Arthongkong.net meets with Lam Yau-Sum
"...I let the overall landscape of the circuit board “show” me what the final image is ~ I have a dialogue with the circuit board that is concurrently the canvas as well as the subject.""...
Lam is a young man whose childhood interest led to a discovery. He is soft-spoken, a little shy, very understated. But once he gets into talking about art and his work, he lights up and gets very animated. It’s clear he loves his work, and he is focused and driven ~ the desire to push current boundaries and try new directions (e.g. sculpture) is apparent. Yet, although I can see there is a drive from within, his artwork is really more influenced by external factors. Such as the process of turning recycled
circuit-boards into works of art: it is really all about observing the “canvas” (in its raw state) laid out in front of him, observing the form, patterns, properties, from different angles and perspectives; and then letting those take him in the direction of the final artwork. His work is extremely detailed, and requires a substantial amount of control.
All in all, Lam is an interesting mix of internal and external
Could you please share your background, and how did you end up in art?
My uncle was a big influence. I moved to Hong Kong from Guangdong from primary school onwards. Before moving, I had spent a lot of time with my grandparents and uncles. One of my uncles was an electrician – he was constantly fixing electronic items including computers. I followed him around, and picked up knowledge around electrical equipment, machines and also computers. In secondary school, a teacher stoked my interest in computers – and I even assembled my own computer.
But instead of studying electrical engineering in university, I elected to study Art (Lam has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from RMIT University). I felt that there was an element of creativity in working with electronics, but to fulfill my intellectual needs I didn’t need to learn the technicalities of electronics rather it was Fine Art training that I wanted.
Your artwork has an interesting feature – instead of canvas you use circuit boards! How did that come about?
I was around electronics and circuit boards a lot of the time… and that background filtered into my artwork. I started painting acrylic on canvas, with heavy emphasis on lines, dots, just like to circuit connectors you see on the circuit boards. This style even filtered into my paintings of human subjects. Although I like solid vibrant colours, back in those days I tended to mix them more. Then one day I hit upon the idea of doing away with the canvas and using the circuit boards instead. I let the overall landscape of the circuit board “show” me what the final image is ~ I have a dialogue with the circuit board that is concurrently the canvas as well as the subject. Although the work is still two dimensional, it is not flat as the boards have ridges, lines, dots which also have an integral part in the final outcome of the image.
時常接觸各種各樣的電器和電子板，那些經驗啟發了我的創作⋯運用帆布，注重線條，圓點 ─ 就好像電子板上的線路。我也用這風格畫人像。當時我把不同顏色混合才繪畫，雖然我本身比較欣賞燦爛的顏色。直到一天，我想到用電子板取代畫布，透過電子板上的線路和自己的想像力，順著不同的線路用筆推動，從而透過推動畫出不同的圖形，就好像和電子板 “溝通”，而電子板同時是畫布和主題。雖然畫面還是平面的，但並不平整，因為板上有線路和凹凸的粒子，這些都構成我的作品。
I also note you have canvas art, which draws from the circuit boards… particularly the lines and dots. When did you develop this?
I suppose you can call it my evolution. Circuit boards have their limitations, particularly in terms of size. I was getting to a stage where I felt limited in terms of what I could produce, but I really wanted to continue with the focus on lines (but using gongbi technique), and to see where I could go with Chinese landscapes that seemed to emerge from some of the circuit board artwork. I started a sketchbook just to develop this concept and later on moved on to actually working on canvas.
It’s not so much “painting” as using a piping mechanism to produce the images. The background is prepped and then the painstaking work on the images begins. The colours are bright, and each artwork is generally monochromatic as I want the attention focused on the landscape that is portrayed.
What do you use to paint?
For my canvas works, I use oil with slower drying time and that produces a smoother, more even result. And I really enjoy the outcome, where the texture of raised lines adds an extra dimension to the landscape evoked by the painting. For the circuit board works, I use enamel paint, but the boards are first prepped to remove the soldered metal so that only the texture of the board itself is left, and then painted with a base layer of enamel.
Do you work, or do you paint full-time? What’s your schedule like to produce art?
Oh I’m like a lot of Hong Kong artists; when I first graduated I worked full-time. When I saved enough I cut my hours down to part-time work so that I have more time for my art. I do follow a fixed schedule in creating my artwork.
Looking at your circuit board artwork, have you ever reflected on the outcome once the piece is completed, especially since you seek to visualize what’s already there?
Yes indeed! As a result I have named them accordingly, such as “Girl with a Pearl Earring” (homage to Johannes Vermeer) and "Dancer” (homage to Edgar Degas’ The Dancing Class).
絕對有！我把那些作品取相似的名，比如“戴珍珠耳環的少女”（向維梅爾致敬）和 “舞者” （向埃德加•德加致敬）。
Who’s works do you admire, and why?
Well, I admire a number of the old masters as well as our contemporary painters… I love Dali’s imagination, Matisse’s use of colour… Michaelangelo’s technique…Anselm Kiefer's organic materials…Leung Mei-Ping’s expert eye for detail.
Do you have any upcoming projects?
I do, I have an exhibition on for my foray into miniature sculpture - these are small scale and my attempts at taking my circuit board art into a new direction. The combination of circuit board, its wiring, miniature human figurines create
landscapes that confront (and possibly answer) the question “is technology overtaking nature or simply becoming the “known” nature?”.
In future, I would love to work on installations involving light, space, mood, and sound. Thus far I have incorporated
light into some of my 2D circuit board artwork, but I want to take it further.
我剛有另一個藝術個展，展出微形立體作品，這是我嘗試把目前電子板創作走向另一個新方向。 我用電子板，電線和小人兒，造成各種的園林景觀。 我希望通過作品去思考現今常遇到的問題 “是科技已超越了大自然或是科技已潛移默化地變成人類所認得的自然界？”
Lam Yau-Sum was born in Guangdong and moved to Hong Kong when a child. He now lives and works in Hong Kong. Life
forms, forests and cityscapes are the elements that commonly found in the work of Lam Yau-sum. Using the circuit patterns on electronic circuitboards as a start, an extraordinary type of painting is represented through the imagined image constructed by these very fine lines. The skillful play of lines within a two, as well as three-dimensional plane, makes the work linger between the abstract and the figurative. http://lamyausum.com/Lam_Yau_Sum/Home.html