Space and Memory 空間與記憶 / Whitestone Gallery 香港白石畫廊 / Hong Kong / Aug 31 – Sep 30, 2021 / Christie Lee /
Hong Kong provides interesting material to mull over ideas of space and memory. The city’s density means that every day there are legions of personal and collectives memories being made. But the city’s ultra-capitalist mindset means that the new often replaces old at blistering pace. In the past few years, there have been concerted efforts by various parties in society and politics to preserve, rub out or construct memories.
Space and Memory, an exhibition of three Hong Kong artists at Whitestone Gallery curated by Aimee Man, examines memory’s role in place-making and identity construction. Although cast as a group exhibition, it feels like three individual exhibitions, all exploring the same theme, instead of an exhibition where works by the artists are knitted together by a focused narrative.
At first glance, Tang Kwong-san’s works lean towards the personal. The first thing you see in the space might be ’96 7 14 (2020), a life-size painting of the infant artist sitting on his mother’s lap. Memory doesn’t just allow him to travel through time and space, it creates space itself; the painting is drawn from a small photograph the artist found in his former home in mainland China. On either side of the painting are Diaspora I & II (2021), two paintings inspired by The Bamboo Curtain, a 1978 BBC documentary about illegal immigrants fleeing Chinese Communist rule. Tang is a a sensitive painter, which comes through in Diaspora II, where the interplay of light and darkness obscures the limbs of the immigrants, adding to the dire circumstances of these so-called “freedom swimmers”. The artist and his family immigrated to Hong Kong when he was still a child, though by much safer means. Collective and personal memories coalesce in this space of reflection: how much can we leverage our own experiences to understand another’s plight?
In the next room, Szelit Cheung’s orange-red paintings appear to be free from any time or memory. There is ample space but no living being in it. And yet, when you situate yourself at the centre of the paintings, you are hyper-aware of the existence of a gap or interval in these paintings, as if just a moment ago, these spaces were occupied by someone – or something. This sense of emptiness is heightened by Cheung’s deft strokes, with the light filtering in from above and through the slits between walls, casting shadow with precise angles on walls and floors, and doors leading to a light-bathed spaces, all emphasising the unknown thing missing from the composition.
Showing the most personal objects of three artists, Tap Chan’s space is ironically the most difficult to penetrate. A mirror with a purplish-green surface is inspired by Lewis-Carrol’s Through the Looking Glass, yet when you try to peer through, there is nothing there. Two puffy headboards are hoisted on the wall, their colourful sides facing it. Despite the domestic setting, the objects and the space they occupy don’t convey warmth. Instead, the white hues and polyester-like aesthetic bring to mind hospital beds and curtains, where beneath the polished veneer of control lies discord. One wonders: what memories are being suppressed beneath the pristine whiteness?
Featured image: Shifted Tyvek by Tap Chan, Sponge, wood, plastic, 150x84x26, set of 2, 2021.
初看，鄧廣燊的作品非常個人化。在真人大小的繪畫《 ’96 7 14》（2020年）中，嬰兒時期的他坐在母親腿上。這幅畫源於鄧氏在中國大陸老家中找到的一張小照片。記憶不但讓他穿越了時空，同時也構建了新的空間。畫作的兩旁分別擺放著《渚 I & II 》系列（2021年）。這兩幅畫靈感源於1978年BBC的紀錄片《竹簾》，該片圍繞逃離中國共產統治的非法移民。 他是個非常有感知力的畫家，透過光和影的映照讓移民的四肢變得模糊不清，突出這些所謂「投奔自由的泳者」的危急處境。鄧氏本身在孩提時便隨家人通過較安全的途徑移民到香港。此時集體和個人記憶一同彙集在這個反省空間裡：我們究竟利用多少個人經歷去理解別人的困境？