Ruben Pang, contemporary artist
Ruben Pang was introduced to the fine arts from a young age. He devoured his father’s collection of magazines on old masters, including Rembrandt and Caravaggio, as reference for his paintings, but it wasn’t till the age of 16 did he consider the life of an artist. The firstborn in a Chinese family, Pang felt the pressure to perform academically. His then principal of Catholic Junior College, however, simply told him to study the fine arts after seeing his series of Alexander Mcqueen-inspired fashion plates. After graduating with a Diploma in Fine Art from Lasalle College of the Arts in 2010, he was selected for the START International Artist Residency Program, where he spent months in Tel-aviv-yafo (Israel) surrounded by fellow passionate artists.
Pang’s works, of which he describes as “visual syncopations of his dreams”, have won him multiple awards – Sovereign Asia Art Prize Finalist in 2010 and 2012, and the Winston Oh Travelogue award, to name a few. He recently debuted of Halogen Lung, an idiosyncratic visualisation of inanimate objects at Primae Noctis, Lugano (Switzerland), as well as his signature triptych, La Meccanica delle Meraviglie, at MO.CA Centro per le nuove culture in Brescia (Italy).
You’ve mentioned that you draw inspirations from your dreams. How have you translated your vision into reality?
combined with opaque streaks can create a seemingly endless variety of light. It could be anything; prismatic, laser, fluorescence or light reflected off smoke and vegetation.
What is most important for you as an artist?
It is forgetting what I’ve done. This is so I can revisit my works, be it mid-way or after, so I can see them with a new perspective. If you remember your work too well, all you’ll see are mistakes. But I do keep in mind of my milestones, such as my triptychs, which were based on how empowered and challenged I felt while creating them.
Of the many places you’ve travelled to, which left an impression on you?
Italy holds a lot of significance for me. When I was 18, using what little Italian I learned, I sent an email to one of my heroes, Nicola Samori. Surprisingly, the Italian artist, known for his dark, Baroque-inspired oil paintings, replied and invited me to check out his exhibition at Bologna. It was held within Villa delle Rose, a former summer residence dating to the 18th century and as a hospital during WWII. Of course, I flew over in a heartbeat. I still remember musing over the old masters at the various exhibitions in Bologna with him. We maintained our friendship. Just last year I headed back to Italy, specifically Forli, where he was born.
Even during my residency in Lugano (Switzerland), I would find my way back to Italy. My host would take me to Lake Garda in the north (less than 200km from the Swiss border). It is the largest lake in Italy and boasts a mesmerising sight; crystal blue waters, glaciers and gorgeous shorelines dividing Verona, Trentino and Brescia. The lake just has this amazing healing energy.
It lays next to Brescia, a city in northern Italian region of Lombardy, is another favourite. It is a stunning city with over 3,000 years of history, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site and former monastery, San Salvatore-santa Giulia dating to 753 A.D. The city is also one that was plagued with wars. It was taken from the Byzantines by the Lombards, then Charlemange, which made it the capital of the Holy Roman Empire, and, more recently, in World War II. You get to see a city that has been through so much destruction yet healed and retained its beauty every single time through its monuments and people. What was a dining experience that impressed you?
I’m more of a prosciutto crudo sandwich and an espresso kind of guy; going to a restaurant as a destination isn’t my focus. However, Ristorante Lido 84 broke my streak. Overlooking Lake Garda, it’s this intimate, casual space awash in Mediterranean blues and yellows and surrounded by camphor and olive trees. Chef Riccardo Camanini does an amazing job, creating inimitable plates from regional produce. Bagòss cheese (Lombardy) is used for the tortellini and raw mountain milk for their Flor di latte ice cream.
It’s hard to contain it into an elevator pitch but there are two parts in the simplest sense.First, the subject matter. There is a universality to dreams. Events or symbols that occur in a dream are not tied to where the person is from or what gender and race they are. Someone in France could be dreaming about free-falling off a cliff or being exposed, just as someone in Hong Kong would – without cultural influence. And they are often portrayed in mediums of lights and sounds, despite not having the photon particles and air respectively for them to realistically manifest.Secondly, I’d translate these energies onto the canvas, viscerally. For every painting, a different personality is present. The light and sound I experienced are visualised onto wood panels or, particularly, aluminium composite panels. The latter carries a metallic sheen to allow me to create depth. Thin layers of paint to allow the underlying metallic sheen to shine through, which when
Ristorante Lido 84 Lake Garda