Backs 背影

February 12, 2018 2018年2月12日

Seeing a person from behind can elicit different emotions in different individuals. For many, it’s a perspective that’s commonly associated with farewells, with watching a person walk away, and with the feelings of loneliness and sadness that follow. Gwen Yip is a Hong Kong-born painter and illustrator whose ongoing project, Backs, attempts to capture these emotions through a series of paintings that depict faceless strangers in various cityscapes. Using minimal compositions and a palette of subdued colors, the three-part series gently ushers viewers into the streets and subway stations of Hong Kong, London, and New York, cities where Yip have once called home. Aside from serving as the backdrop of the series, Yip cites the unique energy of these three metropolises as having largely contributed to her artistic process as a whole. Humbly, she tells us, “I paint what I see and feel.”

说到背影,我们或许会想到那一幕幕离别的车站,或者课本中那蹒跚老去的父母亲人,他们渐行渐远消失于某个路口,万千情绪随之涌上心头。这就是 Gwen Yip 2010 年起就创作至今的系列,名为《背影》。她捕捉到了这些城市中人们形形色色的背影,并佐以简洁又沉郁的背景,如空荡荡的街道和地铁站台。辗转在伦敦、香港、纽约生活和工作的 Gwen 淡然地说,我画下我所看到的、我所感受到的一切。它们都是我生活中重要的一部分。

Since the series began in 2010, Yip has maintained an atmosphere of purposeful ambiguity in each painting. The subjects she portrays carry a sense of familiarity yet are vastly unique in their own right. Her use of muted color is deliberate, designed to not overpower the scene. The ambivalence is meant to invite viewers to fill in the blanks with their own imagination and draw on their own personal experiences to come up with their own interpretations of the work. Yip’s artist statement sums it up: “We all carry things on our backs. Some shoulder burdens and regrets and others carry dreams and hopes. Some scarcely bear them and others delightedly bring them wherever they go. What do you carry on your back? For me, I’d like to not carry anything around. I want to be completely free.”


Backs is a depiction of the anxiety and existential angst that arises from living in urban environments; it confronts the issue of loneliness, a feeling that’s often amplified in populated cities. To visualize these alienating feelings, Yip places her subjects into quiet, barren locations that are normally abuzz with activity. “In big cities, like most people, I find myself surrounded by a lot of strangers every day,” she comments. “Everyone is in such a hurry. Seeing them from behind, I wonder where they came from and where they are going. I capture these moments because I’m curious about their untold stories, and I want to invite my viewers to feel a similar sense of curiosity about the strangers in their lives.”

画的主旨在于城市存在主义,亦关乎人们城市生活中的孤独感。城市的背景随着 Gwen 个人行迹的改变而改变。Gwen 说,在大城市里,我也像大多数人一样,每天都被包围在很多陌生人的环境中。人们来来去去,行色匆匆。在背后看着他们的时候,我很想知道他们是从哪里来的,又想要到哪里去。背影蕴含的未知故事,让我想捕捉下这样的瞬间,再留给看画的人们一并去遐想。” 

Instagram: @gwen.yip


Contributor: Chen Yuan

Instagram: @gwen.yip


供稿人: Chen Yuan