Holly Wong, Visual Artist

Textile Talk Recording- June 2021 Surface Design Association

Continuing Inspirations for Exhibiting Artwork-Communicating and Connecting with the Audience

Holly Wong (2019) “Circe” (Detail) 7’W x 6’H, gouache, candle smoke, sewn transparencies and fabric on paper

Holly Wong lives and works in San Francisco, California. She was educated at the San Francisco Art Institute where she graduated with a Master of Fine Arts with a concentration in New Genres. Holly creates installations, assemblages and works on paper, integrating non-traditional approaches with more traditional sewing techniques associated with the history of women. Her approach is both non-conventional but also deeply rooted in her history and culture. She has been awarded visual arts grants from the Integrity: Arts and Culture Association, Barbara Deming Memorial fund, the George Sugarman Foundation, the Puffin Foundation, and a Gerbode Foundation purchase award. She has had over 70 group exhibitions and 10 solo exhibitions.  She is represented by SLATE Contemporary Gallery in Oakland, California, Dana L. Wiley Gallery in Dayton, Ohio, and is a member of A.I.R. Gallery in Brooklyn, New York.  https://hollywongart.com/

Holly Wong (2019) “Circe” (Overview) 7’W x 6’H, gouache, candle smoke, sewn transparencies and fabric on paper

Holly Wong noted that she pursued a wide variety of materials and approaches in her BFA and MFA programmes, including painting, sculpture, installation, and performance, as well as time-based media, and had to come to a place of clarifying what most resonated for her as she developed and matured as an artist. She preferred to develop a studio practice that integrated painting and textile work in the context of installations as well as works on paper. In doing so she discussed through the creative options this afforded her, to maintain her work centred upon installations and her love of sewing, to be sufficiently freed up to experiment and to continue to grow as a visual artist.

Holly Wong’s use of ephemeral materials was reflected upon in terms of her creative process from conception to creation. The visual artist said that she initially has very broad feelings or impressions concerning new work that she sees things visually as impressions, and then finds through the materials her ways to express that externally. For her the materials are key, she will often run her hands over the material and gently observe the material whatever the material is including fabric, cellophane, thread, paper, etc to evaluate whether their properties or qualities are sufficient to express that original idea. As I work intuitively with the materials I too relate and react to how the materials I am working with respond. As Holly Wong stated I am asking it to teach me, and I promise to follow it. I am open-ended and I just start. Then I respond back to what is in front of me and in many ways, the work just makes itself and I am there to serve that process.

Holly Wong emphasised that there are a few main approaches that she takes. When she has more textile/fibre components to her work this more readily translates into large scale installations. This involves using her sewing machine as a drawing tool and as she sews linear networks and webs across hundreds of yards of materials the larger pieces of work come together. The sewing line connects everything for her, both visually and spiritually. She uses ephemeral materials like polyester tulle, cellophane, dichroic film, and thread, because it relates deeply to her philosophical sense that all things are impermanent and elusive. Art for her captures that moment when we have enough space and silence to experience that. https://www.textileartist.org/holly-wong-installation-emancipation/

Holly Wong (2021) “Phoenix,” Front View. Graphite on drafting film with sewing, suspended with monofilament. 132″H x 132″W. Exhibition- “Phoenix” installation at SLATE Contemporary Gallery in Oakland, California.

Many ideas have been generated for exhibiting larger scale textile work from researching Holly Wong and her creative process and work. I am really drawn to how this visual artist curates her own exhibitions to ensure her larger scale art pieces are suspended from the ceiling to fully inhabit the space to encapsulate light and shadows, to add to the overall mass of the installation. I have increasingly started to reflect upon how the immediate environment can influence how my artwork is felt and responded to and with, of the need for a large exhibition space with higher ceilings and larger windows for my printed and sewn linens to be sufficiently seen and witnessed.

Holly Wong (2021) “Icarus 1″, (Overview) Gouache and graphite on paper with candle smoke and hand cut drafting film. 19″x24”

Holly Wong also likes to work on paper which generally involves painting highly ornate patterns with gouache on paper. She does this through her love of biomorphic shapes in nature, but also through her ongoing obsession with fabric. Once she has finished painting the patterns, she burns the surface of the paper with candle smoke so that it obscures the image, and then she paints back into it to “pull” it out. She will also xerox origami patterns onto transparent film, sew them into shapes and then layer on to the painting, in addition to adding layers of netting that have been sewn with webs of iridescent thread.

Holly Wong (2021) “Icarus 1″, (Detail) Gouache and graphite on paper with candle smoke and hand cut drafting film. 19″x24”
Holly Wong (2020) “Arachne I (Overview), Coloured pencil with graphite on woven drafting film, 3 1/2’H x 3 1/2’W x 3″D
Holly Wong (2020) “Arachne II (Overview), Colored pencil with graphite on woven drafting film, 3 1/2’H x 3’W x 3″D

Even although the artwork cannot be seen in person the vibrancy of the installations including the wall coverings can be felt. The larger scale art work lends itself to installation with its degree of impact which fully embrace my own intensions to exhibit. I particularly like the colour schemes, sense of movement and the materials used to communicate powerful statements and visual imagery. Although I am working with vintage linens, I still hope to create such impactful outcomes.

Holly Wong (2020) “She”, Installation made of coloured pencil and drafting film, suspended from the ceiling with monofilament wire. 14’W x 8’H x 6’D
Holly Wong (2020) “Spiral Dance,” Coloured Pencil on Drafting Film with Sewing Suspended with Monofilament Wire, 9’H x 12.5’W.
Holly Wong (2029) “Silent Music”, 18’W x 8’H x 2’D, Dichroic film, vinyl tablecloth, plastic bags, gold foil, hand-painted vellum, and thread. (Installed on location at Evanston Art Centre in July 2019)

“Silent Music” was designed for the Atrium Gallery at Evanston Art Centre, and It was something considered as a site-specific work because she chose the materials and the placement based on the time of year and the direction the window was facing. This work fully integrated the use of patterns by xeroxing them on transparent film and then sewing them into biomorphic linear shapes that were placed on panels of light reflective dichroic film. Their placement against the window including their reflections fully encapsulated the exhibition space.

Holly Wong (2029) “Silent Music”, 18’W x 8’H x 2’D, Dichroic film, vinyl tablecloth, plastic bags, gold foil, hand-painted vellum, and thread. (Installed on location at Evanston Art Centre in July 2019)

Holly Wong stated that she would arrive at the Gallery each morning at 8:30am, the light coming through the window would illuminate the dichroic film and cellophane and it would glow. She used black thread as well as a variety of iridescent threads to sew the shapes together, and the backlighting from the window really emphasized the intricate networks of threads or bloodlines as “Silent Music” which was inspired initially by the Bill Evans composition “Waltz for Debby.” The lyric “She dances to silent music” particularly resonated with Holly Wong as she felt completely alive in her work.

Holly Wong (2019) “Grandfather Dragon,” 35’W x 8’H x 6″D, Polyester tulle, and thread. (Installed on location at Evanston Art Centre in July 2019)

Holly Wong acknowledged that it is helpful to learn about a variety of techniques that speak to you and draw your interest. For her she loves sewing, of using machine sewing because it reminds her of drawing, it’s fast and immediate. That said, she always asks herself first in the work “where am I trying to go?” She then picks the material from there. Sometimes it does mean that she uses her sewing machine and at other times she paints, or knots or shred things. Holly Wong emphasised the need for consistent studio practice and protected time to ensure the continuing development of her creative practice. This visual artist intimated the need to understand context, of the history of textile art from a range of different cultures, to understand the variety of ways in which people use textiles, from more historic craft approaches to contemporary uses of textiles to aid continuing development and relevance. Most importantly Holly Wong stressed the basic prerequisite of believing in yourself, to trust your process, accept feedback, but always strive to communicate your own personal voice in your work as that is ultimately what is unique.

Holly Wong (2020) “Athena 1,” Coloured pencil on drafting film with sewing, 11″ x 14”

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