Hong Hong

Hong Hong Headshot

Hong Hong. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Interview conducted by 
Hayley Pierpont (Scripps '22) 
Jamie Berkson (Scripps '21) 

How does your choice of materials reflect your art making process/subject matter?

In De Anima, Aristotle compares one’s soul to wax, as a material capable of holding the imprints of all that we experience. Paper does something similar, and papermakers refer to this quality as “paper’s memory”. Paper, like skin or the ridge of a mountain, remembers the way it was born and what happens to it while it lives. Even in death, it stands as a testament to its own demise. The qualities and questions which compel me to use, and make paper, are the ones that seem to be the most fundamentally human.

How does the choice of color effect the subject matter of your work or vice versa?

In nature, color marks, and signals, the passage of time. Much like our bodies, it deteriorates. Color plays a similar role in my work. The dyes are not sealed with a mordant, which means the bond between pigment and fiber is chemically unstable. The paper fades with exposure to sun and gallery lights. Once a work moves from full-saturation to grayscale, it is dissolved. The fibrous material is then used in subsequent pours. Within this context, each work becomes an abstract temporal measurement, similar to the swing of a pendulum or the position of the moon in the night sky. 

What role does community engagement play in your work? How do you interact with the environment in your art making process?

I often teach papermaking by offering participatory pours in various places. It is a way to engage with, and be connected to, different communities. However, I need to be alone while working on personal projects. A larges-scale pour, to me, is not so much an interaction with, as it is a surrender to, landscape. The papers cure outdoors. While drying, they remain vulnerable to various environmental variables, such as rain, wind, and humidity. This vulnerability bestows them with the capacity to give form to often instantaneous, mysterious processes. 

What role does scale play in your work/How does the installation location (gallery vs. nature) change the intended subject matter and/or how viewers interact with your pieces?

Large-scale papermaking is a muscular, rigorous, demanding activity. It is arduous and difficult to use one's entire body as a percussive machine. My resources and energy are depleted. Simone Weil speaks of manual labor as the way that time enters into one's body. Each pour is a tower and an excavation: something is born, as I die. The recent wall-based compositions hover between body and landscape, in that both are necessary to its being and becoming. However, they are not illusionistic renderings. Instead, they are photographic stills of the things that shape or impact one's experience of a landscape. They obliquely reference Chinese paintings, where man is often depicted minimally. It is important that these projects loom over their audience. In both instances, scale centers around the disappearance and erosion of bodies, that of my own as well as of the viewers'. 

What messages do you wish to convey through your artwork? Is there a subject you feel drawn to represent?

Meaning is not something I consider while making work. It's too heavy of a coat to wear around. What I will say are these two things. One, art is a bridge between the intangible and tangible, the interior and the exterior. It's very close to religion, in that it is a physical embodiment of deeply moving and often unattainable aspirations. Two, you can't get away from who you are. One's work is a mirror image of one's existence. Symmetry, at its best. Ego, at its worst.