Leang Seckon (b. 1970s) has lived through some of the most volatile and violent years in modern Cambodia, and his works frequently derive inspiration from the country’s tumultuous history. The artist’s haunting canvases recall events from the French occupation to King Sihanouk’s brief boom to the US-backed coup d’état, which saw the country under Vietnamese army boots, to the signing of the Paris Peace Accords to the present day. And his immensely rich compositions expertly weave stories, at times gruesome and at times magical, from his personal history into fablelike vignettes.
Art historian Peter D. Sharrock points out that ‘his paintings and collages attest to a magnificent, ancient sensibility that has survived the vicissitudes and periodic nightmares of Cambodian history. His draughtsmanship and technical innovation articulate the living presence of the artistic gift that produced the mastery of form in stone and bronze which graced the efflorescence of Angkor a thousand years ago’.
Growing Wings features Seckon’s latest body of work that condenses the dazzling changes in his home country into compositions interspersed with mythic Khmer folklore. This is the artist’s fourth solo exhibition with the gallery.
White Cube Hong Kong presents Sofabilder / Sofa Pictures, an exhibition of recent paintings and drawings by German artist Georg Baselitz that give new and haunting form to his lifelong quest to unite abstraction and figuration in an inextricable dance. A nude female form based loosely on Baselitz’s wife Elke, whom he’s depicted throughout his career and now conjures from memory, is a central motif in each work.
In the paintings, figures are rendered in white and float on their sides on rectangular black backgrounds. Some are set in rudimentary architectural spaces demarcated by white lines, others in an inky void. To make them, Baselitz used a monotype process. First he painted an image of a standing or sitting figure on a canvas and then placed another canvas on top of it, applying pressure with the back of a push broom to transfer the wet paint from one surface to another. Often used by the Surrealists, this technique introduces elements of chance to the final image and here lends a ghostly, skeletal quality to the figures.
The drawings, created by dancing lines of red and black India ink, also feature female forms floating in the horizontal plane, but some of these ‘Elke figures’ are accompanied by images of the artist himself. Set in schematic rooms containing a rectangular couch or bed, their loose, expressive compositions are punctuated by dots, from which trail blood-like rivulets of ink.
White Cube at Art Basel Hong Kong Booth 1D32 May 27 – 29, 2022 VIP preview: May 25 – 26, 2022
At this year’s Art Basel Hong Kong, White Cube presents over 40 works by artists including Tunji Adeniyi-Jones, Georg Baselitz, Antony Gormley, Mona Hatoum, Christian Marclay, Julie Mehretu, Sarah Morris, Isamu Noguchi, Park Seo-Bo, Takis and Andy Warhol among others.
Ping Pong Gintonería is pleased to present dance performances by Sudhee Liao. The performances are inspired by the works of Arthur Hacker currently on show at Ping Pong Gintonería and accompanied by music sampled from 70s Hong Kong.
Sudhee Liao, is an interdisciplinary choreographer and movement artist who has collaborated extensively with choreographers and other performance artists in international dance and art festivals. This is her third collaboration with Ping Pong.
The performances are part of the Art Basel Hong Kong 2022’s VIP programme.
Arthur Hacker left London in 1967 for a job as an art director in the colonial Hong Kong Government’s Information Services Department. Among his luggage would have been the air of London’s cultural whirl, glimpsed in the ambience of movies of the time: Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blowup; revolutionary youth against the whole (damn) system in Lindsay Anderson’s If… ; and the violence and Stalinist social conditioning in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. Hacker brought his tight modernist graphic skills with him, complemented by the era’s psychedelia and surreal humour. His artist’s eye was broadened by the satire and profanity of Oz magazine; the bright animation of The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine; the era’s counterculture and rock music; its fashion, book, magazine and record cover design; and the ground-breaking pop art of his British contemporaries Peter Blake and Richard Hamilton. These progressive influences and an openness to depictions of life’s oddities would form a key source for Hacker’s curlicue graphical drawings.
Hacker came to Hong Kong with a liberal, individual outlook on life and over the years he never really changed, despite in later years playing up the role of a plummy English colonial caricature – as when, at the time of the 1997 return of Hong Kong to China, he appeared on a magazine cover in military dress-uniform with a pith helmet, an impression of him that persisted for years as it hung in Hong Kong’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club.
Hacker hadn’t arrived from a vibrant city to a stagnant backwater (that offensive and inaccurate label of Hong Kong as a “cultural desert”). In the 1960s and early 70s, Hong Kong was a diplomatic and military outpost strategically located next to the Guangdong border. It was a place of foreign “China watchers” and spies, and an R&R destination for soldiers stationed in or the press covering the Vietnam War. The city’s neon-lit vibrancy was led by its young workforce and a dynamic laissez-faire economy that soon made Hong Kong the world’s largest manufacturer of textiles; an important base for the sourcing, design and production of clothing; a major producer of toys and other plastic products; and one of the world’s biggest industrial printing locations for books, magazines and print products. Epitomised by its quickly produced films, Hong Kong had emerging design and creative communities, albeit often low-cost and pragmatic, as well as promising independent artists, predominantly in what was identified as the New Ink Painting movement.
Hacker arrived at a pivotal moment to work in the city: just after the 1967 riots. Violent social unrest fuelled by the Cultural Revolution spilled into Hong Kong from mainland China as a reaction against the city’s exploitative work conditions, few educational opportunities, poor housing and minimal social services. The colonial Hong Kong Government’s approach to governance, economic and social policies, and administration radically changed after the riots, and experts with outreach and communication skills were put to work.
The influx of immigrants into Hong Kong from the mainland in those post-war years was unrelenting, and Hong Kong’s Public Works Department and its architectural staff were tasked with quickly housing people. Hong Kong’s urban transformation was made possible by pragmatic modernist architectural design practices, perfect for quick construction using steel-supported concrete. This is seen in the exemplary City Hall precinct, the former Central Government Offices and the new schools, hospitals, health centres and housing estates. Hacker was not a lone outsider bringing new design ideas to Hong Kong, but joined an already established ethos of like-minded, young, creative professionals looking for solutions to problems, which included good modern design, and the creative use – reflecting the era – of innovative, often wacky and humourous marketing.
Hacker’s designs in government publicity campaigns and publications were eclectic. His poster design, now in the M+ museum collection, for a Teddy Robin and the Playboys concert at “the new Blake Pier roof garden” in April 1968 was pure hippie flower-power swirling psychedelia. However, it was Hacker’s skills of modernist design with clean graphic lines and logical layout that got him a job in Hong Kong, as previously seen in his record cover design for the 1962 UK pressing of French singer Juliette Gréco’s album Showcase. Immediately after he arrived, Hacker’s designs for the Festival of Hong Kong, including the annual commemorative books, and his many government information posters predominantly followed this clean design approach.
Hong Kong was perfect for Hacker, allowing individuality and mild eccentricity. As a public servant he had a secure government job, a salary and time to travel. He settled into Hong Kong’s rhythms: sometimes expatriate, sometimes Chinese, often in between; and frequented nightlife areas such as Wan Chai and Tsim Sha Tsui. As a keen social observer, he recognised the unique amalgam of Chinese cultures (Hakka, Tanka, immigrants from Fujian and Shanghai, for example) and keenly noted their intersection with British mores and colonial systems of administration embedded in the physical and social fabric of Hong Kong life. As an artist, he appreciated the city’s visual contradictions and tics, its physical expressions of colonial power and the raw energy of Chinese endeavour. He became a voracious collector of books, and mixed the city’s colonial anecdotes with Chinese stories and myths.
Hacker’s Hong Kong is probably the height of his artistic achievements. It is a distinctively personal series of drawings, different in intention from his formal government work, capturing aspects of Hong Kong, most often depicting the intersection of colonial British/European and Hong Kong Chinese life. It is a beautifully printed book with a simple rationale: a witty look at Hong Kong, comprising individual line pen drawings that incorporate Hacker’s own curlicue illustration style of flourish, scroll or spiral – the sort of curly strokes used in English calligraphy, Arabesque decoration or wrought-iron garden gates. Another design element he adopted in his illustrations was an intriguing “basket-weave”, a type of thick crosshatch that gave highlighted detailing to a drawing, as seen in the shapely jeans worn by a city girl visiting Lok Ma Chau or the ‘sail’ of the plough in his drawing and description of Yuen Long, two of his many Places of Hong Kong illustrations.
The Hacker’s Hong Kong drawings established a template. Hacker was intrigued by the city’s visual contrasts and contradictions: the old woman street cleaner wearing a Hakka hat and apron alongside a young woman sporting a miniskirt and ruffled summer brim hat. It is a classic juxtaposition of Hong Kong’s rich and poor/young and old/sartorial chic alongside Hello Kitty cuteness, scenes still seen on the city’s streets. Hacker is one of a long history of artists, photographers and filmmakers who captured the city’s pace and ironies, translating them as satire or humour on film, as a photograph or cartoon, illustration or advertising campaign.
Over time, and especially after his retirement from government employment, Hacker’s freelance activities expanded, and he became variously an artist, designer, art director, cartoonist, illustrator, historian, collector and sometime dealer, buying and selling colonial (usually British-in-Asia) objects, especially postcards and photographs. Increasingly, Hacker became a chronicler of Hong Kong’s history and of the colonial treaty ports, particularly Shanghai, along the China coast, as well as the country’s inland rivers. He was employed to write historical anecdotes and oddities for magazines, corporate clients and historical societies – this work increasingly occupied his interest and time, overtaking his pure artistic work. This research, however, was skilfully repurposed for his own occasional self-publications, explaining Hong Kong and its history with simple text and drawings, for example:
ABERDEEN Lord Aberdeen was a not very famous Prime Minister who once spoke quite well against the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill
This sparse, inconsequential fact is illustrated by a simple line drawing of a European gentleman (presumably Aberdeen himself), with a curlicue flourish in the hair and the high-necked ruffle of his shirt. The text and portrait are unremarkable but taking a prominent background position is a frilly depiction of what looks like a cake; closer identification reveals, of course, a superbly rendered curlicued Jumbo, the iconic floating restaurant in Aberdeen Harbour. The three almost unlinked elements of vague historical portrait, obscure text and a contemporary folly, a floating restaurant, work because Hacker is tapping into his audience’s sense of the absurd. It is in a satirical tradition, which he acknowledges in the title of the The Hong KongBargirls’ Progress, using the famous English painter and social satirist William Hogarth’s “progress” to make a witty observation about changing styles in Hong Kong bars.
Hacker’s spirit lingers still at Hong Kong’s FCC. He would arrive every Friday afternoon to sit in his favourite position at the counter of the Main Bar. He would then move his stool a strategic few centimetres this way or that to align his view with a pillar, so he didn’t see the odious trash that might be broadcast on the bar’s corner television (or, as he would say, with an especially elongated vowel, “the telly”). Ensconced at the bar, he would not move, and would enjoy the camaraderie and banter, and witness and participate in the laughs, fights and arguments as Hong Kong journalists and various fly-ins and hangers-on would gather at the journalists’ end of bar (in opposition – often actual – to the lawyer’s end of the bar) to review the week. He infamously memorialised the bar’s commotion and revelry in his Zoo Night cartoons, published in the FCC’s The Correspondent magazine.
Placed in another corner of the bar is the original maquette of Hacker’s best-known creation, the dragon-like anti-litter rogue Lap Sap Chung. Dividing the Main Bar from a smaller slightly quieter room known as The Bunker is the FCC logo he designed, in full heraldic curlicue flourish, etched on glass. And imposing in its polished brass importance at the FCC front door is the plaque featuring Hacker’s prominent logo, commemorating the opening 40 years ago of the FCC’s premises in the former ice-house storage rooms of the Dairy Farm building on Lower Albert Road, opened by the Governor Sir Edward Youde, whose residence was Government House on Upper Albert Road. It is just one of many historical facts about Hong Kong that Arthur Hacker embellished in his own witty words and unique hand.
Feature image: Aberdeen, Place of Hong Kong. Courtesy Wattis Fine Art. Photo: William Furniss.
The gallery is pleased to present Yeung Hok Tak’s solo exhibition What a big smoke ring, the Hong Kong artist’s first exhibition with Kiang Malingue. Showcasing more than twenty recent paintings by the artist, the exhibition on the newly expanded 13th floor of the gallery’s studio space comprehensively celebrates the latest development of Yeung’s artistic trajectory over two decades: a body of vibrant, luscious and humorous works that deals in an evermore sophisticated fashion with a city’s history, in relation to a world that deems both the present and the future uncertain.
Blindspot Gallery is proud to present Un Cheng’s exhibition What’s there when you ain’t home, encapsulating a visual journal of the restless wanderer-painter in Iceland and Sham Shui Po. No two landscapes can be more different than the sparse winter of a Nordic Island and the hectic urban subtropics of Kowloon. Yet, the artist ravishes in the amorphous abstraction of atmospheric light, thick textures of oil, vibrant blocs of colours, and strokes of falling snow and rising vapour. Resonantly, these psychological landscapes lay bare the desire of an itinerant artist-traveller to resist loneliness, forge human connections, and fall in love with an eclectic world that at times feels geographically isolated and emotionally indifferent.
Tickets to Art Central 2022 are now on sale! Staged at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre from May 26–29, the Fair returns with over 50 exhibiting galleries, hundreds of artists and thousands of artwork to view and buy. Accompanied by a five-day critically acclaimed public programme of talks, artist interviews, art of moving image and large-scale installations, Art Central is an art lovers must-see event!
Ping Pong Gintonería is pleased to present an exhibition of works by Arthur Hacker and accompanying dance performances by Sudhee Liao.
This exhibition consists of works made throughout Arthur Hacker‘s career, from album covers designed in 1960s London to original drawings up to the early 2000s. Also on show are his works for the government, including stamps, posters and the famed Lap Sap Chung, as well as books, illustrations, original prints and drawings from his later freelance career.`
After studying at the Royal College of Art and a spell working in London, Hacker was appointed art director of the Hong Kong Government’s Information Services Department in 1967. In the 1970s he created the iconic figure of Lap Sap Chung for the Urban Council’s Clean Hong Kong Campaign. He published his first book, Hacker’s Hong Kong, and eventually left the government in the 80s, becoming interested in cartoons and Hong Kong’s history. A polymath, he illustrated and produced dozens of books, and designed logos and even stamps for the government. He is remembered for his inimitable line drawings of people and street life that perfectly captured Hong Kong during the 70s, 80s and 90s. He died in 2013 at the age of 81.
There will be dance performances throughout Art Basel week inspired by the Hacker works on show. The performances will be accompanied by music sampled from 70s Hong Kong. Sudhee Liao, is an interdisciplinary choreographer and movement artist who has collaborated extensively with choreographers and other performance artists in international dance and art festivals. This is her third collaboration with Ping Pong.
The exhibition and performances are part of the Art Basel Hong Kong 2022’s VIP programme.
Tai Kwun Contemporary presents two new exhibitions, Double Vision and emo gym, from now until June.
Double Vision Toying with doubles, the exhibition Double Visionexplores the concepts of déjà vu and parallax, considering how seemingly superficial differences may reveal much more than expected. While some works are doubled serially or thematically, with subtle slippages and variations, some other artists in the exhibition have works that gesture towards memory and the murky everyday lines between truth, perception, and fiction. Double Vision seeks to define a distinctive spatial and temporal experience, with the exhibition prompting reflection on sensorial awareness and the contemporary production of reality.
Artists: Candice Breitz, Omer Fast, Ko Sin Tung, Kong Chun Hei, Sarah Lai, Ocean Leung, Li Shuang, Dane Mitchell, Peng Ke, Paul Pfeiffer, Hito Steyerl, Tamura Yuichiro, Magdalen Wong, Zheng Yuan
Curators: Tobias Berger, Jill Angel Chun, and Daniel Szehin Ho
emo gym emo gym—short for “emotion gymnasium”—calls on seven Hong Kong artists to confront, dissect, and possibly embrace the vulnerability of our times. Together, their sincere, poetic artworks invent an intimate yet experimental space, prompting visitors to uncover sentiments by discovering deep connections with the artworks as well as with each another.
Various forms of vulnerability are explored in the exhibition—vulnerability related to interpersonal relationships, digitisation of human experiences, and social institutions. emo gym raises the following important questions: does vulnerability constitute a fundamental state of human existence, and of the world we live in? Risky as it may be, would exposing and sharing nuanced senses of vulnerability catalyse a new world where we better co-exist with other emotional beings?
Artists: Dony Cheng Hung, Chloë Cheuk, Michele Chu, Jess Lau Ching Wa, Sharon Lee, Eason Tsang Ka Wai, Yim Sui Fong