The recurring watery forms of Luise Fong’s
paintings can be related back to an early
childhood experience of almost drowning, a
memory she associates with a blissful
suspension in time and space.
This drifting sensation is something she would
later explore in the liquid processes of painting.
Born in Malaysia in 1964, Fong moved to New
Zealand as a child and was taught by sculptor
Marte Szirmay at Epsom Girls’ Grammar School
before studying textile design in Wellington. She
later enrolled at Elam School of Fine Arts where
she majored in printmaking.
Fong’s work evokes the human body and
organic forms, not through any strategy of
depiction but by her exploration of the materiality
of painting. Preferring to pour, spill and stain her
surfaces, she creates drifting, diaphanous imagery
through the traces of painterly marks that
resemble the laboratory swabs of a pathologist.
Further clues for forensic examination can also
be found in fingerprints left on the sides of some
works, or cuts and perforations made through her
canvases, rupturing the surface of the skin. It is
no coincidence that she was reading Patricia D.
Cornwell detective novels at the time she was
preparing her 1993 Pathology exhibition.
In 1994 she was joint winner of the prestigious
BNZ Visa Art Award and that same year was
artist-in-residence at Victorian College of the Arts
in Melbourne. The following year she took part in
a residency at the Govett Brewster Art Gallery,
where she produced a suite of four major works
including Cluster, purchased soon after for The
University of Auckland Art Collection. It had been
shown in the subsequent Govett-Brewster
exhibition, “More Human”, along with
decomposing eggs in plastic containers
(Nostalgia), plasticene on board (Touch), and
photograms of translucent or patterned domestic
containers including a rice steamer and drinking
Like the imagery of Cluster, the cloudy abstracts
of the photograms resemble x-rays or specimen
slides. Cluster is more familiar, constructed on
canvas and comprising Luise Fong’s trademark
dribbling smudges, which resemble both swirling
constellations and spawning cells.
Cluster is included in the Gus Fisher Gallery’s
exhibition “The Swarm”, which runs until 16 August,
and also features work from Douglas Bagnall,
Gregory Bennett, Philip Dadson, Richard Killeen,
Matt Molloy, Ani O’Neill and Elizabeth Thomson.
The exhibition draws together work that has a viral
quality, creating a tension between individual
entities and their role as part of a larger organism
Fong will be artist-in-residence at the McCahon
House in Titirangi this summer.