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Chris Huen Sin Kan

Of Humdrum Moments /
Pilar Corrias /
London /
19 May – 17 Jun, 2017 /
Alex Quicho /

Hong Kong artist Chris Huen Sin Kan exhibited eight large paintings at London’s Pilar Corrias gallery, each dedicated to a fleeting everyday moment – moments that Huen believes are forgotten in the narrative of our everyday lives.

These are drawings more than paintings: painted in oil, colours nonetheless appear as distinct, as if from a marker pen. As confidence underpins shakiness, something about Huen’s style seems purposely naive. Observing the convergence of so much movement to reveal unspoiled white ground raises questions about the mechanisms of his apparent spontaneity.

Once undervalued, the snapshot finds itself prized today. From Wolfgang Tillmans to Juergen Teller, many artists have found the exalted in the in-between, fine-tuning our whittled attention spans to appreciate otherwise neglected details. In Huen’s work, the freeze-frame quality of mercurial surfaces – the water in a kiddie pool, the twist of dense foliage, a restless dog’s sudden gaze – hints at photographic reference material. The snap of a shutter seals an otherwise fleeting instance into something that can be obsessed over. Huen’s line work is dizzying and always active, finding movement of light, texture and shadow in even the smoothest of tile. It fits the paintings’ charged domesticity: a still life, resplendent with houseplants, isn’t still but vibratory, with smatterings of outline, vine and shadow commingling to form an energetic whole.

In her most recent book, Staying with the Trouble, theorist Donna Haraway suggests “making kin” with other creatures as a productive, paradoxical way to reassert our own humanity. Huen sees a dog or a tree as equally worthy of attention as any grand theme. In one piece, his wife and son are represented with a light touch, their bodies primarilymade from the white void of canvas. The banana tree behind them holds the most material weight, shaded in a deep, verdant green that feels true to life. Otherwise, the work feels richly brittle, with hallucinatory blurred bounding lines. If the work suggests that the mundane is important, it’s not through over-exalting what would otherwise be forgotten. Instead, Huen emphasises the fragility of time, and of the myriad small energies contained within it.

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