Varoom 39: Distant Memories

Joey Yu grew up in the UK, but as a child went to Hong Kong with her family most summers. In Varoom 39 she talks about her nostalgic feelings for these trips and her other travels, including visits to other family members in Malaysia.

Joey Yu

In Hong Kong I remember waking up in a jet-lagged daze around 3am and walking into the living room. We were near the sea, by the mountains. There’s the sound of running water from a fish tank. Heat in the air, and the red glow and incense from the little home shrine. I miss that vivid place and the excitement of adjusting to a new time zone. Waking up in a new world, waiting for the day and its events to unfold. The shrine isn’t there any more. It’s bittersweet to think I won’t have that exact experience again.

Midflight (Penang), Joey Yu, 2017

Half of my family are in Malaysia, another place that holds much nostalgia for me. There are thousands of things that make up the fabric of a city and it’s the minutiae that make me feel soft for a place. Like how in Malaysia there are no carpeted floors because it’s too hot – I think of my feet on cold tiles. Can someone be nostalgic for cold tiles?

I used to have a hard drive filled with videos but it corrupted last year. That’s one reason I love drawing – its physical nature. I am holding it, I am taking it home in my bag. So if a painting or drawing can sum up a fleeting moment or a place I’ve been in, that’s a special thing. I’ve been drawing regularly for the past few years, so I have that period of time recorded in a very emotive, personal way.

Lots of my work eventually becomes nostalgic because it’s reportage, but I also find more and more that I am doing drawings from memory. Some things are hard to recreate – I haven’t been to Hong Kong for several years now, and I used to be there so often. Most of the memories are from childhood – the longer I’m away, the more my perception is warped.

Hotpot (London), Joey Yu, 2018

These works are a mixture of reportage and memory. Some of them I drew whilst I was ‘there’ in the place, some are built upon things that I’ve recalled and elaborated on, things that swam up to the surface and made me feel something. I’ve travelled lots recently, all over Malaysia, and to Seoul, New York, Bahia. Different places have their own colour palette. The materials I use always tend to be things that are quick in mark making. Coloured pencils, crayons, gouache. The images are layered up and sometimes, due to my recollections, incomplete.

To see the full article purchase Varoom 39

6th September 2019

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