SOTY 2016: Visual Artist winner Sam Ng finds familiarity in surrealist style

Winner of the SOTY Visual Artist award in 2016, Sam Ng Chung-hei told Young Post about his art, experiences, and the people that inspired him

Nicola Chan |

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Though Sam is a surrealist painter, he does take inspiration from real surroundings.

For surrealist artist Sam Ng Chung-hei, there is no such thing as useless knowledge; after all, inspiration can strike anywhere.

“You need a balanced diet of knowledge. Do not be a picky eater. Learn whatever and whenever possible to broaden your horizons. It will show some time later in your work,” Sam told Young Post.

Wise words for an 18-year-old, but then again he has been honing his skills since the age of three. The HKDSE graduate from Jockey Club Ti-I College was second runner-up at The Wharf Hong Kong Secondary School Art Competition 2016-2017 and Visual Artist winner at the Student of the Year (SOTY) awards 2016.

He tries to expose himself to a diverse range of culture, art movements and painting techniques, but surrealism is his style of choice. He was inspired by the works of Tetsuya Ishida, a Japanese painter famous for his surreal depictions of ordinary life.

In art, the surrealist movement focuses on the unconscious and the irrational. Surrealist art can be absurd, imaginative and unrealistic, but it is this departure from reality which Sam finds most relatable.

“Although I enjoy the resemblance of realist paintings to our reality, I don’t think they are very distinctive as they can be very similar to photographs,” he explained. “I like the sense of familiarity found in the illogical and impossible world of surreality.”

Sam added that his preference for using oil on canvas stems from his love of texture.

“The medium gives me the flexibility to create artworks with either a smooth or rough surface, depending on my wish,” he said.

While some parents are wary of their children pursuing a career in visual arts, Sam’s parents – and peers – have always supported him.

“Not only did my parents never object to me being an artist, they actively supported and encouraged it,” he said.

“Having friends who share my passion for the visual arts is also important, because we can share ideas and work towards our goals together,” Sam added.

He’s especially grateful to his visual arts teacher Tse Siu-wah, who helped guide him through his HKDSE practical assessment.

“She has always treated me like a son,” he said.

Winning the SOTY Visual Artist award was a great highlight in Sam’s burgeoning career. He explained that the competition offers artists more opportunities to convey the meaning and purpose behind a piece of art than others he has participated in.

“Normally, organisers only require us to submit a statement and a piece of art work, but in SOTY, you can show your portfolio and explain your artwork to the judges without word limits,” he laughed.

In the future, Sam hopes to be able to showcase his work at Art Basel Hong Kong and become a full-time artist. But before that, he will complete a foundation course in fine art at Central Saint Martins College, in London, to further develop his painting style and polish his skills.

Paintbrush and easel aside, the most essential tool every artist needs, said Sam, is belief in themselves.

“Whether it’s an idea you’d like to realise in your work or the decision to pursue your future in the field of art, listen to what your heart says, not other people.

“Always try your best without reservations. If you give in easily when you are faced with obstacles, it’s not your passion.”

Edited by Charlotte Ames-Ettridge