top of page

Rick Leong


April 25 - June 1, 2019


Empty Gallery is pleased to present 'Swell', an exhibition of new work by Rick Leong.


‘Swell’ is comprised of five canvases that form a complex and multifaceted panorama of the ocean. As our inaugural exhibition, Rick was able to use the vacant gallery space as a temporary studio to create the massive 10 x 18.5-foot painting, Swell, which shares its name with the title of the exhibition. As you approach the monumental work, you become swallowed up by the advancing waves which evoke a strong, visceral sense of awe. Each of the five pieces follow a similar compositional logic: a low horizon line with large areas of vacant sky atop softly undulating waves that crest in the foreground. The subtle gradients that make up the vast expanse of sky are created by thin layers of oil brushed over the surface of the canvas and acted upon by the force of gravity and the natural tooth of the canvas. The results are beautiful in both their unpredictability and curious regularity and provide an interesting counterpoint to Rick’s signature stylized lines.

‘Swell’ runs from April 25 to June 1. Visit the gallery during regular hours or by appointment.

Rick Leong received his BFA from the University of Victoria (2003), and an MFA from Concordia University in Montreal (2007). His thesis work was acquired by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 2007. In 2008, he was a finalist in the Royal Bank of Canada’s Painting Competition, touring to the National Gallery of Canada, the Power Plant (Toronto) and the Contemporary Art Gallery (Vancouver). In addition to having participated in many group exhibitions at various Canadian and international spaces, Rick has exhibited solo at Two Rivers Gallery (Prince George), Anna Leonowens Gallery (Halifax), the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, and the McClure Gallery (Montreal). Recent exhibitions include ‘The Fourth Pleasure’ at Parisian Laundry and ‘Close to Home’ at The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.


Rick uses the language of landscape to explore hybridity between disparate experiences of space and place. Drawn from observation and influenced by historical Chinese art forms, his work investigates the interconnectedness of the land and the subjectivity of human experience. He is represented by Parisian Laundry in Montreal and his work has been placed in several public and private collections, including The Canada Council Art Bank, The Canadian Art Foundation, Caisse de Depot, and Foreign Affairs Visual Art Collection.


"Swell is the title work of the exhibition of the same name, based on the view from the southern tip of Vancouver Island. I painted the view from the shore looking out towards each cardinal direction, and each painting was placed in the gallery in the corresponding direction that they represent. It is meant to bring attention to place and how the viewer situates themselves in this particular place and time, within the space of the gallery, within Victoria, and on the island.


In the making of this work, I considered how place is connected to identity, and for a third-generation Canadian of Chinese descent, I contemplated the many different ways that each person comes to places that they call home and forms a part of who they are. In my work I try to create an experience of place for the viewer, yet the subjectivity of experience is fundamentally different for each individual. The experience oscillates between standing on a shore and standing on a raft in the middle of the ocean, in-between worlds. Swell evokes a myriad of interpretations depending on the experiences of the viewer, whether it is migration and opportunity, or the changing climate and the rising of the seas. The ocean represents all these things. It is our past and our future. Swell is—"

Swell is rise and fall

Swell is ebb and flow

Swell is the tide

Swell is salty

Swell is stink

Swell is bracing cold

Swell is storm

Swell is calm

Swell is mood

Swell is the distance between us

Swell is place

Swell is here

Swell is what surrounds us

Swell is sunset to the west

Swell is moonrise in the east

Swell is creeping north

Swell is Swell

bottom of page