An intimate chat with PIUS CHONG
“You can be creative in whatever you happen to be:
In your state of life, in whatever your doing.”
Sculptor Pius Chong
Artist Pius Chong with one of his works. Image source.
Catherine: Can you describe your philosophy of creative pursuits?
Pius: My creative work pursuit in particular is a state of mind—a consciousness and an acute awareness of my existence. What matters to me is how I can best take an abstract idea and translate it into a sculpture. I find myself in what I do and I evolve as much as does my work. My art becomes an addiction and I want to be addicted to things that help me find myself.
I’m pleased by a new addition to my public works—Moongate (see image below). The piece has been in my blood ever since my youthful sojourn in Penang when I saw it in the botanical gardens and I’ve worked and reworked the idea over many years. The Moongate was installed at Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay. Traditionally, an architectural element in Chinese gardens, the moongate is a circular opening used as a pedestrian passageway. To me, it speaks of journeys, circles of thought, cycles of life, and thresholds to cross.
The Moongate sculpture. Image source
Gardens by the Bay describes Moongate as:
“Standing at 3.8m, Moongate features an upright bronze ring with a uniquely textured inner surface modelled after abstract shapes that draw inspiration from the phenomena of our constantly changing natural world, such as shifting sands, tongues of flames, and the changing form of clouds.
Conceived as a portal that explores ideas of journeying and arriving, the ring suggests continuity, connectedness and a sense of community that is central to what it means to be Singaporean. In this way, Moongate invites viewers to imagine fresh narratives as we author the next chapter of Singaporean history together”
Catherine: Your art is largely public, for all people to see, touch. & enjoy. Can you tell us more?
Pius: I enjoy working with wood, stone & bronze. My early start began with wood, which was made available at the catholic school I attended when studying to become a religious teaching brother. As a result of those impressionable years, many things have stayed with me in my consciousness; they’re the ideas I use to create my works.
My work echos my approach to Time and Place, or TAP. It’s connected to where and when I grew up. My most notable works representing TAP are First Generation, Another Day, and Hey Ah Chek. These pieces represent the everyday activities of the common person. This is very significant to my work and depicts life in Singapore in the 1950s and 1960s. One of my personal favourites is ‘First Generation-Boys Jumping into River Swimming’ (see picture below). I love this bronze; it shows the expressions on the children’s faces and the playfulness of their bodies. I love their freedom of jumping into the river, unencumbered.
Catherine: What advice would you suggest to an aspiring creative person?
Pius: Perseverance. Find out who you are and how you connect to your own Time and Place and reflect on your thinking.
Catherine: A cornerstone of your art philosophy is Time And Place, or TAP. Can you elaborate?
Pius: Yes. I use my experiences of having grown up in Singapore in the ‘50s and ‘60s as a starting point for my works. While Singapore as a super modern city has been influenced from around the world, I have very consciously stuck to my own niche, of what it is to be a Singaporean. My works speak of the local people with historically specific images. For example, Hey Ah Chek!, a bronze sculpture, depicts a nostalgic scene in the 1950s of a son and his mother hailing a trishaw rider, after market.
Catherine: Pius, who or what most influenced you and your work?
Pius: I’m essentially a self taught artist, as I never attended art school. My development was
basically through books. While I was in Birmingham, England, I became interested in the works of several English sculptors—Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson, to name a few. Later I discovered Romanian sculptor, Constantin Brancusi, and Japanese-American sculptor, Isamu Noguchi. I really liked Noguchi’s work and his Asian roots. All of these sculptors were significant influences in my thinking leading to my visual concepts.
Catherine: How would you define art?
Pius: I believe art is essentially anything creative. To develop ‘the art of’ something is to develop the skill of being creative. For me, art has always been a very manipulative skill, as I primarily use my hands. Obviously the intellectual thinking is important and that thinking in my case has been very influenced by where I grew up and where I now find myself.
It was an honor to spend time with you Pius. Thank you.
To learn more about Pius visit, Esplanade, an excellent site to see the extensive body of his work,
created since 1989.
And see his amazing book, available at the old Courthouse Arts Gallery 1840 Nicola Ave, Merritt BC
Thanks Catherine! (Long time member and supporter of the Nicola Valley Community Arts Council)
Pius is showing his sculptures, once again, at the Courthouse Arts Gallery...