Archive | January, 2022

CHOICHUN LEUNG | Cultured Magazine

21 Jan

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Choichun Leung Uses Art to Communicate with Survivors

ART

Choichun Leung Uses Art to Communicate with Survivors

The painter shares her latest body of work, her nonprofit and how the two have created pathways towards healing from childhood sexual abuse.WORDS

January 19, 2022

Choichun Leung is, as she puts it, the “product of a Chinese takeaway upbringing.” The artist grew up in Wales—her mother from the UK, her father from Hong Kong—where, from a young age, she began cooking and working at the family restaurant. She says that while her father was also creative, his circumstances as a Chinese man in the 1950s meant he wasn’t able to act on it; but as she watched him draw or make things with chopsticks after work, she caught on. She has a clear memory from about three years old of making playdough sculptures for a school competition. As a shy kid, Leung says art often allowed her to communicate—both with others and herself: “Art was my imaginary world that helped me disappear from my reality.”

Chiochun Leung in her studio. Photography courtesy of the artist.

With time, Leung had her hands in various mediums, and eventually chose to pursue metalwork with her education. She felt both a spiritual connection to the trade—she recounts visits to Chinese monasteries in her late teens that inspired a “fascination with ceremonial objects”—and believed it was a function that had to be learned, from welding and forging to raising a bowl. She believed that painting, on the other hand, would come from her. And it did.

Leung had always been a doodler, oftentimes depicting the heads of three Chinese girls in her work. Once, a friend asked why she stopped drawing at the characters’ heads: “He said, ‘why don’t you just carry on drawing the bodies?,’ and I began to feel that self-restriction telling me a story. I realized what was covered was a story of all the emotion that I had kept in.”

Chiochun Leung, Subconscious. Conscious., 2019. Photograohy courtesy the artist and Morton Fine Art.

In the years that followed her friend’s prompt, Leung began to visually communicate with herself, drawing more and more Chinese figures as she reconciled memory and healing. “When I was drawing,” she shares, “I was remembering how I felt as a child.” At around age six, Leung has a memory of being sexually abused, and because she never approaches a painting with an intention, she shares how the story of her past began to reveal itself to her, thus fueling her journey as a survivor. Today, Morton Fine Art in Washington, D.C. opens Leung’s solo show, “The Watchful Eyes,” which amalgamates previous work from her journey with The Young Girl Project and otherwise.

Chiochun Leung, The Watchful Eyes, 2021. Photography courtesy the artist and Morton Fine Art.

As she has begun to exhibit these paintings, Leung has witnessed how her work catalyzes dialogue around childhood sexual abuse. “These young kids are so open when they see the work,” Leung says. She shares that children will point out certain parts of her work—a girl hiding, a depiction of self harm, hands up to cover a child’s face—and ask what they mean. “I’ll say, ‘Well, she’s upset because somebody touched her vagina,’ or another graphic action phrased in a way that is most accessible to children.” Consequently, Leung’s paintings have become a channel for conversation around consent, allowing parents and their children to have honest dialogue around traumatizing events. Leung’s ability to document her own stories, both subconsciously and more advertently, has become a source of relief and education for many.

This year, Leung has turned her series of paintings and their ensuing discourse into an nonprofit, The Young Girl Project, that strives to destigmatize conversations around the sexual abuse of children. In conversations with survivors, Leung says she observes children feeling understood. In addition to being a resource for help, the organization asks that everyone who sees the project share it with five friends in some capacity. “We’re working to take something that is taboo out of that arena [and] into the mainstream in order to dispel shame,” the artist explains.

Chiochun Leung, Backward. Forward, 2019. Photograohy courtesy the artist and Morton Fine Art.

As for why she thinks her work has resonated with survivors, it all comes down to art as an integral method of communication, particularly for children. “Children that have been abused don’t have the words to express it sometimes,” she shares. Almost accidentally, Leung has mimicked the work of therapists and community workers who are identifying cases of sexual abuse. “Using art helps [children] discern what has happened to them—by asking them to draw or observing the subject matter of their [existing] drawings,” she says.

Ultimately Leung hopes to create a community that advocates for the most vulnerable facing of sexual abuse. And, in doing so, she wants to teach children to think for themselves. “This is about defying authority—saying no to an adult who’s telling you to do something you don’t want to do,” she shares. “It’s all about connecting to your gut and your intuition. If you feel something isn’t right or wrong, trust that and act upon it.”

Available Artwork by CHOICHUN LEUNG.

OSI AUDU’s solo exhibition “A Sense of Self” reviewed in The Washington Post

11 Jan
Osi Audu’s “Self-Portrait with a Yoruba Hairstyle” in the exhibit “A Sense of Self.” (Osi Audu/Morton Fine Art)

Osi Audu

By Mark Jenkins

January 7, 2022 at 6:00 a.m. EST

Especially when rendered with gleaming graphite, Osi Audu’s hard-edge geometric abstractions evoke high-tech machines. But “A Sense of Self,” the title of the Nigeria-born New Yorker’s show at Morton Fine Art, suggests he has something else in mind. Nearly all the pictures are designated as self-portraits, and often streamline the shapes of West African masks. Audu’s inspiration is the Yoruba idea of “outer and inner head,” according to the gallery’s statement.

The show is divided primarily between monochromatic drawings, executed in gray graphite and black pastel, and brightly colorful paintings, mostly in two contrasting acrylic pigments. Audu distills the forms of masks, headdresses and hairstyles to planes, angles and curves, and positions them on white backdrops that emphasize the images’ seeming three-dimensionality. It would make sense for the artist to translate such pictures into sculpture, and in fact this show is set to include two painted-steel pieces that seem to be closely related to the paintings. (The sculptures didn’t arrive in time to be seen for this review.)

The colors and shapes are usually presented as stark dualities, but not always. “Self-Portrait After Dogon Bird Mask” features four hues rather than two, and the graphite areas in the black-and-gray drawings are made of free, densely overlapping strokes. While inner and outer are elsewhere tidily juxtaposed, the graphite’s intricate textures are intriguingly in-between.

Osi Audu: A Sense of Self Through Jan. 15 at Morton Fine Art, 52 O St. NW, No. 302. Open by appointment.

Available artwork by OSI AUDU

MICHAEL ANDREW BOOKER | Art in Embassies | 3 Questions Video

10 Jan

For over five decades, Art in Embassies (AIE) has played a leading role in U.S. public diplomacy through a focused mission of vital cross-cultural dialogue and understanding through the visual arts and dynamic artist exchange. The Museum of Modern Art first envisioned this global visual arts program in 1953, and President John F. Kennedy formalized it at the U.S. Department of State in 1963. Today, Art in Embassies is an official visual arts office within the U.S. Department of State, engaging over 20,000 participants globally, including artists, museums, galleries, universities, and private collectors. It encompasses over 200 venues in 189 countries. Professional curators and registrars create and ship about 60 exhibitions per year, and since 2000, over 70 permanent collections have been installed in the Department’s diplomatic facilities throughout the world.

Art in Embassies fosters U.S. relations within local communities world-wide – in the last decade, more than 100 artists have traveled to countries participating in AIE’s exchange programs and collaborated with local artists to produce works now on display in embassies and consulates. Going forward, AIE will continue to engage, educate, and inspire global audiences, showing how art can transcend national borders and build connections among peoples.

Available artwork by MICHAEL ANDREW BOOKER.