Andrew Tong
April 7 - 25, 2009 - Opening reception: Thurs. April 9, 6:30 - 8:30 pm


The influences for this show originated from my own experiences and observations as an only child growing up in a household affected by war.

At age 14, my mother started working in a munitions factory in Croydon London, an area that was constantly bombed during the Blitz in 1940. My father became an anti-aircraft gunner in the navy at 17, travelling on convoys in the Atlantic in 1944. My grandfather enlisted at 16, fighting first in Palestine and then in France during WW1. They were just children.

All their experiences, good and bad, directly affected my upbringing. There was a sense of anger and violence in my family, which, for a long time, I thought was normal. But listening to my family's experiences also sparked a great interest in the history of war and its causes.

I started with the juxtaposition of innocence and the realities of humanity back in 2001 when I created dioramas of nursery rhymes in dark apocalyptic settings. These "doll sculptures" were exhibited at the Glass Onion Gallery for the "Imitation and Effigy" show. Paradoxes of good and evil have always interested me. It's hard to get away from it: there is so much material to be had.

For this exhibition, I have taken that theme a step further. I want to show people as they really are – self-obsessed, paranoid and full of greed, which makes us very dangerous indeed.

The titles of the pieces are innocent, referring back to childhood views of serious subjects. I tried to inject some humour into the subject matter I guess as a sense of hope, which again stems from my upbringing of always looking at the brighter side of life, no matter how dark things get. I'm trying to see the world as a child would and overlay that with reality.

Whether in "Ice Cream" where a child is crying about his dropped ice cream while the world is blowing up around him or in "When I grow up I want to be a soldier", where a boys' game of soldier is jolted by a car bomb exploding in his own future. The wars of reference are modern with the underlying sense of paranoia and want of control. The guns and weaponry is where it all progresses to the ultimate expression of control. And it starts out with a little toy gun that your parents innocently gave you.

The title "So It Goes." is a reference to Kurt Vonnegut's book "Slaughterhouse Five". It was the main character's reaction to life. After witnessing firsthand the allied bombing of Dresden during WW2, he resigned himself to observing events in his life but not reacting to them. (Sort of "shit happens" - we can't do anything about it.)

I have always liked the saying. I think it sums up how many people see the world most of the time. We get what we need not what we want. But it is up to us to take the right path after that.

My hope is that showing a few truths about humanity will at least make someone think about the consequences of our actions. And as a father I'm trying to do my part.