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Lau Hok Shing, So Wing Po, Zhang Ruyi 劉學成、蘇詠寶、張如怡

Amid columns of art books at Blindspot Gallery’s Wong Chuk Hang office is what looks like an object belonging in a Chinese scholar’s study. But stare at it a bit longer and an image of a tear gas cloud – a common sight on Hong Kong streets in the second half of 2019 – comes to mind. Suddenly, an object that supposedly inspires turns into one that muddles and impedes. This ambiguity threads through most of the works at The Palm at the End of the Mind, a group show by three artists, Lau Hok Shing, So Wing Po and Zhang Ruyi. The title, lifted from the first line of Wallace Stevens’ poem Of Mere Being, is something of a riddle.

Which palm does Stevens refer to here – the palm of a hand or a palm tree? (It turns out to be the latter.) And never mind what lies at the end of mind – what, precisely, is the end of the mind? Despite the mind being human, the poem appears to be reaching for something beyond the limit of human consciousness. 

Ewha in the Storm by Zhang Ruyi, Wall tiles, floor drain, cement, electrical wires, wood, steel rods, 71 x 84 x 84 cm, 2020. Courtesy the artist and Blindspot Gallery.

“There’s something in the art that you don’t quite understand. It looks familiar but there’s also distance between the work and the audience,” says Lau, who created the aforementioned work, Fence of Cloud I (2020), when asked how he interprets the exhibition title. 

The artist’s pièce de résistance in the exhibition is Remote Islands (2020), a composed installation of wooden globes, cubes and rocks atop a polished acrylic table. It looks like a traditional Chinese garden but there is also something off about it – in the specks of black dust that adorn the wooden globes and cubes. The artist says that the ink has been mixed with dirt and dust collected from various parts of the city, including protest sites. “I’d originally intended it as documentation of sorts, but later I realised I wanted to include it in the work.” Lau pauses, before adding: “There are probably remnants of teargas canisters. There must be. Given how many were fired off.” The wooden globes and cubes sit on top of glass slats which are inked with images of the city, including Victoria Harbour, protest graffiti and the sky above the government offices in Admiralty. Irregularly shaped rocks, beautiful in their ruggedness, are stuck precariously onto the top of the globes and cubes, completing a composition of so much beauty yet also unspeakable anguish. “You have got this elegant fixture, but within the context of the piece, they’re like monsters – crushing whatever is underneath.” 

While Lau’s work plays with different temporalities and the idea of beauty, So’s works destabilise the line between human and nature. They continue the artist’s investigation into the human ear, but also allow her to excavate intersections between the human body, nature and science. Earth Battery (2020) is constructed to simulate how we receive and perceive sound. At one end of gigantic installation made of transparent globes is a sound receiver; at the other end, a dead cicada. Chinese spices and herbs fill the globes, a nod to So’s family’s business. “These Chinese spices and herbs are rich in mineral ions, which provide that transmitting power,” she says. When someone speaks into the receiver, sound waves pass through the system until they reach the cicada, which glows to indicate that sound has been transmitted. So says she wants to draw parallels between the system within an ear and that of our bodies, society and the universe. Amplifying the different elements of the structure also exposes its fragility: it only takes the wires that link the globes to be cut for the entire system to collapse.

Remote Island 1 by Lau Hok Shing, Wood, ink, acrylic, saw dust, dust, sand, debris found on the streets, 45.4 x 40 x 30.2 cm, 2020. Courtesy the artist and Blindspot Gallery.

There is also a wax sculpture of an ear lying atop a hand installed on the wall. The bizarre-looking yet memorable piece is a misinterpretation of Stevens’ poem, which the gallery and artist had thought referred to the palm of a hand. “If we imagine the ear to be its own mini universe … to think that you can hold the universe in your hand,” she says.

On the floor are about a dozen abalone shells that open and close, each at its own pace. Some are quieter, others louder; some are slower, others faster, as if they are clamouring to be heard. So lifts one of them to reveal a tiny motor nestled within it. “I had this idea of turning them into cyborgs,” she says. “I don’t know why, but some of them have edged away from their original positions.” As the two halves of the shells knock together, lulling us with their hypnotic chorus, the visitor suddenly becomes aware of a greater sound coming from the dimmer end of the gallery. Is it the construction upstairs or does the sound come from within the gallery itself?

The work, Domestic Wasteland (2020), features four metal sheets that look like commemorative plaques placed against the wall. Behind them are tucked loudspeakers projecting sounds recorded at a construction site in mainland China. The idea was to pluck something one encounters in a construction site, whether metal sheets or sound, and re-situate it in a commercial gallery, Zhang says. The irony, of course, is that the piece is embedded within a space that is in turn embedded within a construction site.

Sea Ear Hi-hat (Detail) by So Wing Po, Abalone shells, motors, brass, size variable, 2020. Next spread: Cicada Sound Collector by So Wing Po, Herbs, microphone, cicada shell, LED light, size variable, 2020. Courtesy the artist and Blindspot Gallery.

Zhang’s Ewha in the Storm (2020) plays with different temporalities and the dichotomy of human and nature. Made of cement, electrical wires, steel rods and wood, it takes the form of a cactus which, upon closer inspection, plays host to tiny sprouts of bronze wire. It’s plopped atop a ceramic tile that is equipped with a drain – a cheeky oxymoron, given that the plant lives in extremely dry conditions.

“The cactus is a very old plant that is usually found in the desert,” says the artist. “Putting it in a modern, commercial setting, I find that contrast quite interesting. There is also that visual parallel between the cactus column and the gallery columns.”

This is nowhere more apparent than in Matte Substance-12 (2020). Installed against a gallery column, it is big and monstrous-looking, and has as its pedestal a bulbous rock that the artist excavated from a construction site. Wires extend from the cactus to fasten it to the rock, recalling retro androids from 80s Japanese animations. Visually, it is a foe of sorts to Lau’s Remote Islands. Where the latter masks disturbances with beauty, Matte Substance-12 is bulging, its protrusions out there for all to see, a succinct commentary on the hybrid, messy and disorienting nature of our urban landscape. 

The exhibition is a tribute to various objects that make up our landscape and our existence. As So says: “It’s amazing how one material can be broken down and, when one of these broken pieces is infused with another, become a completely different object.”

Yet there is also a gap in understanding, an ambiguity in the agency inherent in these objects – are they man-made constructs through and through, or is the artist’s job merely to tease out tremors and codes intrinsic to them? We, as humans, will never know.


刺點畫廊的黄竹坑辦公室內,有著許多放有藝術書籍的書櫃,櫃上置有一件物件,看似是一位中國學者書房內的擺設。凝視它許久後,一團催淚煙的意象浮現在腦海中,這是2019年下旬在香港街頭司空見慣的景象。剎那間,一件本應啟發觀者的物件,卻混淆和阻礙我們的觀感認知。這份曖昧遊走於「在意識盡頭的掌心」群展,展出三位藝術家劉學成、蘇詠寶和張如怡的作品。展覽名稱取材於華萊士·史蒂文斯的詩《關於存在》,聽起來像個謎。

史蒂文斯詩句中的「Palm」是指掌心或是棕櫚樹 ?(結果是後者)到底在意識的盡頭有著什麼?這亦不重要了。什麼是意識盡頭?縱使這關乎人類的意識,但這首詩要說的卻是超乎人類意識所理解。

談到如何解讀展覽名稱,劉學成說道:「在藝術的場域中,有些事是超乎我們可理解,看似熟悉的作品,但其實和觀眾有著一段距離。」上述的作品就是他的《雲欄(一)》(2020年)。

Domestic Wasteland by Zhang Ruyi, Metal plates, sound, size variable Edition of 3 + AP, 2020. 
Courtesy the artist and Blindspot Gallery.

劉學成的參展代表作是《離嶼》(2020年),這件裝置含有木球、方塊、經過打磨的亞克力膠板及置在上方的石頭。作品看似是傳統的中式庭園,但塗在木球和方塊上黑色的灰塵斑駁,卻讓它看來不太像庭園。藝術家在香港不同地方,包括抗議遊行的場地,撿拾塵土和垢物,然後混合至墨水去。「我原本打算通過這些撿拾物來作不同的記錄,但後來我想把它們置入作品當中。」他沉默了一會,繼續說:「撿拾物當中可能有著催淚彈筒的殘骸,一定有的,因為發出的數量如此多。」作品中,木球和方塊置在玻璃板上,板上以墨彩繪上香港的景觀,包括維港、與抗爭有關的塗鴉和金鐘政府大樓上的天空。不同形狀的石頭,參差不齊的粗糙感流露一份美;它們置在木球和方塊上,看似快要掉下來,此番構圖不但美得令人著迷,而且表現出一份說不出的痛苦。藝術家分享:「若把這優雅的固定構圖,放在現時的社會脈絡中解讀,這些石頭就如妖魔怪獸,把所有在下面的都要壓碎。」

劉學成的作品把玩不同的短暫性及美的觀念,蘇詠寶卻把人與大自然之間的界線變得不穩定。她的展出作品繼續探索人的耳朵,並讓她發掘人體、大自然和科學之間的交會處。《地球電池》(2020年)模擬我們如何接收和理解聲音,這件大型裝置由多個透明球體組成,一端是一個收音器,另一端是一隻死去的蟬。球體中放入中式香料和草藥,這跟藝術家的家族中藥事業有關,她分享:「這些草藥含有豐富的礦物離子,能加強人體的傳送能力。」當觀眾對著收音器說話,聲波將經過整個裝置系統,傳送至蟬去,蟬繼而發光,表示接收到聲波。藝術家希望從人耳系統找到與人體、社會和宇宙相似的地方,把系統結構的每一處放大,同時亦暴露它的脆弱:只要剪斷連結球體的線,整個系統就會倒塌下來。

一件臘製雕塑置在一道牆上,呈現一隻手,手心上是一隻人耳。這件作品看來詭異,但令人難忘,創作概念源自畫廊和藝術家誤讀了史蒂文斯的詩,以為當中的「Palm」是指掌心。蘇詠寶道:「若我們想像耳朵是它的小小宇宙,那你就能夠把宇宙握在手中。」

大約一打的鮑魚殼在地上,以自己的速度來開合:安靜的、嘈吵的、緩慢的和快速的,它們好像想要被聽見。藝術家拿起其中一個鮑魚殼,展示內置的一個小磨打,她說:「不知道為什麼,我一直想把它們改造成半機械的,但有些已移離它們原本的位置。」當它們開合時,就像歌隊發出令人昏昏欲睡的聲音,觀眾突然會聽到在畫廊另一頭陰暗處發出較響亮的聲音,那是樓上裝修的聲音或是畫廊內發出來的響聲?

Planter-4 by Zhang Ruyi, Rock fragment, cactus spikes, acrylic, plastic, 
17 x 16 x 11 cm, 2020.

那是作品《室內荒原》(2020年) ,當中四塊看似紀念碑的金屬板靠在牆上,每塊板後置有揚聲器,播放著在中國大陸的建築工地收錄的聲音。作品的概念是使用工地的元素,無論是金屬板或錄取的聲音,再放置在一個商業畫廊裡,從而再製造另一情景。藝術家張如怡指出,這部作品的矛盾是在一個空間播放的聲音,原來是來自一個建築工地。

張如怡的《暴雨梨花》(2020年),把弄各種短暫性,及人與大自然的二元對立關係。作品由混凝土、電綫、鋼筋和木板製成,看似是一棵仙人掌,再細看之下,可見一些短小的青銅綫仿如刺般生長出來。作品置在一片瓷磚板上,板上裝有地漏。地漏隱喻的水和仙人掌生長的極度乾燥環境,製造出一份幽默的矛盾。

「仙人掌是一種在地球生長許久的植物,通常出現在沙漠。」藝術家繼續分享:「把它放置在一個現代、商業化的背景,我覺得那種對比非常有趣,豎立的仙人掌和畫廊的柱子,在視覺上也有相似的地方。」

藝術家指的相比,在她的《暗色之物 no.12》(2020年)更能彰顯出來。這件巨大、看來駭人的作品靠著畫廊的一根柱子,它的底座是一顆球根狀的石頭,是她從一個建築工地撿拾的。仙人掌上的電綫,嫁接到底下的石頭,令人想起八十年代日本動畫內的懷舊機器人。視覺上,這部作品與劉學成的《離嶼》可謂是對手,《離嶼》用美感來隱藏不安感,而尖突和鼓脹的《暗色之物 no.12》較搶眼,簡潔有力地評論我們城市現時的混雜和令人迷失的狀況。

是次展覽向構成我們城市和存在的不同物品致敬,就如蘇詠寶道:「令人驚嘆的是一種物料可被分割開來,當其中一種和另一種結合,卻可組成另一件完全不一樣的物件。」

可是,在理解作品的過程中,也是有斷層的,在這些物件中有一份曖昧的介入特質,它們是人造的製成物,或是藝術家故意在它們從中抽取出來的刺激感或編碼?我們人類永遠無法知道。

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