(selected by Sally Lai)
Red Chicken, 2007
Eric Fong is a London-based artist and former physician, having practised in Canada as a doctor for over twenty years. His conceptual approach uses various media including video, photography, sculpture and live art to explore issues relating to medicine, the body, and disability, informed both by his former profession and increasingly by his ethnicity.
Earlier topics of exploration included biotechnology and the phantom limb phenomenon, and more recently he has approached issues regarding mental illness, ageing, traditional Chinese medicine, and the effect of increasing globalisation, especially the cross-cultural pollination between East and Western health practices. New areas of exploration include contemporary attitudes towards people with facial disfigurement and how people with visual impairments access art. He states, 'I am interested in social engagement, and my recent works have often developed from working with people of diverse ages, abilities and cultural backgrounds. Arising from observations of human behaviour and emotions, my work often exposes the subtle humour that can be found in varying social encounters. By adopting a sympathetic yet objective attitude towards the subjects, my work seeks to create opportunities for open-ended interpretation and dialogue.'
Sally Lai, Fong's Open Frequency nominator writes, 'Putting his doctor's manner to use, his recent work has been a move away from object-based work (including a cuddly toy version of a genetically engineered mouse and prosthetic limbs), to more of a focus on the process of social engagement. These have included looking at physical manifestations of ageing during a residency at Age Concern, respiratory health and traditional Chinese medicine. During a residency in China in 2006, Eric looked at the use and positioning of Western and Chinese medicine in China's modern city, Shanghai.'1
One of his most well-known works is 'Harry' (2003), a condensed day-in-the-life film of a feisty 81-year old former boxer, jazz drummer and ballroom dancer, who suffered from dementia. Comprising footage of his activities at a day-care centre and a visit to a boxing gym, the film focuses on Harry's zest for life, offering a glimpse of his undiminished flair for performance in his playing up to the camera. This piece was presented in East International 2004, for which Bruce Haines wrote, 'It is his open attitude to the influence of the context in which he is making work that allows Eric to gather the elements of the film together with a pace that is so often missing in laborious artists' films that a new generation of young London-based artists are thankfully eschewing. The energy of the jump cuts split over abutting screens, the repetitive old-time tunes and regular interjection of ringing bells familiar to boxing rings, calls to mind the single screen shouting and jumping works by Nauman or a relentless and messy McCarthy onslaught.'2
More recent works are inspired by the city of Shanghai: 'Good Morning Shanghai' (2006) is a film which reveals the visual rhythms of the early morning martial arts routines which animate the publics parks simultaneously each morning. 'Shanghai Remedies: Advertisements' (2006) is a series of photographs that offers a glimpse of the advertising strategies used to market medical products and services in the light of the privatisation of medicine in China. The various forms of overt medical advertisements in Shanghai include neon lights sited along entire streets, lightboxes, billboards, posters on the seatbacks of taxis and elaborate displays - strategies not dissimilar to those employed by large international corporations such as Coca Cola. Fong's latest work, the video 'Red Chicken' (2007) presents a full-on visual feast at a Shanghai restaurant, complete with soon-to-be-consumed live seafood in tanks, roller-skating waiters and dancing girls.
London-based artist Eric Fong was born in Hong Kong. He studied Medicine at the University of Alberta, Canada, and completed the MA in Fine Art at Goldsmiths College, London in 2001.
Fong's work has been exhibited in the UK, Canada, France, Italy, Spain, Slovenia, Hungary, Romania, Russia and China, including the EAST International 2004 (Norwich), Serpentine Gallery's Centre for Arts Education (London), APT Gallery (London), International 3 Gallery (Manchester), Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography (Toronto), the Ludwig Museum/Museum of Contemporary Art (Budapest), Mestna Galerija (Ljubljana) and numerous international short film festivals.
Fong was a prize recipient at the Creekside Open x 2 exhibition in London (selected by Victoria Miro) and one of his films is in the Arts Council England Collection. In addition to a British Council & Arts Council England artist's residency in Shanghai, Fong has been awarded residencies at the Chinese Arts Centre in Manchester, the Lightbox Gallery & Museum in Woking, and Age Concern Kensington & Chelsea in London.
1. Sally Lai, Open Frequency nomination text, 2006
2. Bruce Haines, 'Harry', EASTInternational 2004, Norwich Gallery, Norwich 2004.