pieces touch the heart of viewers.