Author: Artomity Magazine

Irene Chou

A World Within: The Art and Inspiration of Irene Chou / By Christie Lee / There’s been a revival of interest the world over during the past few years in the works of female artists, and not least in Hong Kong. One manifestation of this is an exhibition at the Asia Society of Irene Chou, the Hong Kong- and later Brisbane-based artist who illuminated the Hong Kong art scene with her abstract ink paintings in the mid to late 20th century. Born in Guangdong in 1919, Chou grew up in an artistic environment: her father was a writer, her mother a calligrapher. Lingnan School painter Zhao Shao’ang was her first ink-painting teacher but it wasn’t until 1966, when she began to study under Lui Shou-kwan, a Hong Kong artist who advocated that an artist should combine technique and individual expression in his or her art, that she began to find her own footing. From Zhao she learned technique; from Lui she learned to let go of imitation, a practice long revered in the traditional master-apprentice …

John Currin

Gagosian / Hong Kong / Nov 26 – Feb 29 / Christie Lee / “There is a kind of distortion that happens with adoration,” says John Currin. I’m not sure that’s true at the artist’s first show at Gagosian Hong Kong. Despite the blooming cheeks, perfect brows, rosy lips and impeccable curls, the artist’s portraits are more kooky than sweet. For one thing, the women are smiling with teeth. Showing the teeth used to be a breach of etiquette for the upper class—usually the only class who could afford the time to sit for formal portraits before the modern era. Whereas classical portraits usually feature solemn sitters, the women in Currin’s portraits have either delirious or vacant expressions. One would never expect a half-naked woman who is looking sideways out the frame to pull a sort of semi-insane smile. Nor would one expect a woman decked in a red robe in the style of a saint to be grinning stupidly. In The Philosopher, a woman decked in a brownish-grey trench coat and a bandana holds a wine bottle …

Sebastian Fagerlund

Höstsonaten / Grand Theatre, Hong Kong Cultural Centre / Hong Kong / Oct 18–19, 2019 / Ernest Wan / Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman’s Höstsonaten (Autumn Sonata, 1978) made its way to the operatic stage two years ago, when a two-act opera of the same title, with a screenplay-turned-libretto by Gunilla Hemming and a score for solo singers, choir and full orchestra by Sebastian Fagerlund – both Finns who regularly work in the Swedish language – was produced in Helsinki. This production was recently presented in Hong Kong by the government’s World Cultures Festival, of which this year’s theme was The Nordics. On this occasion, the music was performed by the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, the Malmö Opera Chorus and a cast of Scandinavian soloists, under the leadership of Swedish conductor Patrik Ringborg. The story tells of the unhappy reunion between Eva, who lives with her husband Viktor in his vicarage, and her visiting mother Charlotte, a successful touring pianist whom she has not seen for seven years. Charlotte’s egotistical pursuits have resulted in a long-standing neglect of …

Jaffa Lam

By Caroline Ha Thuc / A socially engaged artist, Jaffa Lam (b.1973) has always valued the process of creation more than finished works. For more than a decade she has been collaborating with an association of former workers in the Hong Kong textile industry, creating collective sculptures and art installations that have mostly been exhibited in public spaces. She mainly works with recycled materials: wood and trees from building sites, fabric from old umbrellas and natural elements found at the sites where she works. She treasures any form of craftsmanship and always tries to connect with local know-how. Inspired by her early training as a classical Chinese painter, she retains the poetic spirit of this tradition while anchoring her work within today’s social and political fabric. A free thinker, she maintains some distance from the art market, inviting the audience to resist a cold, efficient, money-driven system that tends to invade everybody’s lives. Caroline Ha Thuc: You began your art practice as a sculptor, working with wood from crates and other recycled materials, and engaging socially with local …

Ed van der Elsken

Hong Kong the Way It Was / By Christina Ko / As the city’s future hangs in the balance, historically and technically fascinating photos taken by Ed van der Elsken in 1959-60 transport viewers to Hong Kong’s past. The subject of F11 Foto Museum’s fifth-anniversary exhibition, Dutch photographer Ed van der Elsken’s photos of Hong Kong taken around 1959-60, has by coincidence or fate been tied to several important dates in the city’s democratic history. Hong Kong the Way It Was showcases familiar Hong Kong scenes through warm yet unfamiliar eyes. Van der Elsken was on a 13-month tour of the world when he stopped in the colony for three weeks, falling for this “prettiest of harbour cities”, as he termed it, though he showed but a few of the photographs publicly for almost three decades. In 1989, spurred by the events of Tiananmen Square, he dug up the film negatives – which had never been printed – and disappeared into his darkroom for over a month, despite having been diagnosed with a terminal disease the …

Liz Lau

Ceramics maker and LUMP Studio owner Liz Lau talks about three works by local artists in her collection. Chris Lo Sze Lim became my ceramics teacher when I moved back to Hong Kong from London in 2015. He was a generous and invaluable advisor when I was planning the opening of my own workshop, LUMP Studio, and we have worked closely since then on the Hong Kong Dragon Kiln Concern Group, which is dedicated to the preservation of an 80-year-old, 20-metre-long outdoor ceramic kiln in Tuen Mun. I love Chris’s works because they are full of the ebb and flow of emotion. This piece was made for his last solo exhibition in Hong Kong, in 2016. It tells a beautiful, bittersweet story of Ah Bo the stuffed koala bear. Chris used to take Ah Bo everywhere and loved pressing his face into its round head. One day, more tired and stressed then usual, his mom was tidying around the house when she found Ah Bo under the couch. Frustrated by the mess, she ripped Ah Bo’s head clean …

Community arts: Supporting or Subverting the Establishment?

By Samson Wong / “Is [sic] the community arts becoming too close to the establishment?” my fellow contributor Queenie Liu asked me during the writers’ panel at the launch of Art Readers on Art – Hong Kong (I), a new bilingual volume by seven local artists and scholars. All seven were in attendance, including art historian Linda Lai Chiu Han and artist Ho Siu Kee. Liu’s chapter is on political art, while mine looks at the experiential side of participation in community art, defined here as a practice in which the art-making process aims to help people with their wellbeing – two very different artistic approaches to social intervention. The question presupposes a suspicion of the state that current applies in Hong Kong but is certainly not limited to it. Liu’s observation, though pointed, is commonly put to community artists. The argument has been most strongly formulated by art historian Claire Bishop, one of community art’s harshest critics. She described the UK’s community art movement between 1970s to 1980s as simply “an agitational force campaigning …

Tang Kwong San, Kwong Man Chun, Apple Wong Hiu Fung

Long to Belong  / Contemporary by Angela Li / Hong Kong / Nov 21 – Dec 14, 2019 / Valencia Tong / In a city divided by prolonged social upheaval, three young emerging artists from Hong Kong contemplate their place in the world and what it means to belong. A common thread that links the works on view at the exhibition Long to Belong at Contemporary by Angela Li is a hazy sort of nostalgia, which arises from these individuals’ deep, dream-like introspection. Amid the prevailing anxiety that lingers like thick fog over the city’s uncertain future, the show, part of Hong Kong Art Week’s Art Gallery Night, draws a large crowd. To the left of the entrance, Kwong Man Chun’s oil painting Huang Cen Ling and Tenement House (2017) captures the artist’s journey of retracing his roots while simultaneously juxtaposing scenes of the past against those of the present. He flattens both space and time as they collide into the depiction of a single interior space, visualising his transition from a rural setting in mainland China …

Shirley Tse

Stakeholders, Hong Kong in Venice / La Biennale di Venezia / Venice / May 11 – Nov 19, 2019 / John Batten / “Butterflies stir a breeze and the ripples flow unceasingly: far away the cyclones swirl. It’s a whole, connected world. Oh, Gaia!” * Shirley Tse’s tactile, predominantly hand-crafted installations at last year’s Venice Biennale were a unique offering. Her Stakeholders presentation in the indoor ground-floor rooms and adjacent outdoor courtyard of the three-storey residential building in the Hong Kong pavilion at the Venice Biennale was not whizz-bang technology or smart-idea-as-art; nor was it not big-so-I-must-be-noticed or I’m-backed-by-a-big-gallery. It was refreshingly uncomplicated, using found and natural objects, unconsciously recycled and studiously repurposed. It allowed contemplation and a place for the public to rest and consider: the artist installed a row of simple aluminium bleachers; elevated, rowed seating usually found next to a sports court. Directly in front of these seats was an imagined abstracted game of badminton, Playcourt. Inside, glimpsed from the courtyard through open doors was the sprawling installation Negotiated Differences. Thinking was encouraged at the Hong Kong …

The 3rd Jockey Club New Arts Power Presents: Borrowed Scenery & Flâneur

Dec 14, 2019 – Jan 12, 2020 12 to 7pm Unit 12, Cattle Deport Artist Village63 Ma Tau Kok RoadTo Kwa Wan, Kowloon Multimedia exhibition Borrowed SceneryThe multimedia exhibition Borrowed Scenery is exploring urban development issues in the 21st century. The participating artists include C&G, Ko Sin-tung, Kong Chun-hei, Vvzela Kook, Sarah Lai, Lai Lon-hin and Ocean Leung.  Through installation art, video, photos and other media, the partaking artists illustrate their imagination generated by the urban space, interpret their observations and feelings of the city, and reveal their expectations for the liberation of public realm and the civil rights. The artists also look at the current issues from their unique perspectives and, in the process, explore and examine the way in which art reflects and responds to the urban phenomena. Extended outdoor performance FlâneurPresented as an extended performance of the exhibition, curators André Chan and Jing Chin-yin Chong collaborate with choreographer Sarah Xiao to create the 30-minute outdoor performance Flâneur deliberately for busy downtown Tsim Sha Tsui. The name of “Tsim Sha Tsui” was recorded in the classics as early as in the Ming Dynasty. Subsequently, …