In his latest exhibition, Autobiography, Ray Ching transcribes stories of his life directly onto his paintings, combining the written word alongside the delicate depictions of birds for which he is renowned, detailed portraits and captivating images of birds and figures flying through the air together, all painted on a backdrop of the comic books of his youth.
Birds and figures are a predominate subject in much of Ching’s art. He explores the mechanics of flight, not only within the bird kingdom, but for humans as well. In these works, female figures glide effortlessly through the sky alongside indigenous and introduced New Zealand birds, sharing in the wondrous secret of flight. What is astounding about these images is his ability to make it appear that flight were a natural phenomenon available to humans.
In At The Museum/Flight of the Karearea, four Karearea, our native falcon, sit atop the flying girl, hitching a ride through the air. The two species seem very attuned with one another, the hierarchy between humans and animals has been broken down, and the physical connection depicted between the two leads one to assume that the birds are enabling human flight. But the figures also have a hand in helping the birds in flight. The World Will Call You Out/Flight of the Apteryx to Aotearoa New Zealand is a painting of epic proportions. Spanning over 3.6 metres, it is by far the largest in the exhibition and depicts two flying women accompanied by nearly 50 birds. One female figure cradles a kiwi in her hands, offering the opportunity of flight to this landlocked bird.
Most works in the exhibition have small, handwritten text painted onto the canvas. The texts reveal amusing anecdotes from the artist’s life; his short-lived but eventful office career, his childhood curiosity as to what the female anatomy may look like, the dark, true life tale he uncovered about his favourite comic book artist. These stories are not illustrated by the accompanying images, though many tales involve his vast collection of taxidermy birds. They do, however, offer an interesting insight into the life of one of New Zealand’s most celebrated bird painters.
A 38 page colour catalogue accompanies the show, which reproduces the full text of each painting.
If copy is to appear beneath the FEATURED IMAGE: Column ONE TEXT.
For copy beneath the featured image: Column TWO TEXT.
For copy beneath the featured image: Column THREE TEXT.