Portfolio of Kimberly Johans

A collection of articles created during my stint as a journalist at The Macau Daily Times

Joey, the dragon and the monk

Posted by Kimberly on October 13, 2007

By Kimberly Johans
Published in The Macau Daily Times
October 13, 2007, page 18 (1,021 words)

It’s difficult not to fall in love with the latest work of local artist Joey Ho Chong I, considering it’s based entirely on the idea of magic.
The 30-year-old, who hinted at her age being close to that number, is showing her third exhibition at Creative Macau with the open reception occurring last night.
Asked where she received her inspiration from this time, Joey admits it came from a classical Chinese story, the novel titled ‘Journey to the West’, a tale involving students, magic, a monk and a monkey king, among other highly fantastical creatures.
“It’s a very interesting story the first time I read it and so I did again,” she said adding that she found “lots of special characters inside.”
So she chose three creatures and one human, the monk, to depict her art.
“One character is very wicked, always needing protection from the monkey king,” she said, adding that the story is a true one, about a monk in the Tang dynasty, searching for the holy bible.
“The character of the true person is very strong and dynamic,” she added, saying “I wanted to use my interpretation to represent his real characteristics.”
Apparently, when a piece of the monk’s flesh is consumed, it has the power to make the eater live forever.
This character is represented in one of her paintings, title ‘Hanging Anyway’ which shows the monk in a reclining yoga pose.
“He finds his own way to overcome the suffering,” said Joey.
As for the three students in the story, she narrates that they have the magic power to succeed in their quest for the holy bible but lack heart to truly obtain it.
“That’s what I want to tell people.
“Even if you have magic powers you can’t achieve without a heart,” she said.
Another paining she chose to discuss depicts a general from the heavens who has a fondness for women.
“Once he chased a goddess and was banished to earth, straight into a pig’s stomach,” said Joey.
As a result, he is born as a man that looks like a pig as well.
“One day the Buddha came to him to ask his help with the monk’s quest for the holy bible.
“He’s very lazy and can’t escape his need for women,” added Joey.
The painting, titled ‘Admonishment of Cleanser of the Alters’ shows the character surrounded with food, because his love for it gives him satisfaction despite knowing he has to clean the tables after each meal, because he is then able to consume the left-overs.
“I used the Egyptian form [of the figure]” said Joey, adding that he is shown as a farmer. By the former description, she refers to the depiction of the early Egyptians on murals that are still popular today.
A third painting she chose to discuss, ‘Complete Metamorphosis of Foot” tells of a dragon that is transformed into a horse because he dared to eat the horse belonging to the monk. The painting shows the dragon in the middle of this transformation.
“For me it’s like life,” said Joey, adding that “sometimes we do something that doesn’t fit our character or personality.”
Her first exhibition, ‘Liberty of Interpretation’ is still being shown at the Millennium Gallery of Macau while her second one is at the Shanghai Gallery, because the owner was captivated by her work and requested she keep the exhibition there.
“I get a lot of inspiration from different sources, really from life,” she said
Since she was a little girl, her talent has been obvious, encouraged by her primary teacher to take up drawing classes from which she has continued into today’s talented artist.
As for her style, “some people have thought I were a male, not having seen me in person, because of my style,” she said.
“They thought my paintings were very strong and powerful,” she added.
She prefers to believe that her paintings aren’t easily interpreted, saying that people have asked her to explain them to her.
“I ask them to give me their feedback and opinion first then I give them my source of ideas,” she said.
As for her abstract paintings, she doesn’t like to interpret them too much, saying “I don’t like to explain too much because I think explaining limits the ideas of people.”
This time, it’s not just paintings Joey has decided to showcase, providing another part of the story though her model of helmets.
“When we say in Chinese ‘construction area’, you are not allowed to enter,” she said. This is reflected in her signage ‘wear helmet before entering’ which means “you’d better wear your helmet before getting into my circle.”
The unique quality of her exhibition lies in the fact that every painting is on a square canvas, each the exact same size.
“I use heavy texture to make it tough and sometimes even ask my nephew to write for me to make it [the painting] more childish,” she said.
Asked what she wants viewers to come away with, she said “I hope people will appreciate what I have taken form the novel,” which she added is a classic one but still popular with Chinese people.
Despite the interpretation by Hollywood of some aspects of the story, Joey believes these do not have the values that should be promoted.
With the monk for example, we can still see a strong side of himself and he wants to achieve a goal and commits all his efforts to do it,” she said, adding that “a lot of people nowadays forget this value.”
The future for this local artist looks just as busy, with the possibility of another interpretation of the Tang dynasty in the works.
“I’m thinking of a collection of fat ladies in the Tang dynasty,” she said, adding that it’s about making a statement about the value of beauty today as opposed to in those times.
“Nowadays advertisements are making modern women suffer, giving the wrong interpretation,” she said.
Any questions that may arise after looking at her photograph are answered quite easily by the artist herself.
“I don’t like looking straight at the camera.”

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