"Fall In Fall Out"CHENG Ting Ting Solo Exhibition
With a rich array of paintings, Cheng looks back on personal experiences made during childhood, adolescence and early adulthood. But while her work is largely autobiographical, it also touches upon a question of universal importance: How do we balance the need for individuality with the pressure to conform with social norms? Cheng harbours strong doubts about the expectations society places on each of us, and her paintings express these reservations eloquently.
In this exhibition, three groups of paintings are shown, each of which deals with a different stage of personal development. The works in the first group, titled "Foreshortening Caused by Lying", all show a person lying alone on a bed in a dimly lit room, motionless and with open eyes, thinking or perhaps just daydreaming.
But this state of being alone with oneself is not necessarily a peaceful one. The figures are viewed from an unusually low angle at the foot end of the bed. The angle changes from painting to painting, resulting in different degrees of perspective distortion from the first work of the series, "Light Foreshortening Caused by Lying", to the last one, "Heavy Foreshortening Caused by Lying". This increasing distortion hints at an emerging conflict between self-perception and outside expectations.
A subgroup of work, named "Dorm", serves as bridge to the following series. These paintings are based on Cheng’s memories of her first time away from home during her primary school’s graduation camp. We see several children sharing a dorm room, each occupying only a tiny space on the bunk beds. All of them have different characters and habits, and different strategies for coping with the new situation and guarding their personal space.
The social experience reaches even greater intensity in the second group of paintings. In "Training Camp", we witness secondary school students taking part in organised activities designed to teach them the importance of mutual support and team work. One subgroup of paintings, titled "Trust Fall", shows a student falling headfirst from a ledge while others form a human safety net below.
Throughout these works, Cheng skilfully employs colours and textures to highlight the emotional states of her figures. In "Training Camp", energetic strokes and feverish colours reflect the hyperactive excitement and idealism of the participants. This sharply contrasts with the subdued greens and blues used in "Foreshortening Caused by Lying", a palette that further emphasises the sense of detachment and isolation.
Cheng is acutely aware of the temporary nature of social bonds. Her frustration is powerfully expressed in "Ice Rink", the last series of paintings. Here we see different persons – some of them skating students, others tutors or other staff – gliding across the ice or standing at the edge of the rink. The skaters move around freely within the confines of the ice rink, just like individuals are allowed to pursue different directions within social boundaries.
At this stage, the prescribed camaraderie of the secondary school students is a mere memory. Just like every skater carves out a different route over the ice, each of us lives life in their own way.