Art is life is art

Drawing on his Chinese heritage, Dr Chee Yong of Launceston, Tasmania, creates evocative art that speaks straight to the emotions.

I don’t see my art as a hobby—I see it as a job. I treat it as seriously as I treat my work as a dentist. I have a studio above my dental practice and I spend as much time as I can in there.

“I learned Chinese painting when I was young. I’m taking what I learned, along with Chinese culture and heritage, and I’m attempting to present them in a different way.

“I paint using oil and enamel on 10-centimetre circular discs. I need a small surface so I can create many pieces. I also want to keep it small because, as artists, we can be quite bad to the environment. If we work on a five-metre-square panel, we put paint on it, we liberally use turps and the waste goes in the bin or down the drain. I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to concentrate on little things—but many, many little things.

“The circular pieces are basically Chinese paintings done in my own language. They’re meant to impress upon the viewer a sense of place, or a different time, where you can get lost.

“I’ve had many exhibitions over the years with the most recent taking place in February at 541 Art Space in Sydney. Later in the year, I have an exhibition of my sculptures at Sawtooth ARI in Launceston. I create sculptures from polystyrene blocks that I spray-paint in high-gloss enamel to give them a smooth, shiny finish. These pieces are very large, filling an entire room.

“Launceston is a small place compared to Sydney or Melbourne but I love living here. I’m pretty much left alone and I’m not disturbed or tested. I don’t try to sell my work. I just want to do my own thing.

“I draw my inspiration from life—a little bit about the past, a bit about the future, but mostly about right now. I’m also inspired by many Chinese philosophers and writers.

“Even if I was physically incapable of movement, I would still make art in my mind. Imagine a blue sky. Now imagine a black square floating in that blue sky. You now have a picture of what I’ve described in your head. That can be seen as art.

“There’s an old Chinese saying, ‘Art is life. And life is art.’ I think it’s a bit more complex than that. I prefer, ‘Art is life is art.’ It’s all just one big circle and everything comes back to art.

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