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LokYiu critiqued “Soft breath” 【艺鵠藝評 ACO Art Critique】

Trevor Yeung’s Trunk of Desire

The moment a person steps into the exhibition space of Soft breath they are greeted by a pungent smell. The smell that permeates the room is hard to identify, unlike the aroma of freshly baked loaves or the odours of cigarettes. It is an elusive mixture of redolence that cannot be easily distinguished. While its complexity leaves the visitors who have just stepped inside the space to ponder hard, hoping to decode it, artist Trevor Yeung has vividly conveyed a message to them — smell is an integral component of the exhibition, and visitors must pay close attention to it.

Trevor Yeung’s solo exhibition Soft breath takes place at an art space of Para Site, namely a unit in an industrial building. What divides the room from the well-lit elevator lobby is first and foremost the sharp scent which lingers in its air. To further heighten the audience's sense of smell, Trevor Yeung makes delicate adjustments to the lighting of the space. Bathed in a muted shade of purplish blue, the room is relatively dim, with only a handful of subdued light beams directed at a few artworks. Coupled with the dampness brought about by The Helping Hand (2018), an artwork with a humidifier which adds scented moisture to the air, the room is shrouded in a veil of indigo mist. It blurs the visions of visitors, leaving them to bank more on their smell to navigate the exhibition space.

Sited at the centre of the room is a tree bole, the centrepiece of the exhibition. Despite its furrowed bark which is replete with fissures, at first glance, it is already obvious that the bole is not wood. Unlike a real tree trunk, the cross-section of it does not show concentric circles in varied shades of brown, but a dense chunk of dark brown with random white streaks. It is an artificial tree bole which allows light to reflect off its surface, and it furnishes visitors with hints about its material. As one walks towards the artwork, they immediately catch a heady smell. Fresh and earthy, the fragrance emanating from the trunk reminiscent of woodlands. This is Soapy Fuck Tree (2023), an artwork whose name instantly offers the audience a good knowledge of it. It is made out of soap, and it is a replica of the Fuck Tree.

It is perhaps the vulgarity embedded in its name that intrigues the audience, arousing their curiosity towards what lies behind the replica of a tree trunk. Soapy Fuck Tree was previously placed on exhibition in London as an artwork which relates specifically to the city’s cruising culture. Rooted in Hampstead Heath, a grassland which promises pleasurable adventures to local cruisers, the Fuck Tree is where numerous erotic scenes between males are set. With numerous cruisers drawn into its embrace, the Fuck Tree has carried the weight of their deep intimacy, and it results in some observable changes in its form, including its leaning trunk and bark which has been burnished smooth. It is through the use of soap that the glossiness of the original, and the redolence of the atmosphere in Hampstead Heath can be neatly captured. Combined with drips of melted soaps encircling the artwork, which looks as though they are the beads of sweat trickling from cruisers who wallow in the pleasure of the flesh, the steamy scenes shrouded in secrecy are revealed in front of the audience's naked eyes.

When Trevor Yeung brings Soapy Fuck Tree to Hong Kong, he puts an alternative interpretation on his work in an attempt to give it a local touch. The Fuck Tree in London embodies in itself the desire of mankind, and it resonates with a tree standing in the district where he spent his childhood. Scented Wonton (2024) may offer a few glimpses into the new-found subject of the artwork. Dyed yellow, orange and purple, the wads of tissue paper are scattered across the dimly lit room. In Soft breath, taking a sniff at an artwork is a no-nonsense approach to gathering more clues about it. Lean towards one of the vibrant clumps of tissue and one immediately catches a sweet fragrance. Placed randomly near the trunk, Scented Wonton shows some affinity with fruits or flowers which have fallen from the trees in the woods. Despite the flamboyant clues spread across the room, it remains impossible for the audience to infer that the tissues actually allude to the wishing papers and mandarins which fail to lodge up on a banyan in Tai Po.

As stated in the exhibition statement, Trevor Yeung draws a parallel between the Fuck Tree in London and the Wishing Tree in Hong Kong. Having served as a place for worship, the Wishing Tree attracts heaps of visitors to Lam Tsuen in the hope of good luck. They throw their wishes up to the tree branches, praying that they do not topple and fall onto the ground. The tree is thus festooned with copious numbers of joss papers and mandarins which carry the desperate yearning of visitors. The ritual practice results in a damaged tree with collapsed branches, and thus, a replica is created for people to make their wishes.

The duality of Soapy Fuck Tree — an oak frequented by cruisers in London, a bayan adored by worshippers in Hong Kong — delves into the interrelationship between human desire and nature. There is a tendency for mankind to manifest their thirst in doings which inadvertently shape or stunt the growth of trees, thereby, making an unintentional impact on nature whose absolute power never ceases to overwhelm mankind. It is never Trevor Yeung’s intention to bowl over its audience with a fresh understanding of how mankind is held accountable for the unanticipated changes of nature. Instead, wreathed in the thin blue mist is the artist’s earnest endeavour to encapsulate the fragility of nature in the face of desire demonstrated by the trees whose distorted bodies and scars recount the stories of two disparate communities.

Images were taken by the writer.



微息 Soft breath @plantertrevor

展覽日期:15/3 - 30/6

展覽地點:Para Site

22/F, Wing Wah Industrial Building, 677 King’s Road, Quarry Bay

Facebook專頁:Para Site



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