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Let the mud settle
Hiu Tung Lau

Exhibition text by Elaine Tam, White Cube, London
Only what is repressed is symbolised; only what is repressed needs to be symbolised.’
– Ernest Jones, 1916

Leaving us, then, the remainder – the smallness of those rooms with hues for hideouts. Forms begetting forms, the formation of a musculature. Wraith-like, a pale reflex, tender contusions arrested in mauve. (An assertion: feelings are fact.) You clasped me to you and called it an ‘embrace’, such that my body would wear your tall woes as if it were representation. A bond, then: ligament strong, and elastic in the way of our finitudes or sonatas in season.

Terms cleaving spectrums, one refrain, one episode. You, soft in my rhythms, your head at rest with the weight of stones upon my breast. To read your motivations in absence of ‘intentions’, I feigned to know you: bundle of beloved fibres shot through with blood-rage intensities, a temperamental cache of contradictions. Yours is a fever spread at half-speeds, the paper-thin anguish roughly. (And roughly is the only way you handled anything.)

The snow of yesterday gathering as quietly as a blindspot, as you and I protected ourselves against our own impossibility. To think that we could do it better – instead of not doing it at all – with our nest of loose ends and unscripted behaviour. No failsafes or safe-words to fumble out the eviction, stall all those water-logged hours, yours. Those years, time of a vascular constriction smoked out by desire; of a semi-colon cold and quivering, mine was a sentence enduring. 

With no one but small crustaceans for friends who, dashing the reeds, arrived by flood and welter. Because heaven is heavy. Lodged within your wish to jeopardise, we happened to risk it all. We parsed ruins for value; fended off inevitability with whatfors; were creaturely cowering bedded into the mud. All this and then some, until pain became a function of the unit we could never otherwise refer to as ‘us’. Ridges and contours (read: public displays of affection) of a pain revelling in its cheap thingliness. 

Because when you rained, you poured. Slanting against you I stayed, worn and weathered, so often as to appreciatively receive a bullish hoof. To accept your apology as if it were confection (it’s so bad, it’s so good), but ignore the bright protest of the soul, wasted body yielding. That, my dear, is the late-stage achievement of manipulation: to condition an interaction in such a way that you always get what you want.
Because ‘enough is enough’ to turn the animal against itself; against instinct; against survival. I know: should the animal writhe under the instruction of love, she will be spent, her illness her outlet. Yet not I – not yet – newly adjusted amputee. To last in your slackening grip I am prideless in mint (I am paralysis in mint). An antidote renders a shift in register that tends passionately towards the past tense: a velvet curtain call, your message deleted.  

Elaine ML Tam
Hiu Tung Lau (b. 1985, Hong Kong) graduated with an MFA in painting from The Royal College of Art, London and a BFA in painting from The School of Visual Arts, New York.  Her works span across various media including painting, sculpture, and performance. Through apparent simplicity and minimalist compositions, Lau attempts to convey the sea of complex human emotions. She explores themes such as gender, sexuality and identity. Her work can be regarded as a meditation over the process of painting where she explores experiences that had an emotional impact on her and inspired her to paint, whether it be a stranger she met, bushes from sidewalks, or the taste of kumquat.
Hiu Tung Lau has recently exhibited at Art Basel OVR, Hong Kong (2023), Flowers Gallery, Hong Kong (2022); Alice Folker Gallery, Copenhagen (2022 and 2020); Karin Weber Gallery, Hong Kong (2021); Fringe Club, Hong Kong (2019) and Dyson Gallery, London (2017)

Let the mud settle
19 January - 8 March 2024

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