On April 26th, the day before my birthday, I sat in sculptor Foon Sham‘s lecture. Foon Sham specializes in wood, but has used other mediums such as metal, wax, rice paper, and a few others. Not only does he make art three dimensionally, but two dimensionally with his charcoal and pastel drawings combined with some water color. Not a lot of people realize it, but his own photography of his work is a piece of art by itself. The images of his pieces effectively show the negative space that he emphasizes in his sculptures.
Foon Sham’s 20-20-3 Joint is a perfect example of showing negative space. As you can see from the image, the two vase-like structures of wood act as the positive space as the the negative space takes the shape of another vase-like structure. Most of his work is also very interactive with the viewer. Sham’s larger scaled sculptures usually allow people to walk inside or through it, which is very fun and interesting. He always gives his viewers the chance to give back to his work, and in return he responds back by shaping or rearranging the materials in his piece. It is a process which he calls “action and reaction”. It is much more enjoyable when others can participate in his exhibitions where everyone can share the experience with the artist and feel the emotion that was put into the sculpture during the process. Overall, Sham’s art is abstract and very architectural, but yet has the concept of being realistic.
For a brief biography of Foon Sham, he was born in Macau, China and arrived in the United States in 1975. He earned his Bachelor’s in the California College of Arts and Crafts in 1978 and his Master’s at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in 1981 where he met his wife, Fung Sham. Both of them were Art majors. Foon Sham has shown his art in many places all over the world such as Australia, Hong Kong, Norway, Chile, Canada, many states in the U.S., and a few others. Locally, he has had multiple exhibitions in Washington, D.C.
Sham has made several pieces, but my favorites would be the Sea of Hope and his Flow exhibition. The Sea of Hope was a big tribute to his mother who had passed away to the loss of cancer a few years ago. The piece consisted of a boat-like vessel, which had what he called, a “skeletal” body that was the focal point. Then he had folded paper boats with tea leaf cones to put on top. On the paper boats, viewers could write messages to loved ones who had lost the fight to cancer. It was indeed a very emotional piece where everyone who had lost a loved one to cancer could relate to how the artist was feeling and in a way mourn with him. As the exhibition went on, more and more boats were added on to create a “sea of hope”. So in a sense, the artist was no longer alone making the process of moving on easier with the support of viewers, family, and friends.
Sham’s Flow Exhibition was also another one of my favorites because of the way people could interact with the cone elements. Each cone represented one of the five elements in the Chinese culture, fire, water, wood, earth, and metal. Viewers could add on cups of grass to the earth cone, blue water to the water cone, nails to the metal cone, wood blocks to the wood cone, and candles to the fire cone. The work as a whole represented migration and how we shape the world, which I thought was very clever and intriguing. The individuality of the viewer’s additions to the piece symbolizes how each individual can shape society.
Foon Sham explained these in his lecture, which I felt not only captivated me but the whole audience. He was a really good speaker and had a great sense of humor! His lecture was by far, the best lecture I have ever been to. Well, it is hard to not be biased because… he is my dad:)
If you really like his work, visit his site below and check out one of his famous pieces Glory of the Chinese Descendants in the Chinatown Metro Station in D.C.!