Gallery: Axel Vervoordt Gallery
Artist(s): Angel Vergara
Opening / Event Date: 18 Nov, 2023
Closing / End Date: 16 Mar, 2024
Trevor Yeung’s solo exhibition Not everything is about you, sees the artist’s continuation of personifying botanic ecology and inanimate objects to articulate human emotion and relationships, he examines the way we manoeuvre through our social habitat, delving into the complexities and unspoken rules defining the way we interact. Conscious of cultural codes during his travels, Yeung reflects on the strain on interaction during the pandemic and the increased time spent with oneself. Dissecting psychological nuances of co-dependent relationships, unmet expectations, and communicative frustrations; he reveals multi-layered sentiments on his observations. For Yeung, this learning curve is essential, as after all, not everything is about ourselves.
Having gone through multiple hotel quarantines in Hong Kong since the outbreak of Covid-19, Soft Compromise (2022) is an installation comprising 100 pillows packed between the crevice of a freestanding wall and its surrounding building structure. Crammed against cold concrete, the pillows fail to bring long-due solace and restful respite. The toss and turning of the sleepless state extends to Sink if you don’t move (2022), a bed with an abundance of small coral carcasses distributed beneath its bedsheet. Whilst anticipating a state of relaxation, the uneven surface triggers an unpleasant night for the sleeper. Using this as a metaphor for complacent relationships, Yeung questions the risks of having a false sense of security and the consequences of being too comfortable.
Hanging from the ceiling is Wall of a Hamster Cage (Mira Moon) (2022), a drawing produced during Yeung’s most recent 14-day quarantine. Marking the passing of diurnal time by tracing sunlight and shadow casted onto his hotel window with tea stains and pencil tracing. Comparing his living environment to a pet hamster where containment and prescribed amenities become a default mode for living, Yeung questions the duality of being taken care of and being kept watch of. In light of the recent culling of hamsters during Hong Kong’s Omicron outbreak, Yeung visualises the temporary and disposable companionship of these little lives and our own.
Turning our gazes beyond confined spaces, Yeung’s photographs capture aqueous and avian critters whose worlds are bound by fathomless waters and skies. Three Pelicans (2021) depict birds in single-file cleaning their feathers in a self-absorbed manner, whilst Trapped Fish (2021) portrays a lost koi in an overgrown pond, unable to foresee its predicament. As they fulfil their minuscule narratives in a colossal universe, we’re reminded that life goes on. A man in a thobe takes a break in Dubai’s hazy metropolis, whilst a woman gazes downslope in a forest clearing at dusk, titled Garden Sitter (Sharjah) (2022)and Garden Sitter (Paris) (2022) respectively, these pensive individuals have no recourse to futurity, no immediacy to take action, only solitary relationships to partake.
Whilst these sitters take their minds on a wander, Yeung’s botanical works endure physical restraint and psychological pressure. Mr Cuddles (double falling) (2022) features two Pachira trees dangling from the ceiling. Commonly known as the money tree, Yeung often depicts these braided species strapped aggressively into uncomfortable positions, their captivity mimicking their own twisted nature. Hanging an inch away from the ground, the trees appear to have finally gained footing, only revealed at a closer glance that they are fated to rely and submit to the ruthless harness of construction straps. The sadism of binding pervades to torment in Bottom line challenger (2022), an Arabian Balsam tree possessing properties of shedding bark. Placing a set of forceps by the tree, he triggers the audience’s compulsions to peel its skin, testing limits of the plant’s silent tolerance and our temptations to dominate and control. Yeung positions these living species in perverse conditions of being bound and pricked, yet their Promethean vigour a testament to the stoicism of being despite almost unbearable suffering.
Whilst exploiting the deceptively passive silence of plants, Yeung utilises sounds of aquarium systems to project communicative turbulence. Around the periphery of the exhibition space is Lunatics murmur (2022), a set of six containers filled with water, producing rhythmic noise frequencies of air bubbles through an air pump. These reverberations are likened to incomprehensible utterances of unfamiliar languages, merely white noise to the artist’s ears. Inability to understand strangers and the breakdown of signification systems permeate in Music Box 1 (You will get used to it) (2015), a water filter choking in discomfort near the water surface of a filled tank as it struggles to cycle water through its body. As we assimilate to the background noise, we become desensitised to the array of communicative signals. This liminal space between comprehending failure and function, expands beyond language barriers into our social structures.
Yeung participated in the shortlist exhibition for the Future Generation Art Prize 2021 presented by PinchukArtCentre in Kyiv, Ukraine. In solidarity with Ukrainian resistance against Russian invasion, Yeung has produced a limited edition of 20 for Underground Lilies, a photograph taken at an underground flower shop in Kyiv during the artist’s last visit to the city. As the citizens of Kyiv find refuge from air raids in bunkers and subterranean tunnels, Underground Lilies serve as a metaphor for Ukrainian resilience and determination for liberty and survival. All proceeds will be donated to Support Hospitals in Ukraine which provides medical aid and equipment to Ukrainian hospitals.