NATALIE CHEUNG | Art Plugged

19 Oct

Natalie Cheung: Made of Light

Exhibitions

1

Natalie Cheung 57 Hours, 2022 42 x80 in. Cyanotype photogram on paper

Natalie Cheung 57 Hours, 2022 42 x80 in. Cyanotype photogram on paper Courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist

Natalie Cheung: Made of Light
October 15 to November 12, 2022
Morton Fine Art
52 O St NW #302
Washington, DC 20001
202.628.2787

Made of Light a solo exhibition of alternative process photography and sculpture by the artist Natalie Cheung. Utilizing time, gesture and much technical expertise, the artist captures lived experience directly onto the surface of her photosensitive paper and microplastic sculptures. Cheung’s second solo exhibition with the gallery, Made of Light, will be on view from October 15 to November 12, 2022 at Morton’s Washington, D.C. space (52 O St NW #302).

A formally-trained photographer, D.C.-based artist Natalie Cheung no longer owns a camera. Having studied film photography during the advent of the medium’s “digital revolution,” Cheung’s education was heavily centered on the influences of light, duration and the chemistry of making a photographic print. As traditional photography began to increasingly rely on the pixel, Cheung continued to explore these elements in the darkroom without the aid of film images. What resulted was a microhistory of artistic development, her dive into abstraction mirroring the revolt against mimesis undertaken by painters in the late 19th century – ironically, in response to photography’s initial ascent at that time.Appropriately, then, Cheung’s experimental photography takes on a playful relationship with art history itself. In the artist’s “Facsimile” series, Cheung intuitively plays with light, chemical emulsion and photographic paper to create colors and shapes that pay homage to art history’s previous regimes. From the nautical wash of a Turner landscape to the relaxed staining of Helen Frankenthaler’s abstractions, Cheung’s free-associative style inclusively riffs on prior forms, indebted to her realization that no shape or configuration can ever be truly original.

The humility of homage in Cheung’s work is balanced in turn by her technical mastery; her developmental ingenuity is so acute that she is able to translate impulse, memory and reference onto photosensitive paper with the subtlest of gestures.

Natalie Cheung 01, 2020
Natalie Cheung 01, 2020 Dimensions and medium variable
(From “Rock. Paper. Scissors.” series)
Courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist

With this process itself having become second nature, Cheung’s predilections as an artist and preoccupations as a citizen are able to make their way transparently into her work. In the artist’s “Intermediaries” series, Cheung uses slow-reacting cyanotype to create abstract works that seem to map islands, river deltas or erosion itself. In a process that can take up to several days, the artist allows her chemistry to evaporate naturally, in a manner indicative of the slow creep of time and loss of water that defines humanity’s relationship with climate catastrophe.

Taking up the same process as was historically used to make blueprints, Cheung’s Intermediary works are like designs for a future of ceded control, capturing the chaos of durations we are not accustomed to monitoring. Concern for the climate also comes out in the artist’s “Reclaim” sculptures – topographic models of islands constructed from nylon flocking, a non-recyclable form of compressed microplastic. Inspired by man-made landmasses such as Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah or even the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Cheung’s works hang in lucite display cases like real estate offerings: a scathing reminder that no man is an island.

Natalie Cheung  Model Island 4, 2021
Natalie Cheung Model Island 4, 2021 16 x 16 in.
Micro nylon fiber, paper, paint & plaster (From “Reclaim” series)
Courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist

Born in Virginia to a first-generation Chinese family, a formative artistic influence for Cheung was her mother’s practice of intricate chuāng huā papercuts, made on sheets of printer paper in honor of the Lunar New Year. Incorporating another form of alternative process photography, Cheung’s “Rock. Paper. Scissors.” series places these designs against a darkroom projector, blowing them up to monumental reliefs captured on photographic sheets.

The resulting works carry the grandiosity and simplicity of Barnett Newman’s abstractions, though they are weighted with the significance of Cheung’s history and heritage. Open to the element of chance as she lets light slip in between the slivers of these shapes, such works are a synthesis of the artist’s great themes: balancing inevitability and accident in a delicate dance.

Available Artwork by NATALIE CHEUNG

©2022 Natalie Cheung

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: