Open: Tue-Sat 11am-6pm

244 West Florence Avenue, CA 90003, Los Angeles, United States
Open: Tue-Sat 11am-6pm


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Caroline Wong: A Many-Splendoured Thing

Rusha & Co., Los Angeles

Sat 25 Mar 2023 to Sat 29 Apr 2023

244 West Florence Avenue, CA 90003 Caroline Wong: A Many-Splendoured Thing

Tue-Sat 11am-6pm

Artist: Caroline Wong

Caroline Wong's debut solo exhibition in the United States, A Many-Splendoured Thing, presented by Rusha & Co. in collaboration with Sabrina Andres, reflects an artistic practice primarily nostalgic and sentimental.


Artworks

Caroline Wong, Pizza, 2023

Oil, acrylic, and oil pastel on canvas

48 × 36 in

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Caroline Wong, A Many-Splendoured Thing, 2023

Oil, acrylic, and oil pastel on canvas

70⅞ × 74¾ in

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Caroline Wong, Japanese Breakfast, 2023

Pastel and charcoal on paper

91¾ × 52 in

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Caroline Wong, Tea Party, 2023

Pastel and charcoal on paper

78¾ × 49⅝ in

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Caroline Wong, Hungry Woman 91/120, 2023

Drawing on canvas board

8 × 10 in

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Caroline Wong, Crisps, 2023

Oil, acrylic, and oil pastel on canvas

50 × 40 in

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Installation Views

Installation image for Caroline Wong: A Many-Splendoured Thing, at Rusha & Co. Installation image for Caroline Wong: A Many-Splendoured Thing, at Rusha & Co. Installation image for Caroline Wong: A Many-Splendoured Thing, at Rusha & Co. Installation image for Caroline Wong: A Many-Splendoured Thing, at Rusha & Co. Installation image for Caroline Wong: A Many-Splendoured Thing, at Rusha & Co. Installation image for Caroline Wong: A Many-Splendoured Thing, at Rusha & Co.

The bonds of friendship and the culinary delights portrayed in Wong’s works synthesize eastern and western influences to challenge the conformity of Asian female representation, providing an intimate and nuanced perspective on the webs of cross-cultural relationships amongst women and across the dining table.

A Many-Splendoured Thing borrows its title from a historical romance novel of the same name by Chinese-Belgian writer Han Suyin. In the strongly autobiographical book, Suyin addresses feelings of alienation, longing, and belonging through the portrayal of two characters who find love in colonial Hong Kong in the 1950’s. As Wong’s works are heavily influenced by both her Malaysian-Chinese origins and her upbringing in London, she finds familiarity with many of Han's questions around identity and the complexities of living within and between cultural circumstances.

When Caroline Wong was living in China from 2011 to 2015, she made friends with a group of women, all of Asian descent, who shared an infatuation for food. While they explored the city in the search for new and familiar flavors, Wong and her companions grew close and bonded over their experiences as contemporary Asian women in an increasingly globalized society, with one side wanting to reconnect with their Asian heritage and the other interested in life outside of China. Wong’s experiences with her friends became a growing source of inspiration for her works on canvas and paper.

Adding to her ongoing series Cats and Girls, Hungry Women, and Banquets – all of which unsettle concepts and depictions of femininity that have historically favored decorum and decency – Wong continues to centralize a messy, sensual, and unhinged female experience. She evokes carnivalesque traditions to depict celebration, excess, and the collapse of societal mores. Through food, drink, and companionship, Wong's figures find temporary respite from "life's harshness."

Caroline Wong’s approach to image-making is reflected in her many references: portraits of hungry peasants by Annibale Carracci and Frans Hals; Song and Tang Dynasty depictions of literary gatherings; ancient post-banquet scenes of 'unswept floor' mosaics; Chinese scroll paintings of palace ladies at leisure and the broader genre of meirenhua ('images of beautiful women'); ukiyo-e and the sensuous, heady delights of everyday life captured in saturated color and pattern; as well as the saccharine portrayals of feminine frivolity in British nineteenth-century "gossip paintings''. Like Wong and her female companions, the artworks are a blend of Eastern and Western cultural influences, bound together eternally.

A Many-Splendoured Thing brings together a selection of four new paintings (Banquets), three large scroll drawings (Cats and Girls), and three small drawings on board (Hungry Women). Her works on canvas, Pizza, Crisps, Noodles, and A Many-Splendoured Thing render her female characters (all stand-ins for her Chinese friends replicating the closeness amongst these diverse women) eating lustfully at a dining table in a seemingly private setting. Here they express an untamed pleasure, free from judgment and all social constraints. Wong's primary interest lies in capturing women when they are their most authentic selves, and presenting a critical subversion of misogynistic observations and biases throughout art history. One such example is Degas' renowned pastel drawings that study women like a voyeur through a keyhole, capturing them in their "animal states", a temper that would have been described by Degas as repulsive. In daring contrast, Wong's images value the aesthetic and sensual over the rational and intellectual, nature and chaos over control and order, sentimentality over aggression, and decorative excess over purist simplicity. She favors all that has historically been labeled and dismissed as feminine. The many feasting-related activities of Wong’s scroll drawings, Tea Party, Japanese Breakfast, and Picnic, express a sense of unity and sisterhood. Eating and sharing become both liberating and healing. The cats depicted as complimentary characters in the pieces (a recurrent motif in Wong's practice) symbolize a feline playfulness that dissolves subliminal limitations and reflects a liberated self.

The artist further investigates the link between consumption and creation by seeing her materials as nourishment. She uses colors, textures, and materials to convey the visual, physical, and sensory delights of eating. Wong has spent months layering paints, pigments, and pastels, inspired by Bonnard's way of recovering the "savor of things". The resulting pictures are to be taken in slowly and appreciatively, with its surprises appearing one by one in the viewer's vision. Her expressive mark-making is evocative rather than explicative, driven by a hedonistic pursuit in which visual perception and memory intertwine. The finished pieces represent a flaming gulf of passion and delight, with a glittering color saturation that reflects such decadence while also evoking the vibrancy of Southeast Asia, a jubilant push-back against convention that celebrates beauty in excess.

Caroline Wong, born 1986, lives and works in London. Wong graduated with an MA in Fine Art from City and Guilds of London Art School in 2021. She also obtained a Diploma in Contemporary Portraiture from The Art Academy in 2018. Selected solo exhibitions include A Many-Splendoured Thing, Rusha & Co., Los Angeles (2023); Artificial Paradises, Soho Revue, London (2022); and Cats and Girls, Soy Capitán, Berlin (2022). Selected group exhibitions include You were Bigger than the Sky, You Were More than Just a Short Time, Gallery Belenius, Stockholm (2023); Fetish, MAMA, London (2023); Angels with Dirty Faces, Ojiri Gallery, London (2022); Go Figure!, Daniel Raphael Gallery, London (2022); Eat Drink Man Woman, 180 Strand, London (2022); Lotus-Eaters, Indigo+Madder, London (2022); Friends and Family, Pi Artworks, London (2022); The Dinner Table, San Mei Gallery, London (2021); ING Discerning Eye, The Mall Galleries, London (2021); MA Show, City and Guilds of London Art School, London (2021); Drawn Out, Drawing Room, London (2021); and Drawing Biennial 2021, Drawing Room, London (2021). Awards include the Drawing Room Biennial Bursary Award (2021), The Society of Women Artists Derwent Art Prize (2018), and the Liberty Specialty Markets Art Prize (2018).

Courtesy of the artist and Rusha & Co., Los Angeles

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