Author: Artomity Magazine

Lee Kai Chung

Of Myth and Memory / By Christina Ko / It’s research, but call it art – Hong Kong artist Lee Kai Chung’s practice questions the nature and reliability of archival documentation, and his latest focus is a chilling incident that should have been difficult to erase The setting for Lee Kai Chung’s latest exhibition, The Narrow Road to the Deep Sea, at ACO art space, is small, and holds just five works. But the show’s impact on the mind is big. The starting point and impetus for these works, as with all of Lee’s output, is a historical incident – in this case the Nanshitou Massacre, a blip in our collective history that is little known and documented. The episode, which harks back to the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong during World War II, begins with an attempt at population control, in which some half of the city’s 1.6 million population were expatriated or repatriated. Of that 800,000, an estimated 100,000 ended up detained at a concentration camp at Nanshitou in Guangzhou, where they were subjected to bacteriological experimentation for germ …

Octavia Fox

Food historian Octavia Fox talks about three of her favourite pieces in her collection. Antonio Casadei was an Italian artist working in Hong Kong during the 60s and 70s. His name is now little known but you would have walked past his work on numerous occasions: the ceramic screens in Statue Square are his, as are the back-lit glass wall in the lobby of the St George’s Building and the public sculptures in Mei Foo Sun Chuen. I think he was a great ceramicist and he must have had a substantial kiln somewhere in Hong Kong to produce works like the chunky bas reliefs which once graced the lobbies of the Prince’s Building. I have two of his paintings, which my father bought when Casadei was selling art door to door – most probably on his arrival in 1962. These paintings must have been produced in Italy before his arrival but they are, for me, very much a part of that era in Hong Kong. Eizō Katō was a Japanese landscape artist who worked in both Hong Kong and Japan. …

Various artists

Threading Through Time / The Mills / Hong Kong / Jan 10–19, 2020 / Ernest Wan / Completed in late 2018, the revitalisation of the three remaining factories of Nan Fung Cotton Mills pays tribute to the industrial past of Hong Kong, once a leader in global yarn production. Jockey Club New Arts Power recently presented a series of installations and 45-minute performances at several locations within this complex of buildings in Tsuen Wan, now a hip attraction known simply as The Mills. For the project, Threading Through Time, participating artists had been asked to respond to The Memory of Herbs, a newly commissioned short story by Chan Wai that chronicles a woman’s career as a textile worker and, implicitly, celebrates Hongkongers’ can-do spirit over half a century. The three installations that make up Kay Chan’s Literary Walk are straightforward. One of them, situated on bridges connecting two buildings, consists of panels on which excerpts from the short story are displayed, and vintage telephones through whose handsets a recording of such excerpts is played back with background music by Fung …

C&G Artpartment

By Caroline Ha Thuc / Artists, curators, art educators and cultural workers at large, Clara Cheung and Gum Cheng founded C&G Artpartment in Hong Kong in 2007. Since then, this alternative art space in Mongkok has been nurturing the local art scene, addressing in particular local social and political issues through the practice of art, conceived as a potent agent of dialogue and change. Through exhibitions, public programmes, art initiatives and participatory projects, Cheung and Cheng have engaged various communities with the idea that art participates in the building of a more inclusive and collective society. Last November, Clara Cheung was elected as a district councilor for Happy Valley. Caroline Ha Thuc: First of all, congratulations on your election. How do you balance your work as a citizen now fully engaged in politics and as an artist? Clara Cheung: I participated in the election as a citizen, but because of my cultural background I cannot separate these two roles. This background influences my perception of the world. The reason why I really wanted to run in Happy Valley is because I …

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 …