Past Continuous Tense

Artist Lam Tung Pang connects the past and present through the creation and destruction of a monumental landscape

Past Continuous Tense (2011) by Lam Tung Pang (Chinese, b. 1978, active Hong Kong)Asian Art Museum

Lam Tung Pang’s Past Continuous Tense (2011) is immersive and immense in size. It consists of 52 panels, together measuring about 8 feet tall and 52 feet wide.

The yellowish tone of the panels

Landscape of the four seasons, one of a pair (approx. 1500-1573) by Shikibu Terutada (Japanese, active mid 1500s)Asian Art Museum

is reminiscent of gilded folding screens

Pine Lodge amid Tall Mountains (Ming dynasty (1368-1644)) by Wu Bin (Chinese, 1573-1620)Asian Art Museum

or the silk on which landscapes were painted.

Past Continuous Tense (2011) by Lam Tung Pang (Chinese, b. 1978, active Hong Kong)Asian Art Museum

Yet the luster of luxurious gold or elegant silk is but an illusion, as the panels are made of plywood. 

The trees throughout the work reference master artists from China, Korea, and Japan.

Lam Tung Pang photocopied the masters' works from printed books and catalogs, then traced the trees onto the plywood with charcoal.

清 王槩 設計,李漁出版 芥子園畫傳 版本|Cloudy Mountains by Gao Kegong (1248–1310) in the manner of Mi Fu (1051–1107), from the Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting (First edition, 1679) by Wang Gai|Mi Fu|Gao KegongThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

This process may be a tongue-and-cheek reference to the way students of traditional brush painting copy and study the works of past masters (by hand, using ink and brush), from manuals such as the Mustard Seed Garden Painting Manual (China, 1622–1722).

Past Continuous Tense (2011) by Lam Tung Pang (Chinese, b. 1978, active Hong Kong)Asian Art Museum

This section references paintings by the artist Zhu Da (Chinese, 1626–1705).

One of sixteen album leaves (eight paintings and eight calligraphy) (1626–1705) by Zhu Da (Chinese, 1626–1705)Asian Art Museum

One of sixteen album leaves (eight paintings and eight calligraphy), 1626–1705, by Zhu Da (Chinese, 1626–1705).

Past Continuous Tense (2011) by Lam Tung Pang (Chinese, b. 1978, active Hong Kong)Asian Art Museum

This section references Kawase Hasui's (Japanese, 1883–1957) Toyoma Plain, from the series Twelve Scenes of Tokyo, 1920.

Toyama Plain, from the series Twelve Scenes of Tokyo (1920) by Artist: Kawase Hasui, Publisher: S. Watanabe Color Print Co.Smithsonian's National Museum of Asian Art

Toyama Plain, from the series Twelve Scenes of Tokyo, 1920, by Hasui Kawasai (Japanese, 1883–1957).

Past Continuous Tense (2011) by Lam Tung Pang (Chinese, b. 1978, active Hong Kong)Asian Art Museum

Lam Tung Pang also calls out the sources of these trees via captions that he photocopied from books and replicated on the work. In this instance, the artist is Zhu Derun (Chinese, 1294–1365).

However, this collection of trees is by no means an idyllic forest scene. Burn marks and ashes maim the landscape.

Parts of the forest have even been destroyed.

One may be reminded of a poem by Tang-dynasty poet Po Chu-i (772–846):
So tender, so tender, the grasses on the plain, in one year, to wither, then flourish. Wildfire cannot burn them away. Spring breezes’ breath, they spring again.

Forest fires decimate landscapes, but they also provide the foundation for new life.

Past Continuous Tense, as the title suggests, embraces seemingly oppositional yet complementary and mutually sustaining forces, such as old and new, creation and destruction.

Each tree references an artist’s work from various contexts and time periods. Together, the trees generate a new work, a monumental forest in flux.

Credits: Story

Written by Lorraine Goodwin and Yinxing Liu.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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