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Yang Yongliang2021

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Press Release

Luong Thai & Qiu Lingui: Mind the Gap


Written by Andrew Ruff


Matthew Liu Fine Arts’ Summer sanctuary is a pairing of dueling painters. Qiu Lingui and Luong Thai have at the same time everything and nothing in common. Both are ethnically Chinese artists masterfully gaming two dimensional representation with works strikingly similar in structure and scale. But the obvious gaps between the two in their selection of palette and material suggest a wildly divergent approach to subject matter.


Qiu, of the two artists, might loosely be characterized more as a traditionalist.  Trained as an oil painter in China’s contemporary art academies, his technique is beyond question. Like masters before him, Qiu’s unique voice tells a story in an accent of agile appropriation. Beneath an often tranquil finely rendered surface simmers an enduring threat. The precise source of the threat is difficult to pinpoint. There are clues in some of Qiu’s choices of materials (sulfuric acid, carbon resin, gauze and sand) an styles (surrealist dreamscapes, romanticism and combines) but the real culprit remains at large. Careful observers of Qiu’s works will find that comfort and empathy are never far from reach. Qiu’s larger foreboding landscapes, for example, rarely omit a human figure - diminished but present - coaxing us to together confront the dangers within and ignore the outside voices loudly counseling distance.


Luong, by contrast, has followed a path to making art which, in contemporary terms, verges on impossible. Born in Vietnam to Chinese parents, Luong took up art as a side gig only after settling as a pharmacist in America with a two year stop over in a Thai refugee camp. Our thin slice of recorded art history is replete with tales of technical mastery, loss, rekindling and, of late, outright abandonment. In art as in other pursuits savants are rare. Self taught adults fast finding nuanced facility with color, perspective, structure and material are almost unheard of. As a late bloomer with a profound artistic voice, almost no outside direction and still plying his craft part time, Luong might at best be expected to slot into a wide field of conceptual outsourcers or fumbling hands on practitioners. Not the case. Works in the present exhibition - “Cuddle Puddle” , “Hopeful” and “It is Certain”, for example, present as refined resolutions of a prolonged effort to balance meaning and medium. Late start notwithstanding, Luong manages to arrive on time.


Two person exhibitions are tricky. As an artist friend once advised me - “there is always a winner and a loser”. I do not agree. It is true that in the absence of collaboration, these exhibitions require a careful respect for distance. Distance is a long loved talking point in the art world - emotional detachment, physical space, the passage of time and so on. It features in both Qiu and Luong’s work notably in their selective manipulation of materials and styles. Gaps in their respective aesthetics, subject and training seem immense. Still art at best is a communal game whose only object is to sustain meaningful engagement. The reward for patient players isn’t victory but rather finding proximity - closing the gap.


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