June 28, 2024

Canaan Fong – Resonating with the Soul of Fat | Art City Travelogue

Being slim and beautiful is a lifelong pursuit and desire for girls; and fat seems to be the enemy, even in English – the word “fat” itself sounds full of people’s hostility towards it.

Is fat more harmful to health or more detrimental to appearance?

When people always want to hide fat and avoid it, Canaan Fong lives a different life with fat. In this chapter, I hope everyone can let go of their prejudices and give fat a chance to be re-recognized.

The necessity of fat

When it comes to **fat**, you might think of “calories”, “heat”, “obesity”, or even the yellow and thick “devil” in slimming ads… In fact, most of the associations are negative.

However, according to biological explanations, fat exists in various parts of the body: about 80% is “subcutaneous tissue” responsible for storing heat and maintaining body temperature, and the remaining 20% is “visceral fat” surrounding organs, with a protective, supportive, and stabilizing role. Not to mention, the brain is composed of 50% fat. Therefore, among the nutrients needed by the human body, fat ranks first. In other words, fat is not “useless fat”, and even thin people need fat.

Nevertheless, no one in the world can turn a blind eye to fat, and Canaan, too, once pursued it. “When I was lying down watching Netflix, suddenly seeing my reflection on the TV scared me. Not only did it show a double chin, but also looked fat! So I felt a lot of pressure.” Pressure probably comes from the gaze of others and the world’s standards. However, just as worries were rising, upon opening social media and seeing the super thin Japanese supermodel Kiko Mizuhara, another thought came to mind: “I probably can never be as thin as her!”

And the current frustration and unease made her conceive the first chubby red-haired woman in her pen, “Fatty Fong (Gigi Fong)“. What’s most special is that she is always naked, full of fat, but confidently stares at people.

“After finishing the painting, I feel the ease of the person in the painting, that look of ‘even with a thick back, even 100 times fatter, still so confident,’ I hope I can be like that too.”

Fat is not scary

So, she posted this chubby girl on her social platform, with the caption: “I feel like there is a chubby girl living in my body“, unexpectedly attracting many comments from people who feel like there is a chubby girl inside and outside of themselves. Seeing everyone resonating with her post, Canaan also felt surprised.

Perhaps this kind of unease is traceable, such as those fat-reducing advertisements on the streets, attracting everyone’s attention with thin and beautiful spokespersons; or every time you open a social platform, you always see others building muscles, dieting, saying “seems to have gained weight,” “need to lose weight,” talking to themselves, and then can’t help but look at their own belly…

Difficult, is it about meeting the world’s standards, or about catering to, accommodating others’ gaze? “Always thinking that we are not thin enough, not pretty enough, maybe it’s just that we are too used to creating insecurity.” Canaan said seriously.

Afterwards, Canaan opened a social account for Fei Mei and named it “Fatty Fatty (Gigi Fong)”, demonstrating various natural but “cool” behaviors.

“At first, I only painted some more mundane scenes, such as tall buildings and picking one’s nose, basically angles or actions that I would never post myself; and I also want to use this identity and creation to create some counterbalance.”

Those hidden “fats”

“She is like an outer ego identity, allowing me to speak freely, without being confined by ‘Fang Jianan’.

Canaan looks back on his creative journey, from self-taught painting to entering the world of creation, it is more like a practice of releasing oneself from resistance. Over the past four years, from the first “Fat Fat” to exhibitions, picture books, self-created “Fat Heart Card” to the latest artwork “Transformation”, every step is a natural creation. “In fact, my creative process is about focusing on feeling every instinct in life.”

Although following intuition, seemingly unplanned and unpredictable works, unknowingly, most of the works are related to Canaan’s growth, and what she wants most is actually to express her inner thoughts and ideas to the closest people – that is the limitation of “Fang Canaan”.

From childhood to adulthood, everyone is taught how to become someone that others will like. Subconsciously, Canaan has a blueprint in her heart: to be a good daughter, granddaughter, girlfriend, wife, and even a good mother. But are these “life roles” truly her own? One day, this question suddenly split open in her heart, prompting her to ask, what kind of person am “I” really?

“In the process of searching for the true self, one actually experiences different splits and mergers, then tilts and balances, constantly repeating, and reaffirming oneself in every moment.”

Until Canaan went to the unfamiliar Canada, cut off from familiar people and things, she silently questioned herself. So when she returned to Hong Kong, she seemed to have undergone many changes. When everything no longer appeared as others expected, it gradually brought forth many contradictions and emotional entanglements, especially between her and her mother.

Those things that cannot be said, dare not be said, even need to be concealed or deceived, all make oneself unable to be free. So creation has become Canaan’s outlet, allowing “Zhi Zhi Fat” to realize those covered courage and self, recording important memories for her, expressing those unspeakable pains, such as the picture book “You’re Wrong”, which is her most candid story. “Actually, no one is wrong, there is no right or wrong in this matter, we are just not for each other. I hope we stop blaming each other, stop being trapped and hurting each other, let everyone be happy in their own way.”

Creating allows her to express freely and heal each other. So in her later work “Transformation”, she wrote behind the “fat” the harshest words she had ever said to her mother, such as “Doesn’t anyone tell you it’s abnormal now”, “pervert”, “Why do you take the wrong path”, “I gave birth to you to take my life”, etc. But she admitted that she dared not turn back for two weeks after writing it. It wasn’t until she saw a friend’s pregnancy photo on social media. “I suddenly felt that this form, state, is the moment between mother and child with only nutrition, love, and blessings, and it can transform our current attachments, conflicts, or love and hate.”

“Creating makes me no longer afraid to face, allowing me to be my true self.”

Utopia of Fat

“When I was young, my impression of artistic creation was going to see stage plays, visiting art exhibitions, or auctions. But when I started creating, I found myself being confined by those established impressions. My creation is not for putting on a grand art stage, but to get close to people.” She paused and continued, “Because creation itself is very personal, like stepping into or creating your own world, but at the same time I also enjoy, like and enjoy communicating with others.

From a young age, she has enjoyed chatting and “cooking phone congee”. She loves expressing herself and listening to others share, even before she had a studio, she had opened a platform on social media to share her thoughts and communicate with online “fat-heart friends”. Although she never thought about becoming a “social worker” or a psychologist, she said that she gained a lot of strength from these interactions. So, when asked to choose the most healing way for her, she answered without hesitation, “chatting”. “When chatting with others or answering your questions, I am expressing myself and speaking from the heart, and I feel that people nowadays really need a space to express themselves.”

Over the years, she has met many people and witnessed many people’s problems or worries. Later, she established “Fatty House” (her studio), holding various workshops with a focus on healing, especially a board game called “Transformation Game,” aimed at bringing everyone together.

And she unknowingly found her own “fat room” – which is now located in Shoreditch Street studio. “I remember a friend once told me that actually being able to start over in your childhood place is a very happy thing.”

As she walked, she looked at this place, with an indescribable tenderness in her eyes. She shared the bits and pieces of growing up here since she was young, whether it was going to school or family activities on holidays, all took place here. Even a corner, a brick, a tree, a flower, all have unique stories, all can feel the safety, warmth, and comfort this place brings to her.

So when she learned that there were units for rent on Stratton Street, she didn’t hesitate to go see the landlord, and even wrote a letter outlining the reasons she wanted to rent, showing both her rationality and impulsiveness in her words.

“In the letter, I mentioned many unforgettable stories of growth, such as memories of school, receiving the news of my father’s passing, my first job, and even now my mother still lives nearby, which makes me want to create here.” Like a park from childhood, it gives her an extraordinary sense of happiness. “So ‘Fatty House’ is not only my park, but also a park for other adults.”

“In daily life, it is easy to be criticized or judged after expressing oneself, cutting off the intention to express. But in the game, everyone has a chance to speak, not to give each other better advice or opinions, just to share their truth. And the Zhi Zhi Room is a space for others to have a conversation with themselves, to return to their original, purest self.”

Various methods to deal with fat

But with fat, how can one be called “beautiful”? “People must have fat. To say that fat is bad, of course, will make people think of diseases and death caused by excessive fat. But most people dislike the fat on their arms and faces, which is actually cute.”

Suddenly remembered a famous quote from Marilyn Monroe: “To all the girls that think you’re fat because you’re not a size zero, you’re the beautiful one, it’s society who’s ugly.”

So, Canaan’s creation “Fatty Fatty” gradually evolved from versions with appearance and body shape into different characters, some wearing Buddha robes, some in the form of candle gel, as if cosplaying any character, any thing, without limits. “‘Fatty Fatty’ to me, is a way to connect my soul with others more quickly. After all, Fang Canaan is just a layer of skin, but when you can connect with others using the inner layer of fat, that is the most touching, resonant, and powerful communication.”

Perhaps the creations of others are increasingly assisted by external objects, and their painting skills are becoming more complex, but every step she takes makes her creations more pure and refined. Perhaps it is because she has finally found the true meaning of “fat.”

“A few years ago, I used to think ‘fatty’ was ‘fatty’, Fang Jianan was Fang Jianan. Wanting to create distance, allowing ‘fatty’ to do things that Fang Jianan couldn’t do, say things that couldn’t be said, be truly oneself. Later I realized, only when ‘fatty’ and Fang Jianan merge, is it complete, the real self.”

To live openly, one must confront their fears. So, she chose to tear open her pain, then season and heal in her creations. So, how does she view “beauty”?

“I believe that ‘beauty’ has nothing to do with appearance, but rather when you can honestly face the darkness or light within yourself, you become more ‘beautiful’. Every time you make an effort to look at it, to experience it, it will bring you closer to your true self.”

At the end of the day, what we need is not layers of dressing up, but the courage to face reality. She has come this far, and I believe everyone can too. Have you drunk this cup of soul chicken soup about fat?

Executive Producer: Angus Mok
Producer: Mimi Kong
Interview & Editor: Louyi Wong
Videography: Zenus Ng, Kason Tam
Video Editor: Zenus Ng
Photography: Ken Yeung
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