Sze Tsung Leong: Keeping His Eye on the Horizon (Line)

PHILIP GEFTER – The New York Times

Copyright The New York Times
April 6, 2008
THE soft-colored photographs of Sze Tsung Leong capture contrasting landscapes: the verdant green of Germany; the mirage of shimmering towers in Dubai; the urban geometry of Amman, Jordan; the red tiles roofs of Italy. But always the eye is drawn to the distinct line where sky meets earth.
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Courtesy of Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
“Amman, Jordan, 2007.”
In Mr. Leong’s panoramic photographs of major cities and rural landscapes around the world, the horizon line consistently falls in the same place. So when his images are hung side by side — as 62 of them are now at the Yossi Milo Gallery in Chelsea — they create an extended landscape of ancient cities and modern metropolises, desert vistas and lush terrain.
“The horizon is such a basic way of comprehending the space around us, comprehending our basic relationship to the globe,” Mr. Leong said one recent morning over tea in Manhattan.
If the horizon seems to offer possibilities, he said, it also establishes a boundary. “In terms of looking, the horizon is the farthest we can see,” he explained, yet in terms of knowledge, it reflects “the limit of experience.”
For the last seven years Mr. Leong, a 38-year-old Chinese-American with a British accent and a Mexican birth certificate, has expanded his experience by traveling to unfamiliar cities, where his first priority is to find a sweeping view from an elevated position.
“When I’m really familiar with a place, it is more difficult to visualize it,” he said, citing New York, his home, as an example. “But being confronted with a new situation, I find that I’m more aware of things visually.” He traveled to Amman because he hoped the uniform construction of its buildings might cast an even pattern and tone across the surrounding hills, which would offer him distant vantage points. And the Roman ruins there attracted him as a reminder of the reach of the Roman Empire across national borders.
He often travels alone to new cities. Asked about his sense of isolation during his five days in Amman, he referred to his childhood in Mexico City, where he lived until his family moved to Los Angeles when he was 11. “There’s always a sense that was natural to me from the beginning of being an outsider,” he said. “I don’t think about feeling foreign, because that is the natural state.”
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