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New Moroism at White Cube Hong Kong 

Inside the White Cube: New Moroism /
May 31 – 9 Sep, 2023 /

White Cube Hong Kong /
50 Connaught Road, Central /
Hong Kong /
+852 2592 2000 /
Tuesday – Saturday, 11am – 7pm /

whitecube.com

White Cube Hong Kong is pleased to present New Moroism, a group exhibition which brings together four artists who seek to expand the parameters and ideation of figuration in painting.

Part of an emerging generation of artists whose roots are in Asia, Michael HoChris Huen Sin KanTimothy Lai and Su Yu-Xin reflect a new approach and sensibility, responsive to trans-regional shifts and migration. Embracing the concept of ambiguity within their paintings, the artists each explore Moroism, an aesthetic paradigm which is derived from the ‘mōrōtai’ style (mōrō literally translated as ‘vague’ or ‘indistinct’) that emerged in Japan of the late Meiji era (1868–1912), also found as a pictorial intention originating in traditional Chinese painting theory. 

Determined by the artists’ shared East Asian heritage, the works in this exhibition are grounded in personal narrative. 

Chris Huen Sin Kan’s large-scale oil paintings feature a recurring cast of characters including his wife, son, daughter and dogs. Painted directly from memory, the artist places life’s fleeting moments at the core of his work. 

Incorporating a palette of gradated skin tones and elongated, distorted brushstrokes, Timothy Lai examines the ambiguity and tension of his pan-Asian identity and considers the increasingly complex interplay between nationality and race within today’s global society.

Su Yu-Xin’s dynamic landscape paintings are a testament to her meticulous practice. Inspired by the traditional ‘boneless’ method of Chinese brush painting, the artist creates her own hand-made pigments from collected natural materials, which she applies to the surface in layered washes to construct nebulous, multi-perspective horizons.

Employing a similarly rigorous process, Michael Ho adopts a unique painting technique which involves pushing paint from the back of the canvas and superimposing images on the front. A second-generation Chinese immigrant, this method serves as a parallel to Ho’s quest for duality. 

Read more on Inside the White Cube: New Moroism at White Cube

For enquiries, please contact enquiries@whitecube.com


Leung Chi Wo

For decades, Leung Chi Wo has been exploring the history and historical sites of Hong Kong, mixing archival material with photographs, videos, texts and multimedia installations. While his research-based practice brings forth the contradictions and complexities of historiography, it also injects fantasies, intimacy and emotion into collective narratives. Time, and how to embody its multiple dimensions, is the artist’s main subject, reflected in the title of his new solo exhibition, Past-Future Tense, opening in May 2023 at Blindspot Gallery.

Caroline Ha Thuc: You have recently been to London to look for archives dealing with British plans for the future of Hong Kong after World War Two. What drove you to do so? Leung Chi Wo: I don’t really know why, but I always feel dragged to stories which read unreal but are true, or vice versa. And historical subjects are mostly such: they always claim to be real. They’re sort of far away and so close at the same time. And supposedly, I am part of a colonial history which has been erased and rewritten, and now denied as well. It is a contest and perhaps it is also a self-searching process.

CHT: For a long time, the history of Hong Kong tended to be neglected, but things have changed. Which erasure are you referring to? LCW: Since the 90s, Hong Kong studies have really developed a lot, but there is still plenty of room for historical exploration. However, I’m interested in it not simply because there is not enough work done, and neither can I make many contributions anyway. Rather, it is the subject being just around and so close to me that makes my engagement possible, sometimes even through physical experiences like visiting a site. From there, I can develop personal involvement, memory and projection.

Of course, I am sceptical about the official version of history. We may be more liberal with the premodern part, which feels more remote and less personal. More recent parts, particularly those that may be at variance with our own memory, will prompt more critical perspectives, sometimes emotional and sentimental, though. For example, the official views of the Hong Kong government on the 1967 riots before the handover now have shifted drastically. 

CHT: It seems that now you are looking at history from a fresh perspective, choosing to focus on the British side. Why this shift? LCW: I don’t see it as a shift. It’s more of a pragmatic and convenient approach. I wish China and its Hong Kong government would have archives with similar transparency and accessibility. Anyway, I work with what is available to me. I’m not very determined and very often find something interesting totally by chance.

CHT: Archives can be dry and investigations burdensome. After so many years looking into archives, have you developed your own methodology of approaching and working with them? LCW: I find myself exploring, side-tracking and shifting my attention all the time during research. My artwork reflects this trajectory and, sometimes, people complain that it is evading any conclusion. Working with textual material, for me, is no different from dealing with ready-mades—my arbitrary transformation, perhaps, saves me from tedious research. 

For my new exhibition at Blindspot Gallery, I have had several conversations with the new in-house curator Jims Lam. He introduced to me the term “seminaut”, coined by Nicolas Bourriaud for those artists who surf between times and signifiers. I didn’t know about that, but somehow I feel it is familiar.

ENEMY BOMBING by Leung Chi Wo, 12 marble sculptures, dimensions variable,
each element approx. 30 x 30 x 30cm, 2011. Courtesy the artist.

CHT: You work from different types of archives, images and texts. You especially like scrutinising texts and questioning their consistency. In We must construct as well as destroy (2010-12), for instance, you played with the ambiguities of the word “enemy” used in monuments, and verbal communication has always occupied an important part of your work. LCW: I like to draw an analogy with cooking. You have the ingredients but no less important – actually, the most important for art – is the approach. It is both technical and creative, rational and emotional. I am that kind of cook who prepares his own meals: “enemy bombing” [the work originates in repaired bullet holes in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council Building, which are said to have been created by an unknown enemy] is the egg, and I wanted to transform the egg so it no longer looks like an egg but remains an egg by nature or taste and smell. It becomes “MMONEY BBEING”, “BIG B MONEY MEN,” “BINGO BE MY MEN,” or anything you can turn to. It is a letter arrangement game, down to earth and banal while made of marble. I played on the paradox. It is actually a very formal approach—my artistic articulation can be fed back into the concept; perhaps that is surfing between ideas and realisations too.

CHT: On the other hand, photographic archives led you to develop many series and works about the anonymous people who make history without ever being recognised. Do you treat these sources differently? LCW: I think they are similar. It is a radical thought, but possible. The unknown passer-by in a photo remains unknown for a very long time until one day we recognise we are actually the unknown person in the background in each other’s photos. Once in a while, you hear this kind of true story. And [the fact that people believe something to be true] is a very important element of storytelling. This is why I like to see and employ photos and relics in my work. We all have goodwill to believe and we like to explore anonymity. That keeps the myth rolling and triggers our imagination: this can be me, you or anyone. Keeping the text away – only for a while; those who want to read will read – is just a trick to allow different interpretations. 

Frater by Leung Chi Wo, Sewing machine, black & white negative film, 1967 Hong Kong 50-cent coins, low speed-motor and steel frame, 55 x 65 x 146.5cm, 2015. Courtesy the artist and Blindspot Gallery.

CHT: In parallel to your research on archives, you keep looking for old, mundane objects that embody the past, such as the sewing machine that you used for Frater (2015). How do you identify the right ambassadors for your time travel? LCW: So much is by chance. I allow the objects to find me, but I do spend time exploring the interpretations of an object. Of course, there are hints too. In Frater, I had some parameters, such as the 1967 riots and my family story. Sufficient time is also a crucial factor: you can leave an object for some time and see how more research can give it a chance [at being used].  

CHT: How much do aesthetics matter in this process? LCW: A lot, as in the surfing experience I mentioned before. But aesthetics are not only about looking good. They are about the judgement that you feel right: something makes you happy after you made that decision.

Shenzhen Mine 1973 by Leung Chi Wo, Video projection, photographs, sound, found objects, electric fan, press button switch, dimensions variable, 2015. Courtesy of the artist.

CHT: More generally, how do you look at objects, beyond the historical narratives they carry? LCW: I work on the narratives with some arguments and ideas. That brings me a whole bunch of materials – text, objects, photos – but it doesn’t guarantee to make any sense. That’s the moment when I must work as an artist. Indeed, sometimes, I get stuck as I find it does not work, even when I try. Then, I have to go back to look for additional materials. In Shenzhen Mine 1973 (2015), a vintage domestic fan blows a magazine cover out of the way of a projector, allowing video to be projected onto a wall when the audience presses the button. In the beginning, it didn’t work. The wind didn’t go in the right direction. A simple act would have been to add a card to channel the wind in the right direction. But I felt: no, it’s so ugly to have this only for this reason. It’s too practical and rough. So I looked for a small book published in the same year [depicted in the piece]. And I was lucky and happy to find a little primary school art textbook that did the work.

A Countess From Hong Kong by Leung Chi Wo, Belilios Public School uniform, cloth hanger, 1967 Hong Kong 50-cent coins, vinyl record This Is My Song by Petula Clark (1967), motor system, 19 x 68 x 134cm (still), 2016. Courtesy the artist and Blindspot Gallery.

CHT: I remember being confused when I saw the installation A Countess from Hong Kong (2016), consisting of a vinyl disc spinning so that a schoolgirl’s uniform that hangs from it is swung from side to side. It linked the theme song of Charlie Chaplin’s last film A Countess from Hong Kong (1967), featuring Sophia Loren, with a student leaving Hong Kong, arguing that both had to escape the city: one for immigration purposes, the other because of her involvement in the 1967 riots. How much do you wish to make these connections visible? LCW: I think I like to build layers of reading and the structure grows along with the search for materials and stories. I was just looking for anything that happened in Hong Kong in 1967 apart from the riots, which were regarded as the main narrative of the time. I wanted to seek parallel worlds between politics and everyday life. And that Chaplin movie popped up. After all, the connection is interpretative, not assigned. I work on things available to me. That schoolgirl is actually the sister of one of the most powerful pro-China political figures in Hong Kong. I just made a pun from the title of the movie and created a piece of sculpture that connects everything by means of physical transformation. 

CHT: For that exhibition, Something There and Never There (2018), you did not add any wall label, avoiding a contextual reading of your work. You were also the curator, just like for this new solo show. Is this the best possible way to display your research? LCW: I am not always sure that people really know what I intend to do in my art; most know what I do, though. Besides, I came from a time when a curator was a rare species in Hong Kong. I have to self-curate very often: that’s the reality and spirit of artist-run space—the origin of Para Site. I always say I know how to switch to energy-saving mode when resources are very limited. After all, I’m not a researcher in the conventional sense of the term, and I know the audience will spend less time perceiving my work when the source text is beside them. That said, the text is reincarnated in different materials like wall labels for the Museum of the Lost.

CHT: Overall, would you say that your work aims at generating knowledge, in that case knowledge about the 1967 context of the riots? LCW: I think I am more conscious and hope to raise questions about the available knowledge.

CHT: Sound is important in your practice. In your series This is My Song (2016), the song of the same name by Petula Clark seems to embody a specific period. Is this a way to trigger collective memory? LCW: I always compare sound recording to photography. It brings the absent back to the present. I am unsure if I want to hit on the collective memory, but I like to see it as a piece of time. Actually, I didn’t know this song before I worked on it. I have no memory of it. I think music and vinyl records are very common [ways of measuring time] today.

CHT: These installations are often dynamic, built on repetitive mechanics. It seems that the action is trapped in the past, in never-ending, sometimes violent movement. What are you suggesting with these repetitions? LCW: I think I began to consider the relationship between destruction and construction from the project. We must construct as well as destroy. The notion of violence has gained a place in my artistic agenda. It took a couple of years for me to elaborate on it in the work, and it was Untitled (Love for Sale) (2014) that allowed me to deal with the complexity, both technically and conceptually. In this piece, the audience would press a button to hear but not see a pile of newspaper fall, as their view of it was blocked, and I really enjoyed that. Mechanical repetition, at a certain point, puts you into a state of contemplation. It can feel very creepy, yet sometimes therapeutic too.

CHT: At the same time, by displaying these repetitive actions today, you create a bridge between the past and the present. What is your conception of time? LCW: I used to think it was linear, but now it is getting more circular—things can repeat, return or reincarnate. Maybe it’s an age issue.

CHT: Would you say that we are stuck in this repetitive process? LCW: It looks like history really repeats itself. Most humans don’t learn any lessons, and recent events such as the war in Ukraine have impacted me a lot as they keep rolling in. I am not sure if we are stuck, but the sense of helplessness is unprecedented.

Opening of the Kam Ngan (Gold and Silver) Stock Exchange, March 15, 1971 by Leung Chi Wo, Archival inkjet print, 52 x 82cm, 2021. Courtesy the artist and Blindspot Gallery.

CHT: I am thinking of your ongoing series of photographs of clouds, which also features in your new exhibition. Is it time that you’re looking to capture, as a metaphor for purity?LCW: The Date Series (2017-) are photos taken at the sites of violence. It represents a dilemma. What you see seems nothing but actually it is everything if you consider what is under it. 

I began photographing the sky more than 25 years ago. It was a time when I looked at the urban skyline and found myself greatly alienated. I didn’t realise the city had changed so much high up there while I had mostly spent my time with my eyes on the street level. Further development happened when we [Leung and his partner Sara Wong] lived in New York in 1999 and 2000: the famous landmarks didn’t impress me but their negative space did. I started to transform such spaces. Now the world has changed drastically, and maybe only the sky remains the same. It is this sense of purity that creates the dilemma. We hope nothing happens when we look at the sky. It looks beautiful, but I feel sorrow looking around, especially when we are pushed to forget things that happened a few years ago. 

CHT: This series is a good example of the issue of contextualising a conceptual work: how much do you say about the story behind it? LCW: This series draws on two extreme aspects: very abstract beautiful images on the one hand, and a random collection of violence in the city on the other hand. The only connection is me physically visiting sites of violence half a century later on the same day, capturing these beautiful skies. For me, it’s a very strong framework, almost self-justifying. What I need to do is to search for violence, match the date and visit the site. It’s like a ritual. 

CHT: Are you here influenced by conceptual artists like On Kawara? LCW: I hated his work when I was young; it’s so boring. But I found many years later that it is such an amazing thing to be able to focus on something simple. Obviously, it is also an age issue.

CHT: Are there any artists who deeply influenced your practice? LCW: Not many, but I always think artists from the Arte Povera movement informed my aesthetics. 

CHT: Humour is important in your practice. Why? LCW: I always thought that the political cartoon is one of the most powerful art forms. When the most horrible thing happens, the artist can still resort to humour. When the reader really laughs, it’s the saddest moment. It’s the absurdity. It’s almost like an explosion.

Berlin by Leung Chi Wo, Boiler, book, crystal, coin, postcard, stuffed toy, steel frame, 138.5 x 64 x 56cm, 2023. Courtesy the artist and Blindspot Gallery.

CHT: For Past-Future Tense, you have said you want to “project the future in the present past”. What do you mean? LCW: I have been thinking about the past future lately. How did people in the past think about today, which was their future? There are so many what-ifs. It’s fascinating or unbelievable to think: what if my father had empathy with the leftists at the beginning of the riots on the same street where he went to work? My father was born in South America; what if he didn’t return to China? These are all tales now. 

This exhibition covers different subject matter, from personal recollection and the history of violence to the coincidences of politics, but all relate to my subjective perception of my immediate surroundings—the city of Hong Kong and its people in the past looking at their future, sometimes passively. I have tried to focus on tangible objects and to exhibit sculptures and collages on the future in the past tense. There are also extended Date Series and My Random Diary. The latter is very much about anxiety: sometimes you try to live your life as normally as possible, but you know it’s no longer the same.

Featured image: Gather The Tears (detail) by Leung Chi Wo, Aluminum alloy, glass, craft knives, book, music stand, 137 x 62 x 62 cm, 2023. Courtesy the artist and Blindspot Gallery.

Katherine Bernhardt at David Zwirner Hong Kong

Katherine Bernhardt /
Dummy doll jealous eyes ditto pikachu beefy mimikyu rough play Galarian rapid dash libra horn HP 270 Vmax full art /
May 20 – Aug 5, 2023 /

David Zwirner /
5-6/F, H Queen’s / 
80 Queen’s Road Central /
Central, Hong Kong
Tuesday – Saturday, 11am – 7pm
+852 21195900

davidzwirner.com

David Zwirner is pleased to announce an exhibition of new paintings by American artist Katherine Bernhardt (b. 1975) that will take place at the gallery’s location in Hong Kong. The works in this presentation continue to expand Bernhardt’s unique visual lexicon, which culls from an irreverent pop vernacular as well as her own life and the broader culture. With her signature, lively brushwork, and vibrant color palette, the artist here will focus on characters from the Japanese media franchise and global game sensation Pokémon. This will be Bernhardt’s first solo exhibition in Hong Kong and her second with David Zwirner.


Liste Art Fair Basel

Jun 12 – 18, 2023

Messe Basel, Hall 1.1 
Maulbeerstrasse / corner Riehenring 
113 4058 Basel

liste.ch

Founded in 1996, Liste Art Fair Basel is the international fair for discoveries in contemporary art. Every year in Basel, a younger generation of galleries shows artists who are outstanding representatives of the latest developments and trends in contemporary art. Many of today’s most significant galleries for contemporary art laid their foundations at Liste. 

This year, 88 galleries from 35 countries will welcome visitors from 12–18 June in Hall 1.1 at Messe Basel. With artworks by over 100 artists, 66 solo and 18 group presentations, and two joint stands, the galleries will present the latest voices in contemporary art. 

Since 2021, Liste has consisted of three formats: Liste Art Fair Basel, Liste Showtime Online and Liste Expedition Online. Liste Showtime, the digital edition of the fair, launches this year with a preview from 7–11 June and runs until 25 June. With media-rich presentations, our gal- leries not only offer works for sale on the platform but also provide deeper insights into the practices of one artist who they are presenting at the fair.


Tromarama, Lai Chih-Sheng at Kiang Malingue

Tromarama /
Contraflow /
May 23 – Jun 30, 2023 /
Opening: Saturday, May 20, 3pm – 6pm /
Tin Wan Studio /

Lai Chih-Sheng /
It’s a quiet thing /
May 27 – Jul 8, 2023 /
Opening: Thursday, May 25, 6pm – 8pm /
Wan Chai Gallery /

Kiang Malingue 
10 Sik On Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Tuesday – Saturday, 12 – 6pm 
12 & 13/F Blue Box Factory Building
25 Hing Wo Street, Aberdeen, Hong Kong 
Tuesday – Saturday, 11am – 7pm
+852 2810 0317

kiangmalingue.com

Kiang Malingue is pleased to present at its Tin Wan studio spaces Contraflow, showcasing recent paintings, lenticular prints, performative sculptures, installations and videos by Tromarama. The artist collective continues exploring the significance of the digital economy, the intersection of play and labour, retrieving traces of the personal and the intimate amidst data and statistics, as they reveal the infrastructures of social media, the production of happiness and simulated joy.

At it’s Sik On street space is It’s a quiet thing, Lai Chih-Sheng’s exhibition that directly negotiates with the architecture of the space. By presenting a series of site-specific installations and interventions, the exhibition in its totality examines Kiang Malingue’s headquarters opened in the second half of 2022, configuring an environment that is ephemeral and poetic. It emphasises the confrontational relationship between the actor, the observer and the architecture, while reflecting upon the physical and ideological limitations and potentials of an exhibition. Lai freely applies a singular perception of space that he has developed over the last three decades, expressing by staging seemingly barren scenes conceptual generosity, in relation to urban, architectural and human conditions today.

Read more here: TromaramaLai Chih-Sheng
For enquires, please contact Kiang Malingue at office@kiangmalingue.com

Images: Contraflow by Tromarama, Himalayan salt lamp, custom computer program, dimensions variable, 2023. Courtesy the artist and Kiang Malingue. Daze by Lai Chih-Sheng, Still, single channel video, 7 min 15 sec, 2023. Courtesy the artist and Kiang Malingue.


Shubigi Rao 舒比吉·拉奧 

Eating One’s Tail / Rossi & Rossi / Hong Kong / Mar 18 – May 13, 2023 /

Eating One’s Tail, the title of Shubigi Rao exhibition at Rossi & Rossi, conjures up an image of a self-ingesting creature. As a metaphor, it questions human beings’ tendency to destroy, transform and reappropriate their own creations – and, more generally, it suggests the limits of self-reference. Rao’s artistic practice, in contrast, is an invitation to discover and experiment with multiple ways to inhabit and connect to the world. More subtly, perhaps, the title humorously evokes the artist’s attempt to reflect on her own practice and her claim to subjectivity. As this is her first exhibition in Hong Kong, the whole scope of her practice is presented, with selected artworks from different series. This eclecticism appropriately reflects Rao’s multidisciplinary, encyclopedic working process, which aims to resist any kind of linear, authoritarian mode of thinking.   

Dead Duck (2013) is the first artwork that attracts the attention when entering the gallery. The large ink drawing features a hanging piece of red meat, which immediately evokes Rembrandt’s Slaughtered Ox. Here, Rao represents a duck whose inner, open spine is made from a series of clothes hangers. For her, it portrays the figure of women. Its blood spills over the paper and over the handwritten caption which says, among other things, “Everyone loves a good barbecue”. It announces, from the start, the tonality of the artist’s practice, loaded with contained violence but always witty and deliberately ambiguous. 

Dead Duck by Shubigi Rao, Ink on Tiepolo paper, 100 x 70 cm, 2013. Courtesy the artist and Rossi & Rossi.

This work stands out against the backdrop of the setting of the main gallery room, which is arranged like a cosy library with plants, a table and chairs, and shelves loaded with books. On the surface, everything looks quiet and studious – also a characteristic of books, which remain innocent until you open them. Rao is a passionate reader and writer. One of her research topics is the history of libraries, our relationship with books and access to and the preservation of knowledge. In 2013, she started a long-term project, Pulp: A short biography of the banished book, which includes the publication of a book every two years. So far, there are four volumes of Pulp, each one unique and impossible to categorise. Their contents, which include multiple forms of essay, fictional or pseudoscientific texts, drawings and autobiographical elements, could be seen as a call to treasure, share and preserve all kinds of knowledge.

Rao’s investigation of banned books and library destruction works only as an entry point to this encyclopedic compilation. The whole enterprise expresses the need to resist isolation, embrace differences and sustain kinship. Books embody a form of resistance, yet she does not display fetishism with regard to them as objects. She is too aware of their power, which can be hijacked to justify violence or despotic ideologies. To restrain herself from any temptation to regard them as sacred, she displayed alongside the books tiny elements from her series The Study of Leftovers (2013), which are in fact pieces of rubbish that she collected when she first arrived from India to settle in Singapore.

Pulp, the generic title of the project, refers to the cyclical process of producing books – from the pulping of tree to printed paper, then back to ashes and into trees again. The tree is a recurring figure in her work. Here, a series of three ink drawings feature her typical phylogenetic tree, similar to the large one that she created for the Singapore pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale in 2022. These fanciful modes of mapping human beings’ characteristics and cultures mimic the old tradition of representing knowledge as a tree. On the multiple branches of the Tree of Life in the Anthropocene (2016), for instance, are such stereotyped captions as “Roots as history,” “Forest as clearable,” “Trees as useful”. It is not surprising that Rao’s first tree was called the Tree of Lies (2013), as she relentlessly revolts against fixed taxonomies, pseudo-objectivity and all forms of -ism that tend to paralyse knowledge, which must remain dynamic and non-dogmatic.

Tree of Life in the Anthropocene by Shubigi Rao, Ink on Fabriano Rosaspina fine art paper, 109 x 79 cm, 2016. Courtesy the artist and Rossi & Rossi.

Most of her drawings include displays of the artist’s own delicate handwriting: she draws and writes simultaneously, often so quickly that she says she sometimes cannot decipher her own words. Her creative process is well exemplified in The Mirror of Ink, Or, a Guide to the Four Pillars (2016), a series of five ink drawings on paper that evoke ancient cosmological diagrams. We can follow how she builds her own system of knowledge according to her personal, intuitive logic, linking for instance the tower of Babel, Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges and German polymath Athanasius Kircher. There is something of Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas here.

“Every language is a library” writes Rao in Pulp Volume I, and her investigation does not limit itself to human modes of communication. The name “Shubigi” was invented by her mother and mimics a bird’s song. A Small Study of Silence (2021) relates how the members of her family, scattered across the world, record the chirping of birds to communicate via WhatsApp, unable as they are to verbalise their emotions. From quarantine confinement to the extinction of species and manicured parks, the video proposes a puzzling vision of our contradictory relationships with nature. Above all, knowledge and languages are our ways to interact with others and with our environment.

Nature, its beauty, destruction, instrumentalisation and multiple representations are pervasive in Rao’s practice. Her recent series of dual photographs, juxtaposing close-ups of plants with photographs, offer moments to breathe in this dense, multilayered exhibition. For the artist, who describes herself as a naive idealist, it also constitutes an inexhaustible source of vitality and inspiration. In her curatorial statement for the Kochi Biennale (2022-23), she wrote that “Perhaps all that is required for an impossible ideal to exist is for enough people to live, think and work as if it already does”. Despite its underlying violence and its scepticism, this show is imbued with the artist’s own passionate yearning for human culture that is strongly communicative.

Featured image: Film still from A Small Study of Silence, dir. Shubigi Rao, single channel, digital HD, colour, 4 channel sound, 2021. Duration 29:36 mins. Courtesy the artist.


舒比吉·拉奧在Rossi & Rossi呈現的個展名為「Eating One’s Tail」(吃自己的尾巴),讓人聯想到某個正在吞噬自己的生物。作為隱喻,它質疑了人類正趨向於毀滅、改造然後再次侵吞自己所創造的事物。而更廣泛來看,它令人想到自我參照的局限性。相比之下,拉奧的藝術實踐像是一份邀請,讓大家去探索和嘗試不同的方式在世界棲息並與之聯繫。或許,更含蓄地,這個題目以幽默的口吻召喚藝術家去反思她的藝術實踐和對主體性的主張。是次是她在香港的首次個展,從各個系列中精選出作品,從而全面呈現其藝術實踐。這種折衷主義恰當地反映了拉奧跨越多學科、百科全書式的創作過程,旨在抵抗任何線性、專制的思維模式。

走進畫廊,首先惹人注目的是作品《Dead Duck》(2013年)。這幅大型水墨畫描繪了一塊掛起的紅肉,讓人即刻想到倫勃朗的畫作《Slaughtered Ox》。拉奧描繪了一隻鴨子,其體內開放的脊椎是由一系列衣架製成的。拉奧認為這刻畫了女性的形象。它的血灑在紙上和手書的說明上,上面寫著:「每個人都喜歡美味的燒烤」。作品從一開始就昭告了拉奧的藝術基調——滿載著克制的暴力,卻總是幽默詼諧、蓄意地含糊。

主畫廊空間佈置得像一個舒適的圖書館,放著植物、桌椅和裝滿書籍的書架,因而在此大背景下這件作品顯得尤為突出。表面上看,一切看起來都安靜而好學,這也是書籍的特質——在你打開書本之前,它們都是清白的。拉奧是一位熱情的讀者和作家。她的研究主題包括圖書館的歷史、我們與書籍的關係以及獲取知識和保存它們的途徑等。2013年,她開展了一個長期專案,名為《紙漿:被放逐的書籍小傳》,其中包括每兩年出版一本新書。迄今為止,《紙漿》共有四卷,每一卷都是獨一無二的,無法分類。其內容涵蓋了多種形式的散文、虛構或偽科學文本、繪畫和自傳體元素,借此呼籲大家去珍惜、分享和保存各種各樣的知識。

拉奧對於禁書和毀壞圖書館的調查僅僅是這部百科全書的一個切入點。整個創作表達了我們有必要去反抗孤立、擁抱差異、維繫緊密關係。書籍體現了某種抵抗形式,但她並沒有表現出對它們的盲目崇拜。她太瞭解書籍的力量了,這些力量可以被劫持以把暴力或專制意識形態是合法化。為了不讓自己將之神聖化,她在書籍旁邊呈現了從系列作品《The Study of Leftovers》(2013 年)中提取的微小元素——她第一次從印度來到新加坡定居時所收集的垃圾。

此項目的通用名為「紙漿」,指的是生產書籍的迴圈過程——從將樹木制漿到印刷紙,然後再變成灰燼回到樹中。樹是她作品中反復出現的形象。一系列三幅水墨畫作品呈現其標誌性的進化樹,如她在 2022 年第 59 屆威尼斯雙年展上為新加坡館創作的大型進化樹。這些關於人類特徵和文化的奇特描繪模式仿照了我們的古老傳統,用樹代表知識。例如在《Tree of Life in the Anthropocene》(2016 年)的諸多樹枝上掛著諸如「根源為歷史」、「森林為可砍伐的」、「樹木為有用的」等刻板的說明文字。拉奧不懈地在反抗固定分類法、偽客觀性和所有的形式主義,它們會使知識僵化,而知識應始終是動態的、非教條的。因而毫不奇怪,她將自己的第一棵樹命名為《Tree of Lies》(2013年 )。

她的大部分畫作中都展示了自己精美的書寫:她邊畫邊寫,速度之快有時候連她自己都無法解讀自己的文字。作品《The Mirror of Ink, Or, a Guide to the Four Pillars》(2016 年)全然展現了她的創作過程。這是由五幅作品構成的系列紙上水墨畫,讓人聯想到古代的宇宙圖。透過這個作品能理解她是如何根據個人的直覺邏輯來建立自己的知識體系,比如她將巴別塔、阿根廷作家豪爾赫·路易士·波赫士和德國博學家阿塔納奇歐斯·基爾學聯繫起來。頗有些阿比·沃伯格的《摩涅莫辛涅圖集》(Mnemosyne Atlas)的意味。

「每種語言都是一座圖書館」,拉奧在 《紙漿I》中寫道,她的研究並不局限於人類的交流方式。 「舒比吉」這個名字是她母親起的,模擬了鳥兒的歌聲。《關於沉默的微型研究》(A Small Study of Silence,2021年) 講述了她分散在世界各地的家人們通過WhatsApp 記錄並分享鳥鳴聲,因他們無法用語言表達自己的情緒。從檢疫隔離到物種滅絕再到修剪一新的公園,該錄像就我們與自然的矛盾關係提出了一個令人費解的展望。歸根究底,知識和語言是我們與他人和環境互動的方式。

自然之美和破壞,它的工具化和多面的表現形式在拉奧的藝術創作中隨處可見。她在最近的雙重攝影系列裡,將植物的特寫鏡頭與照片並置,為這個密集且多層次的展覽提供呼吸的片刻。對於這位自稱天真理想主義者的藝術家來說,這也成為取之不盡的活力和靈感源泉。在高知雙年展(2022-23)的策展聲明中,她寫道:「也許令一個不可能的理想存在所需要的,只是有足夠多的人假裝該理想已是現實般像生活、思考和工作。」除卻隱藏的暴力和懷疑,是次展覽依舊充滿了藝術家對具有高度交流性的人類文化的炙熱嚮往。

Bamberg Symphony

Concert Hall, Hong Kong Cultural Centre / Hong Kong / March 18, 2023 / Ernest Wan

Formed mainly by German orchestral musicians in Prague who were forced after the Second World War to leave Czechoslovakia and settle in the Bavarian town of Bamberg, the Bamberg Symphony, with its Czech chief conductor Jakub Hrůša, recently appeared at the Hong Kong Arts Festival. It performed a repertoire at which, with its history, audiences expect it to excel: symphonies by Antonín Dvořák and Johannes Brahms, as well as music by the Hungarian György Ligeti, whose 100th anniversary is celebrated this year.

The first of the orchestra’s two concerts began with Dvořák’s New World Symphony in E minor (1893), his ninth and last work in the genre. The lower strings’ doleful playing of the soft opening melody and the fierce, incisive fortissimoattacks soon after in the slow introduction were illustrative of the far-reaching emotional landscape to be traversed. While the Largo was scenic and deeply felt as expected, with characterful woodwind solos and delicate sustained string harmonies, even accompanying phrases in the fast movements turned out to be lovingly moulded and unusually expressive. Details like these made the performance of such a popular work stand out among the crowd.

Jakub Hrůša with one of the three groups of metronomes. Courtesy the Hong Kong Arts Festival.

Hrůša’s attention to detail was likewise evident in Brahms’s Fourth (1885), another E-minor last symphony: at the slow movement’s second theme, the first-violin descant on the cello melody has rarely sounded so exquisite. His rendition of the work was marked by austerity. While he often slackened the pace at the subordinate themes in the Dvořák, he resisted making tempo changes unspecified in the Brahms score, as if to avoid injecting unwelcome lyricism into this more tragic work. The darkness of the Bamberg orchestra’s timbre added much to this starkness.

The Brahms was prefaced by Ligeti’s Poème symphonique (1962), a performance of which consists simply of 100 mechanical metronomes ticking away at different speeds. Here the pyramidal devices were divided into three groups and set in motion one by one, rather than simultaneously as the composer instructs, by several musicians. As more and more metronomes ran down in the course of the 11-and-a-half-minute act, it gradually became clear to the ear that the maximally complex chaos near the start was merely the result of aggregating that which is the simplest and most orderly – the regular pulse.

What does all this have to do with the Romantic symphonies on the programme? Written at a time when Ligeti was associated with the Fluxus movement, the “poem”, notwithstanding its inherent musical interest, was in part meant to poke fun at formal concert life: it seems absurd that concertgoers have to hear and watch machines normally used only for musical practice exhaust themselves. The touring Bamberg Symphony’s presentation of a piece in which the performers do not get to display their skills to the world as expected, indeed have next to nothing to do, suggests that it either embraced all of its sarcasm or missed some of it, which has among its targets the stuffy concert tradition, as illustrated by the general conservatism of the orchestra’s own tour programmes. Programming the work alongside other avant-garde pieces, as is more often the case, would have diminished its delightful impertinence, in all senses of the word.

Featured image: Bamberg Symphony. Courtesy the Hong Kong Arts Festival.

Pierre Mon Frere

Pierre Mon Frere
Solo Exhibition
May 12 – 14, 2023
Opening: Friday, May 12, 6pm

G/F, 90 – 92 Hollywood Road
Central, Hong Kong

pierremonfrere.com

This is Pierre Mon Frere’s first solo exhibition in Hong Kong after moving to the city from Germany. On display are 12 recent abstract, colourful paintings in acrylic and mixed media, inspired by geometry and an exploration of realism.

Bouie Choi 蔡鈺娟 

Crossing the nights Filling the lines / Grotto SKW / Mar 8 – Apr 1, 2023 /

With what she calls her “emotional landscapes”, Bouie Choi continues to portray Hong Kong as a city on fire, undergoing perpetual mutation. Large, watery flows of paint merge with finer architectural elements in dynamic, poetic compositions where human beings seem lost: in the shape of either tiny figures or giants, they keep searching for their place in a reality that has clearly outgrown them. Despite its apocalyptic atmosphere and the many clouds that threaten the city, the artist’s new solo exhibition at Grotto Fine Arts is not about despair; on the contrary, an extraordinary vitality arises from each painting. A time of change and uncertainty is also a time for potential regeneration.

Walking inside the exhibition space involves walking into darkness. The night seems to be total, just like during the blackout that happened in the western New Territories in June 2022. At that time, Bouie Choi was commuting back home, and was trapped in sudden obscurity. She filmed with her phone the uncanny images of the opaque city, and this incident inspired her works displayed at this exhibition. In the gallery, a few beams of light and scattered luminous points guide visitors’ footsteps. At the entrance, Choi has installed a white light projection system that marks the specific moment when light illuminates her working table in winter. Further on, a subtle shadow is cast on the floor of partition walls, traditional in Hong Kong apartments, featuring flowers. The other lights that accompany visitors are the multiple sparkling points painted on Choi’s wooden panels: eerie lights, headlights, torches, streetlights and all the flickering lights from the tiny windows of Hong Kong buildings. 

These lights not only guide the public in the exhibition space, but are also intended to guide the eyes inside each painted composition, while connecting and responding to each other through time and space. What kind of signals they send remains a mystery. 

Choi’s conception of a landscape is inspired by classical Chinese shan shui paintings, which reflect reality and cosmology as a whole. Like most traditional Chinese artists, Choi adopts what is often called “a floating perspective”, embracing and combining multiple standpoints. The triptych Crossing the nights Filling the lines (2022), for instance, features a giant man walking through the city and collecting streetlamps that he puts in the pocket of his raincoat. When he pulls them, their light seems to fade. At his feet, among sewers, canals and houses, workers are busy cutting trees and a shepherd is looking after his goats, all represented at various scales. From all sides, nature is spilling out, with water and forests invading the urban landscape. On the left, a sitting man perched on a railway bridge ponders these extraordinary phenomena, overlooking the oversized octopus that stretches across the panels. 

The large format of the triptych allows us to lose ourselves inside the composition, oblivious to the boundaries between reality and the painted landscape. Choi puts us in the same position as her figures, who can cross time as well as pedestrian gateways, being simultaneously inside, above and beneath the city while still surrounded by it. This permeability is perfectly expressed by the fluidity of colours that melt, overlap and dissolve. The circularity of the clouds also suggests a circularity of time, with urban ruins soon turning into forests, buildings into mountains or waterfalls, all in a continuous movement. The rhythm of her compositions evokes poetry, a balance between breathing spaces and highly dense areas.

The Bars by Bouie Choi, Acrylic on wood, 91.4 x 60,9 cm, 2022. Courtesy the artist and Grotto SKW.

Railings, balustrades, barriers, roadblocks – in urban spaces, our daily life is influenced by these elements of architecture that guide our bodies, conduct our movements and shape our mindset. Similarly, in Choi’s paintings, our gaze glides along the highways, arrested by buildings, oriented by the wind, constrained by lines. This theme of containment is pervasive throughout her work. The bars (2022) features a group of vertical pine trees that resemble the bars of a cage. A man crouching, barely visible, is hiding behind them, probably afraid of showing himself or to face social rules. Sometimes, she only paints limbs, the corresponding bodies having been perhaps swallowed by the landscape. In The red is too hot to stand (2022), it is the artist herself who is depicted as a giant, squeezed between two high buildings. We are left to wonder whether she is trying to hide herself or to fit in.

All the featured works are on wooden panels, most of them recycled from ancient floorboards or from the benches of an old church.  Choi favours this material because it requires a long preparation time and allows her to engage in a conversation with the matter itself and its history. Although photographs of scenes from the city are often the starting point of her compositions, Choi likes to begin a work by letting washed colours flow freely on her panel, following the veins of the wood, forming inspirational clouds, after which she will take over. In Dimpled (2023), for instance, the knots of the wooden panel are magnified by the paint and seem to open like scars. A lonely pig, standing on top of a rock that could represent the leftovers of civilisation, watches how flows of lava drip from a burning sky. The colour of the wood provides the dark brownish, autumnal hues that characterise Choi’s work. It also evokes the traditional Chinese landscapes painted on silk. Choi is mostly interested in negative spaces, and she often intervenes by erasing the paint to create her own shapes. For her detailed figures and outlines, she chose to work with black acrylic because of its precision and texture. Unlike ink, acrylic cannot be totally washed away and will resist, offering a strong contrast with the fluidity of her washed colour effects.

The Light Gatherer (Detail) by Bouie Choi, Acrylic on wood, 152 x 60,9 cm, 2022. Courtesy the artist and Grotto SKW.

Although influenced by Japanese manga and contemporary events, Choi maintains the essence of traditional shan shui paintings as depictions of landscapes from a very personal inner perspective. Her vision of Hong Kong is highly intimate, poetic and emotional. As a child, her dad had to face darkness at night to bring home water in a bucket from outside their village house. He is represented as the child in The light gatherer (2022) who tries to collect water, or a flow of light, running from a cliff. Just like him, as viewers, we collect from this bright exhibition the illuminating effects of poetry and imagination. 

Featured image: Crossing the night Filling the night by Bouie Choi, insallation view at Grotto SKW.


彼月此日 / Grotto SKW / 2023年3月8日至4月1日

蔡鈺娟繼續以她所稱的「情感風景」,將香港描繪成一座著火的城市,經歷著永恆的變遷。大幅顏料如水般流動與精緻的建築元素融合在充滿動感和詩意的構圖之中。人類似乎迷失了方向,無論是大小人物都一直尋找自己的位置,但四周現實已發展得他們不能觸及。儘管這座城市充斥著末日氣氛和一片愁雲慘霧,藝術家在嘉圖現代藝術的新個展並不是關於絕望,相反地,每一幅畫都散發出非凡的生命力,充滿變化和未知的年代也可以是浴火重生的時刻。

展覽空間一片黑暗,就如2022年6月新界西停電的那個晚上一樣暗無天日,那時正在回家路上的蔡鈺娟突然陷入了黑暗之中,她用手機拍攝了這座城市一片漆黑的詭異,啟發了她創作這次展覽的作品。畫廊內有幾道光束和零散的光點指引觀眾的腳步,蔡鈺娟在入口安裝了一個白光投影系統,紀錄寒冬裡光線照亮她工作台的時刻。往前走一點,觀眾可以隱約看到地板上有香港舊式唐樓通花隔牆的投影。其他陪伴觀眾參觀的光還有蔡鈺娟在木板上畫的多個光點,有詭異的燈光、車頭燈、電筒、街燈和從香港建築物的小窗所投射出、忽明忽暗的燈光。

這些燈光不單在展覽空間中引導觀眾,也刻意指引每幅畫作內的眼睛,同時在時空上互相連結和回應。他們到底發出了怎樣的訊號仍然是個謎。

Bouie Choi. Insallation view at Grotto SKW.

蔡鈺娟繪畫風景的概念靈感來自中國古典山水畫,反映出現實和宇宙觀。蔡鈺娟與大多數中國傳統藝術家一樣,採用一般稱為「散點透視」的方式,在畫中運用並結合多個視點。如在三聯畫《彼月此日》(2022年)中,一個巨人在城市中穿梭,將收集得來的街燈放在雨衣的口袋裡。當他拉動街燈時,光芒就會消失。在他的腳下,工人正在下水道、運河和房屋之間斬樹,而牧羊人就在照顧山羊,所有主體都以不同的比例呈現。大自然的元素從四面八方湧進,水和森林充斥了城市景觀。畫的左面有一個人坐在火車橋上,思考這些非凡的現象,俯瞰橫跨整幅畫作的大八爪魚。

巨大的三聯畫令我們沉浸在構圖中,忘記了現實與風景畫之間的界限。蔡鈺娟將我們與她的主體並排,他們可以穿越時間和行人路,同時處於城市的上下和裡面,而仍然被城市包圍。流動的色彩融化、重疊和消散,完美地表達了這種滲透性。雲的循環亦暗示了時間的循環,城市廢墟很快會變成森林,而建築物也會變成山脈或瀑布,一切都是個連續的進程。作品的節奏充滿詩意,平衡了喘息的空間和人口密集的地區。

在城市空間中,我們的日常生活會受到欄杆、扶手、欄河、路障這些建築元素的影響,它們帶領我們的身體、引導我們的動作並塑造我們的心態。同樣地在蔡鈺娟的畫中,我們的目光會沿著高速公路而看,給建築物攔住,受風所引導,被線條束縛,這種控制的主題貫穿在她的作品之中。在《鐵扇骨》(2022年)中,垂直的松樹就像是籠子的圍欄,一個若隱若現的男人蹲在後面,似乎是害怕曝露自己或面對社會規則。風景吞沒了人的身體,所以有時她只會畫手腳。在《The red is too hot to stand》(2022年)中,藝術家將自己描繪成一個擠在兩座高樓之間的巨人,不知道她到底是想隱藏自己還是融入其中。

展覽中所有作品都在木板上繪畫,其中大部分木板是從舊地板或舊教堂的長椅上回收得來。蔡鈺娟很喜歡在木板上畫畫,因為她需要花很長時間處理木板,讓她有時間與木板本身及其歷史對話。雖然蔡鈺娟的構圖通常都是以城市風景照片作為出發點,但她開始作畫前總是喜歡先讓水墨顏色在木板上自由流動,順著木頭的紋理,形成為她啟發靈感的雲彩。在《Dimpled》(2023年)中,顏料將木節放大了,張開的木節像疤痕一樣。一隻豬孤獨地站在一塊代表文明遺蹟的石上,看著熔岩從燃燒的天空滴落。木的顏色令蔡鈺娟的作品帶有獨特的深啡色、秋天色調,還讓人想起絲綢上的中國傳統山水畫。蔡鈺娟最喜歡的是負空間,她經常會擦除顏料,創造自己的形狀。她選擇用黑色的塑膠彩來繪畫細緻的人物和輪廓,因為它的精緻度和質地更合適。塑膠彩與墨水不同,不能完全被沖走,而且可以保護塗層,與她水墨效果的流動形成強烈的對比。

雖然蔡鈺娟受到了日本漫畫和當代事件的影響,但她仍然保留傳統山水畫的精髓,從非常個人的角度繪畫風景。從她眼中所看到的香港是個非常親密、充滿詩意和情感的地方。她爸爸小時候要在黑夜中從村屋外用桶裝水回家,爸爸就是《光明採集者》(2022年)中的孩子,收集水和光,從懸崖邊奔跑。而我們就像他一樣,從這個充滿希望的展覽中收集到無窮的詩意和想像。

Family having cake and coffee, overlooking a misty Victoria Harbour, from Rooftop Garden, M+, West Kowloon, Hong Kong, 12 February 2023.

After allowing free entry for the first year of its operation, M+ – Hong Kong’s new international museum – recently introduced admission charges. The museum has however maintained free access to the cinema and its outdoor areas, including the third floor rooftop garden. Positioned alongside the city’s West Kowloon harbourfront where this photograph was taken, the museum’s south elevation has uninterrupted views towards Hong Kong island and Lantau island. Recently installed moveable seating now allows visitors to flexibly find the best view and follow the sun in winter and shade in summer.

The north section of the rooftop garden with views over the adjacent Palace Museum, the West Kowloon ship mooring area, Stonecutters Island and the Kowloon hills, has a wonderfully interactive installation of ‘Playscape’ sculpture by the American-Japanese artist Isamu Noguchi. Particularly loved by children and as a location for wedding photos, the sculpture can be touched and climbed on.

This fundamental change in entry policy has never been openly debated. During its first year of free entry, the museum saw record numbers of visitors. Charging admission will undoubtedly impact visits made by Hong Kong residents, but overall museum visitor numbers should be supported by the increasing numbers of tourists coming to Hong Kong after the city’s post-Covid reopening. But can this entrance policy be

re-examined, at least to consider giving the city’s residents free entry on designated days in a month? The museum’s website could also better highlight free entry for its outdoor areas, including the rooftop garden – then scenes like the above will happily become more common.


香港新國際博物館M+營運的第一年免費開放,而最近向公眾收取入場費。然而,博物館維持讓公眾免費進入電影院及其戶外區域,包括三樓的天台花園。博物館位於香港西九龍的海濱,亦是這張照片的拍攝地,位於博物館的南面高地,可以一覽無餘地欣賞香港島和大嶼山的景色。最近安裝的可移動座椅讓遊客靈活地找到最佳角度,在冬季可沐浴於陽光,在夏季可享受陰涼。

天台花園的北段可以俯瞰相鄰的故宮博物院、西九龍船舶系泊區、昂船洲和九龍山,並展出美籍日本藝術家野口勇(Isamu Noguchi)的奇妙互動裝置“Playscape”雕塑。特別受小朋友喜愛,不少人在此拍攝婚禮照片,觸摸和攀爬雕塑。 入場費的根本性變化從未公開辯論過。在免費入場的第一年,博物館的參觀人數創下紀錄。收費無疑會影響香港居民的參觀人數,但整體博物館參觀人數應該因香港在疫情後通關,遊客有所增加而上升。但是,這項措施可以重新考慮嗎?至少考慮讓城居民在一個月的指定日子免費入場。博物館的網站應該強調其戶外區域可免費進入,包括天台花園,那麼,上述美好的景象可變得更加普遍。

mplus.org.hk/en/exhibitions/m-playscape/

Photo: John Batten