24 September – 21 November, 2020
Hidden Lines is a solo show by Spencer Fung, featuring works in earth pigments, charcoal, and graphite on vintage recycled and upcycled cotton rag paper. Working from home, Fung aligned his creative process with the sun, moving around the house throughout the day. “These pieces are of the moment, of the light,” he says. Two smaller works, Resilience and Strength, were created on his desk at dusk, when the light was soft and warm. “I let the materials guide me,” he reveals. “Working with natural pigments is full of surprises – I could not control the bubbly effect. I enjoy the tension between deliberate and accidental. This is the joy of working with natural elements; everything is a one-off.”
Throughout the pandemic, Fung has turned to nature for solace. Gazing up at the soaring height of the ash tree in his garden stimulated his creativity. “I imagined the life-giving support and graphic shapes of the tree roots hidden below ground, and was inspired by the power of these unseen forces,” he explains. “Painting root lines is my way of discovering inner strength, and exploring invisible, vital connections between things.”
Primal, earthy colours reverberating with energy wend their way through the works, evoking the hidden interior of the earth. Russet tones allude to autumn, a season which Fung admires. “When a tree sheds its leaves, it stores energy for winter and builds strength in preparation for the next cycle of growth,” he observes. “Trees can be at their most beautiful when their leaves are falling. The colours I used range from auburn, rust, and red ochre, to a very deep blood-red. Nature always has the most sublime palettes.”
Fung’s use of colour reflects his work’s deep connection with locality. On a visit to Bath’s oldest quarry, he gathered fine dust from the golden-yellow stone, which he used as a base for the show’s autumn palette, working the mineral particles into clay and other natural found pigments, and exploring the results. His technique becomes more fluid as his enjoyment in the process mounts, as evidenced by the large, intensely coloured Into the Earth abstract works, and his two Root Force paintings, which each depict a coiling single line, undulating with dynamic fluidity.
Fung’s choice of tree roots as the subject matter for Hidden Lines is carefully considered. “At this time of change and worry, we need to feel grounded,” he says. “I hope these paintings urge us to look deeper into ourselves and develop fortitude. As Tolkien observed, ‘Deep roots are not reached by the frost’.”