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Norris Yim: Nameless

Hiding in plain (and colourful) sight


NOV 28, 2022 | ISSUE 7

Nameless 0522 (2022) by Norris Yim
Nameless 01 (2019) by Norris Yim
Nameless 2620 (2020) by Norris Yim

On either side of my work desk as I write this, hangs a print from a unique series by Hong Kong artist Norris Yim: Nameless No.1 and Nameless No.19. The Nameless series is essentially a vast collection of faceless portraits, and while that might sound like a contradiction, these paintings invite the viewer to unpeel their ambiguous brushstrokes. Long before N95 masks became the ubiquitous uniform of the pandemic-era, Yim has been exploring the figurative masks that we don in order to navigate the social and political spaces we occupy. What is remarkable about these portraits is how completely married the mask and the face behind it appears to be, and yet, the real face remains enticingly concealed and recognizable.

Yim joins smART Magazine to discuss on a series that is pivotal to his artistry and reflects the turmoil of his city’s political sphere.

sM | How did the Nameless series evolve into what it is now?

NY ── In the beginning, I was looking for a pure abstraction, something like Willem de Kooning’s style, who inspired me to be free and confident while painting with intuition. Then, I think I found the most unique thing in the world of self-representation in self-portraiture, which is inspired by van Gogh’s sketchbook, wherein he created a set of self-portraits evoking lonely and forlorn emotions. Those paintings gave me motivation to create portraits expressing similar personal feelings.

So, I created a set of paintings in the Nameless series that uses different styles to express the same concept of oneness and connectedness with each other. Nameless is always changing in style, colour, and emotion. Nameless No.1 arrived very suddenly into the world, the painting is full of freedom and ambition. But recently, Hong Kong has been in a dangerous moment of political crisis, and no one helped us. The latest paintings in the Nameless series explores the need to stay positive in the face of this problem.

I’ve also been experimenting with finding different textures in the use of colours and materials. The colour blocks started with a lot of fluidity, and I now mostly use overlaps of rough and thick colour blocks to create anthropomorphic and figurative abstractions. Over the last year, I’ve been adding different powders to the paintings to reveal the textures of colour, and this subtle difference has become my new creative passion. It’s still “in the process” of evolution, so I don’t know how it will change in the future, but I do love painting at the moment.

sM | How has the political climate in Hong Kong informed your mission as an artist?

NY ── It was early in my career when this political crisis started, particularly the first White Ribbon protests, so I began using black and white as the main colour scheme to represent these violent protests. It was after this that the government took over and controlled the city. We had no way out, and that scar was buried deep in our hearts, yet people were still able to force a smile to confront the ridiculous problems happening in our city daily. Nameless is my way of reflecting on this situation of people without a soul, without truth, without a dream, living in an empty body. But I try to stay positive as a way to face these things, and though the paintings were born from darkness, the more I look at them, the more happiness I see.