Painting:Firenze Lai | Text: Hu Fang , Firenze Lai / Edited by Firenze Lai and The Pavilion | Designed by Firenze Lai / Bilingual: Chinese and English/ 136 Pages/ Color / Publisher:hulahoop / ISBN: 978-988-17828-9-2 | Price: EURO35.00

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Hu Fang: Looking at your paintings, I often feel immersed in the atmosphere, get emotionally drawn into the situation you depict and can’t help but identify with the characters. When I look at a figure in one of your portraits, I can feel the weight of his or her gaze. This energy can put the viewer into a state of contemplation that appears to involve both sides, unlike a gaze that goes in just one direction. I call it “contemplation” because it is more than just a viewer looking at a painting. Instead it gives me a strong feeling of “being in a situation” – not in the reality that inspired the painting, but rather in a space of ambiguity, filled with possibilities waiting to unfold. When you are painting a particular situation, do you go through it over and over again in your mind? What does space, or void, mean to you?

Firenze Lai: When I paint these situations, I always ask myself: What is space to the figures inside the frame? What exactly is the situation I am trying to paint? How does a character adjust his mind and body to adapt to the circumstances he finds himself in? Sometimes he is self-conscious, at other times he is not.

Everyone has a different definition of time and space. It largely depends on where you are. I live in a fast-paced city where everyone has to constantly readjust himself. Many different things happen in a single day. Between one such incident and another, there is a void. Often this void is nothing but a transient and fleeting moment which gives you just enough time for the tiniest of adjustments.

I am fascinated by this continuous series of brief changes and adaptions. Sometimes when I ride the MTR, I am so close to other passengers that I can feel their presence in a very acute way. They stand wearily, constantly shifting from one foot to another to avoid brushing against complete strangers. At other times, I observe strollers in shopping malls pacing around, tracing the patterns of the tiled floor in oblivion. And sometimes I encounter old people muttering strings of numbers, walking backwards and taking in long, languid breaths between their steps, their eyes gazing into an unknown distance. In these moments of ambivalence I can see how these individuals are getting along with themselves, how they appear different but also share similarities.

When I am painting, I often immerse myself completely in the scenario I am trying to depict. Perhaps I have been in the same situation before, doing the same thing, experiencing the same state of mind.

——Excerpts from Being One or One of Them : A Dialogue between Hu Fang and Firenze Lai, DAY AND DAYLIGHT, P127-128

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