Theresa Chong’s disciplined and highly detailed gouache and colored pencil drawings continue to explore line, form and gesture, and to evoke a contemplative, almost spiritual, response. Her purposeful and intricate markings, quietly articulated in gray and white on handmade Japanese papers, appear at once ordered and spontaneous. Chong infuses her work with a sense of lyrical rhythm, tranquility and improvisation.
The works are titled after the hexagrams in the I Ching, or Book of Changes, one of the oldest of the great classical texts of ancient China. The I Ching…is based on the dynamic balancing of opposing forces, the belief in continuity, and the acceptance of change, concepts that Chong has long emphasized in her practice. Chong deliberately, brilliantly disrupts the symmetry of a square sheet of paper through the irregular, improvised dispersal of her strokes. The balance she wants is more precarious, verging on instability, on dissolution, poised between opposing systems of expressiveness and order.
These recent drawings were based on rubbings from Chinese stone markers…. Time is represented by the accumulation of her finely inscribed marks, hundreds and hundreds of them like the ticking of the clock, and by the blank areas of the tightly interwoven composition, which indicate the eroded sections of the stone markers. These are the places that most intrigued her, she said, since whatever was once there is gone, scoured away by time. She likened them in some ways to ukiyo-e, images of the floating world, a genre of Japanese painting that thrived in the Edo period (17th - 19th c.), its theme that of reveling in beauty and pleasure while it is possible, an enjoyment made bittersweet by the knowledge that it is fleeting. (1)
Theresa Chong was born in Korea in 1965 and immigrated with her family to Fairbanks, Alaska in 1974. She attended Oberlin Conservatory, Ohio and the Boston University School of Fine Arts. She received her MFA from the School of Visual Arts, New York. Her work is included in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Yale University Art Gallery and the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University, among others. Chong participated in the faculty residency program at the Anderson Ranch in Colorado in 2003 and 2005. She was recently awarded a grant from the Sam and Adele Golden Foundation, and she has received fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and NYFA (New York Foundation for the Arts). Theresa Chong lives and works in New York.
(1) Wei, Lilly. “I Ching/The Book of Changes,” Theresa Chong: New Works on Paper. New York: Danese/Corey, 2014.