Born Hong Kong, China in 1981
Graduates with a Philosophy degree (BA Hons) from King’s College, London in 2001
Lives and work between Berlin and Hong Kong
Joseph Tong creates conceptual works through a multidisciplinary approach and a variety of media, which includes the elements of oil and ink painting, sculpture, photography, site-specific installation and digital art that explores the nature of perception, reality and representation and challenges notions of materiality. At times, juxtaposing various theories, genres and processes within the confines of a single work; utilising geometric shapes and organic forms as the principal components of abstraction. A visual linguist, Tong challenges the traditional notion of the passive viewer by achieving a sense of tension between viewer and the work itself, by combining a wide-range of highly aestheticised materials (such as structured Plexiglas, aluminium, dichroic film, calligraphy paper, and gauze) in his works.
In Spiegel im Spiegel (2014) the viewer explores the immersive and metaphorical possibilities of reflection. The mirrored surface reflects a physical reality (in which the viewer is present) and yet the illusory content - or visual context - created by the geometric shapes allow the viewer to ocularly roam into an alternative reality beyond. Here, the artist formalises the coincidental and emphasises the conscious process of articulation that is behind the seemingly random compositions. Equally, in L’apparition (2014), the series question the conditions of dimensional potentiality. As the mirror-effect of the surface Plexiglas reveals by reflecting its surroundings, the underlying topographical content entices the viewer to probe beyond the reflective surface.
In Moment Between Thoughts (2016) there is a sudden departure from the rigid components - and mediums - employed in previous series by forging and conditioning a more supplemental yet naturalistic way of expression (for example: with charcoal delicately rendered on gauze). An exploration that probes the paradigms of dimensional potentiality through a mode of three-dimensional representation. In Substitute for Sorrow (2017) an emphasis has been placed on the artist’s heritage, specifically referencing Chinese traditional painting. The artist explores the quintessential Chinese medium of ink wash painting by employing new forms of expressions through the utilisation and praxis of radical techniques, such as the use of an atomiser to produce the sporadic ink stains that disseminate the calligraphy paper. Instead of illustrating directly onto the paper, the paper is instead shaped, sculpted and compressed - attaining a sculptural disposition.
Gestural strokes of calligraphic ink fused with the inertia of paint upon white canvases share both complimentary and frictional qualities in Anthropocene (2018). Varying in weight and thickness, the energetic marks expel across canvases in various directions. The expressive mark-making and frenzied strokes form a loose and gestural aesthetic, yet rooted in calculated exactitude in advancing the visual narrative. Similarly, in Opuscula Archaeologica (2018), residual contours and spontaneous markings of calligraphic ink amidst black, white and silver paint interplay within a textural surface. At times gestural - and almost alluding to 'action painting' tropes - a balance between the colourations seemingly lifts the imagery beyond the canvas; synchronously inhibiting a gentle resistance of visual definition. Yet, a seemingly repetitive narrative emerges, as though rising from the ashen landscape, where the rhythmic ink and paint stains collectively seek dominance.
Beyond the Oecumene (2019) - where each work has a digital counterpart - continues the modes of practice of Atlas Obscura (2019). Digitally generated impressions are superimposed onto a composition of sampled images, which - in turn - leads to the creation of an abstracted visual framework. The process is then completed by hand-drawn motifs in wax pastels and / or aquarelle to further illustrate an atmospheric realm with ethereal elements. References alluding to nature and landscape draws the viewer in through a feeling of recognition. However, with several works in this series, the viewer must confront the illusory feature of the structured Plexiglas positioned on the surface of the work, which generates an optical distortion. This grants the viewer a moment to pause and observe as the pictorial elements gradually emerge and to reorient themselves to a visual narrative where both the real and unreal coalesce.
Tong, in a constant mode of re-invention and experimentation, creates simulations / atmospheres / settings in which familiar objects are altered or detached from their natural functions, applying specific combinations and certain manipulations of mediums to inspire different contexts; thereby questioning the conditions of appearance of an image. This allows the artist to create a visual narrative in which to debate, dissect and evaluate principle doctrines of our physical universe versus that of a virtual / parallel reality and metaphysical state of being.
SOLO EXHIBITIONS (Selected)
2019 Beyond the Oecumene, Galerie Isa, Mumbai
2018 Remembrance of Realms Past, Avalor, Zurich
Obscurae, IAM, Munich
2015 Spiegel im Spiegel, Woeske Gallery, Berlin
2014 Dreamscapes, HK ETO, Berlin
GROUP EXHIBITIONS (Selected)
2018 Abu Dhabi Art, Galerie Isa, Abu Dhabi
Chaim Sheba + Lempertz auction, Schloss Bellevue, Berlin
India Art Fair, Galerie Isa, New Delhi
2017 Shaping Space, Galerie Isa, Mumbai
Im Augenblick, Galerie Valentien, Stuttgart
Art Karlsruhe, Galerie Valentien, Karlsruhe
2016 Art Central, O Gallery, Hong Kong
Summer Group Show, Greis & Schiefer Gallery, Frankfurt
2015 Looking Forward, Looking Backwards, Bernheimer Contemporary, Berlin
2014 Chaim Sheba + Christies auction, Schloss Bellevue, Berlin
2013 Chaim Sheba + Christies auction, Reichstagspräsidentenpalais, Berlin
PRIVATE & PUBLIC COLLECTIONS
Sammlung Wemhöner, Berlin, Germany
Sammlung Samwer, Munich, Germany
Swire Collection, London, United Kingdom
Arun Nayar Collection, London, United Kingdom
Soho House, Hong Kong, China
Avalor Investments AG, Zurich, Switzerland
Estrel Hotel, Berlin, Germany