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Gordon Cheung

By Remo Notarianni

It is hard to think of Gordon Cheung’s worlds as homes. But his landscapes, often mountainous, vast and empty, yet shimmering and abundant with flowers, might begin to look eerily familiar as technology blurs our reality and modernity transforms or even erases our living spaces.

Home at Galerie Huit is a body of mixed-media paintings and sculptures that raises questions about the meaning of a domicile: a place of birth, a residence, a source of heritage or identity, or a land that is conquered by an empire.

Cheung reflects on his personal story as a Brit born to Chinese immigrants who left Hong Kong, a place that many fondly consider home despite its political turmoil. He sees this as part of a volatile global situation that has created complex individuals who live in an in-between space, caught between rapidly changing layers of history that define, at least temporarily, as they confuse identities. His work asks what we are becoming as our societies change, and what we could become if they disappeared.


On the Horizon by Gordon Cheung, Mixed media on canvas, 150 x 200 cm, 2018.

“This signifies my return to a place that means family heritage, yet at the same time feels distant because of the changes that have come along with its history, economy and society,” he says. “I am fascinated by the history of Hong Kong. I wanted to make a show about the general notions of what a home means, from the family to a nation state. I am providing a space to look at and think about the geopolitical histories that have occurred and are occurring.

“Being both Chinese and British, I witnessed the 1997 handover of the then colonised Hong Kong. My dual identity prompts me to think about the definition of home, where and what it is, and the narratives of conquest. Hong Kong is often used as a backdrop in science fiction to explore the intersections of old and new architecture. The compressed, futuristic city is composed of layered expressions of humanity, history and civilisation, forming a feedback loop that defines collectively but also simultaneously defines our identities.”

Cheung expresses this idea with mixed-media canvases and sculptures of hanging Chinese window structures made of paper and bamboo. Still lifes of tulips, dreamlike and glowing, as if picked from the fields of a dystopian futuristic landscape, allude to the tulip mania of the Dutch Golden Age, the first recorded economic bubble, which gave birth to the first conglomerate: the Dutch East India Company. At the base of the images are what appear to be abstract shapes that mark artificial islands built by China as outposts to protect its trade, which are contested by several nations.

Fish by Gordon Cheung, Mixed media on canvas, 150 x 112.5 cm, 2018.

Cheung shows the paradox of modern China’s abandonment of communism in its trailblazing rush towards capitalism, which has left it trapped between the two, as age-old narratives shaped by its ancient civilisation are erased overnight by the wrecking ball of fast business.

“The sculptures of windows made from bamboo and financial newspapers refer to homes in China with traditional window designs that were demolished for rapid urbanisation,” says Cheung. “Here they hover between states of being, suggesting a ghost architecture that would have supported them. They act as a demarcation between communism and what might be paradoxically called communist capitalism. How can a domestic domicile, or a place of heritage, be powerlessly torn down and replaced with a shopping mall or a skyscraper, all in the name of progress?”

Admiring Cheung’s landscapes feels like staring across the border of our seemingly tangible environments into this in-between space. It often looks like a distant planet aglow with the lights of dawn or neon, as solar winds spark auroras: a place where time and space are very different. Cheung spray-paints his work to add lens flares and halos that make the landscape cosmic and hallucinatory, but also meditative enough to challenge our perceptions of reality. Throughout it is carpeted by a moonscape of shifting sands, reminding us how fragile everything is.

Cheung’s trademark use of the Financial Times newspaper finds a new significance in this body of work, as he links myths to the geopolitics that have long defined our homes. His work addresses the existential problems of nations and individuals in this era of empires and global business in constant flux. It asks where we will be left as technology helps these capitalist forces flow through our minds in our internet-connected, social media-saturated lives.

No Place by Gordon Cheung, Mixed media on canvas, 150 x 112.5 cm, 2018.

“The Financial Times was first used in my work over 20 years ago, in the last century at the advent of the information and digital revolution, with the rise of the internet,” he says. “To me the use of stock market numbers was a direct symbol of the globalised landscape we have found ourselves in. The existential question of ‘Who, why and what am I?’ is one of the universal questions of consciousness, and also the germinating seed of transformation that I layer into my work. The interrelated motifs in my work are all fused with a profound philosophical enquiry and compulsion to find expression of a human condition that at best conveys a poetic and spiritual yearning. What is the meaning of home in an age where the world order is changing at an accelerated speed? In these in-between worlds, we might also ask existential questions about what the very purpose of our lives is.”

M+ Matters | Keynote: Building Louvre Abu Dhabi

December 7, 2018, 6.30pm
Jockey Club Hall, Asia Society Hong Kong Center (9 Justice Drive, Admiralty, Hong Kong)

www.westkowloon.hk

In this lecture organised by M+, Manuel Rabaté, Director of Louvre Abu Dhabi, discusses the building of this twenty-first-century encyclopedic museum as ‘a museum of experimentation, and a museum of meeting points’.

Louvre Abu Dhabi opened in November 2017 following a decade of planning and construction. It is the result of a collegial effort between France and the United Arab Emirates to create a visionary museum that inherits the tradition of the French institution while embracing the multicultural dynamics of the Arab world. This aspiration pervades the Jean Nouvel–designed building, which features a low-slung dome that evokes the architecture of a mosque and a mausoleum. The dome is pierced with openings and resembles interwoven palm leaves assembled into a lattice, proposing a contemporary reading of a traditional form. At the core of the museum’s mission is the notion of universal human values, which is enacted through collecting and programming activities that bridge the Louvre’s long history with the distinctive cultural context of Abu Dhabi. Manuel Rabaté is deeply connected with Louvre Abu Dhabi, through his work at Agence France-Muséums to lay the groundwork for the project, and now as the museum’s first director. 

‘Building Louvre Abu Dhabi’ is the second talk in the M+ Matters | Keynote series, which invites international thinkers and practitioners to share their experiences and insights into the development of influential projects that have defined the cultural landscape in the twenty-first century.

This edition of M+ Matters | Keynote is organised by Suhanya Raffel (Executive Director, M+) and Isabella Tam (Associate Curator, Visual Art, M+), with Kary Woo (Curatorial Assistant, Visual Art, M+).

Time
6.30pm – 8pm (Registration starts at 6:15pm)

Venue
Jockey Club Hall, Asia Society Hong Kong Center (9 Justice Drive, Admiralty, Hong Kong)

Speaker
Manuel Rabaté, Director, Louvre Abu Dhabi

Language
The talk will be conducted in English, with simultaneous interpretation in Cantonese.

Free admission. Limited capacity on a first-come, first-served basis. Please register in advance: www.westkowloon.hk/keynote

This talk is a partner programme of Business of Design Week.

For media enquiries
Communications and Public Affairs Department
West Kowloon Cultural District Authority
Joey Chow
T 852 2200 0716 / joey.chow@wkcda.hk

Sutton (international media)
Emily Chow
T 852 2528 0792 / wkcda@suttonpr.com 

 

About M+
M+ is a museum dedicated to collecting, exhibiting, and interpreting visual art, design and architecture, moving image, and Hong Kong visual culture of the 20th and 21st centuries. In Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District, we are building one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary visual culture in the world, with a bold ambition to establish ourselves as one of the world’s leading cultural institutions. Our aim is to create a new kind of museum that reflects our unique time and place, a museum that builds on Hong Kong’s historic balance of the local and the international to define a distinctive and innovative voice for Asia’s 21st century.

About the West Kowloon Cultural District
Located on Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour, the West Kowloon Cultural District is one of the largest cultural projects in the world. Its vision is to create a vibrant new cultural quarter for Hong Kong. With a complex of theatres, performance spaces, and museums, the West Kowloon Cultural District will produce and host world-class exhibitions, performances, and cultural events, as well as provide 23 hectares of public open space, including a two-kilometre waterfront promenade.

 

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Yuk King Tan and Tobias Berger

Artist Yuk King Tan and her husband, head of art at Tai Kwun Tobias Berger, talk about three of their favourite pieces in their collection.

All of the art work we have tells stories about countries that we live in, our friends and our shared history. Some of the work makes the audience reconsider its belief structures, opening up different ways of contemplating the world. Art is such a unique and challenging form of communication. It’s important to have pieces that inform the way we work and also shift how we perceive our surroundings and community.

Three really interesting, intelligent artists in Hong Kong right now are Ho Sin Tung, Nadim Abbas and Leung Chi Wo.

Ho Sin Tung has a lyrical, idiosyncratic illustrative style that uses a sociological perspective to examine the way memory, aesthetics, literature and filmscapes can create and mythologise a changing territory like Hong Kong. Her drawing style, with maps and seating plans, uses a muted colour palette and distorted viewpoints to make work that is suggestive, beautiful and often quietly subversive.

Your Name is Ferdinand (2010) is a delicate pencil and ink drawing of a seating plan at the HK Science Museum Lecture Hall, including film posters and an evocation of a stage set flanked by checkered curtains opening out over two dangling figures. Both figures are hung by marionette strings: the male figure appears to be carrying a rifle and a copy of the book For Ever Godard, while the female figure holds a trident that has speared a fish. Every seat that the artist has occupied is marked on the seating plan, with a careful list of the dates and titles of all the international and local movies she has seen in the old cinema hall.

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Your Name is Ferdinard by Ho Sin Tung, Pencil on paper, 80 x 108 cm, 2010. From the exhibition Seating Plan of The Hong Kong International Film Festival. Courtesy the artist, Yuk King Tan and Tobias Berger.

Like a dreamy diary of cinematic impressions, the work suggests we build a repository of images and impressions over our own past, related to and also based on how filmmakers and writers have interpreted life in a mixture of reality and imagination. The artist has said in interviews that visual cues in her work can “accumulate possibilities” and, like the solitary act of sitting in a darkened cinema, restructure the way we think about urban life in ways that are both intimate and communal.

Nadim Abbas’ So Sorry, **** Off is a deft commentary on signage and semiotics. Abbas plays with different registers around language to destabilise our perspective on space and make the familiar unstable and transformative. In this work he has taken a photo of the PRC Liaison Office in Hong Kong and rearranged the lettering in an ambiguous new formation.

“The Chinese tourists depicted in the establishing shot were not in the 2011 version,” said Abbas in 2013. “They had seen me taking photos outside the ministry that day and, to my surprise, asked if I could take one of them in front of the entrance as a keepsake. Whereas previously the urgency of the situation seemed to demand a more direct statement, this time I was compelled to approach the subject in a more oblique manner. I will leave the reader to fill in the blanks.”

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So Sorry, **** Off by Nadim Abbas, Digital chromogenic prints, 100 x 100 cm, 2013. Courtesy the artist, Yuk King Tan and Tobias Berger.

One of our favourite photographs is this work by Leung Chi Wo from the Colour Series (1999-2003). Capturing the less seen spaces above Hong Kong skyscrapers, this image was shot between Possession Street and Queen’s Road West. Leung finds another way to frame Hong Kong through its architecture of negative space, memoralising with colour filters strange new abstract forms in relation to the mass and density of the city’s uber-urban environment.

Like the artist’s other reflective, conceptual installations and multimedia works, the photograph tempts one to play detective and try to find the exact site where the artist stood, even though the speed of construction would make that almost impossible. As vignettes of places that we live in and love, the works in the Colour Series are metaphors about history and progress, in clean, modern shapes and primary colours.

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Colour Works by Leung Chi-Wo, 50cm x 80cm, 2003. From the exhibition Where is Hong Kong? Colour Works at Grotto Fine Art in 1993. Courtesy the artist, Yuk King Tan and Tobias Berger.

 

Robin Moyer

My China (1976 – Present)
Pékin Fine Arts
Hong Kong
Jun 23 – Oct 1, 2018
Valencia Tong

Upon entering the gallery, it is as though the viewer has stepped into a time capsule. The black-and-white photos of various sizes, some framed and some unframed, are the work of award-winning photojournalist Robin Moyer from a career spanning over five decades in Asia. They showcase the transformations of mainland China and Hong Kong from 1976 to the present day.

Steps at #24 Caine Road Hong Kong features a strong diagonal composition, with an advertisement printed at the side of the stone steps. The ad for Two Girls, a cosmetics brand with which generations of Hong Kong citizens have been familiar, evokes a sense of nostalgia.

Bicycles is a snapshot of the daily life of ordinary citizens in mainland China in the 1980s, featuring what for a long time was China’s most popular mode of transport. The crowd in
the foreground is juxtaposed against uneven shadows in the background cast by trees, adding to the depth of the image. This photograph not only documents the passage of time but also reflects micro-narratives that exist simultaneously alongside the official accounts of history.

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COS Bride, Victoria Harbour by Robin Moyer, 2011. Courtesy the artist and Pékin Fine Arts.

Moyer believes that, compared to colour photography, black-and-white brings content to the fore. His job as a photographer for Time and Life magazines allowed him to capture images of people and their actions at newsworthy locations, including in conflicts in war zones, often with a personal touch.

Besides black-and-white prints, the exhibition also includes hand-printed platinum photos, all individually printed and signed by Moyer on Hahnemühle fine art photo paper. The subject matter ranges from the sociopolitical and economic conditions of society to contemporary rural and urban scenes, featuring factories, prisons, ancestral homes, tea houses, schools and Chinese restaurants. The protagonists in the photos also come from diverse backgrounds, including soldiers, school children, factory workers, farmers and fishermen. The photos, juxtaposed against each other, offer a comprehensive overview of the development of Asia, particularly Hong Kong and China, throughout recent decades of rapid modernisation.

Paradoxically, Moyer’s photographs exude a sense of timelessness, even though they were taken over several decades. Carefully selected from his extensive archive of negatives, they allow the viewer to witness snapshots frozen in time with the highest quality of technical execution.

Hong Kong Human Rights Arts Prize 2018

Awards Ceremony, Art Auction and Cocktail Reception
Saturday, December 8, 2018
The Hive Spring 
Remex Centre, 3/F, 42 Wong Chuk Hang Road

Five Years of Inspiring the Civic Imagination

Don’t miss one of the most anticipated Arts Prize events of the year -a participatory space where art meets society and big ideas around human rights balance beautifully with action and real change brought by Justice Centre Hong Kong.

Originally launched by Justice Centre Hong Kong in 2013, the prize plays a pivotal role in discovering and encouraging Hong Kong artists to explore the state of human rights both at home and abroad. Importantly it provides a platform for artists to create work without boundaries and to magnify the impact and exposure of their stories.

Come join us to celebrate these powerful stories and help us raise much needed funds to ensure Justice Centre’s essential work within the community can continue into 2019.

The event will be catered by Pololi, serving their famous Poke bowls and the bar will be lovingly stocked by Golden Gate Wines, Peroni Beer and Absolut Vodka.

Event Admission

Pre-registration is required! First come, first served. Reserve your place NOW with a minimum donation of $250 to attend the opening night event. NOTE: children under 12 do not need registration.

REGISTER HERE

Come and be part of this empowering project

Doors open at 4pm  
Prize Announcement at 5.30pm  
Live Art Auction of the Award Winning pieces at 6.30pm (By: Macey & Sons)  
Event closes at 8pm

Curated by Dr Sampson Wong.

The acclaimed judging panel includes

  • Mimi Brown, Founder, Spring Workshop
  • Claire Hsu, Co-Founder & Executive Director, Asia Art Archive 
  • Professor Pang Laikwan, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
  • Professor Eric Poon, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
  • Ben Quilty, Artist 
  • Dr Kacey Wong, Artist

Working fearlessly to protect the rights of our most vulnerable

Justice Centre Hong Kong is a non-profit human rights organisation working fearlessly to protect the rights of our most vulnerable community members bringing their voices into the public debate. They also provide people seeking protection in Hong Kong with free and independent legal information, assistance and psychosocial services.

All funds raised from the auction of artwork and donations go to support Justice Centre Hong Kong.

justicecentre.org.hk/artsprize

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Noguchi for Danh Vo: Counterpoint

November 16, 2018 – April 22, 2019 
M+ Pavilion, West Kowloon Cultural District

www.mplus.org.hk/counterpoint

M+, Hong Kong’s new museum of 20th- and 21st-century visual culture in the West Kowloon Cultural District, presents Noguchi for Danh Vo: Counterpoint, to be held at the M+ Pavilion from November 16, 2018 to April 22, 2019. This exhibition is a dialogue between two artists: Japanese American artist Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988), who is a central figure in the history of modern art, design, and landscape architecture, and Vietnamese Danish artist Danh Vo (born 1975), an original voice in contemporary art practice.

The exhibition articulates this conversation through a range of works by Noguchi that spans almost five decades, including drawings, industrial design objects, and sculptures in stone, metal, and other materials. Vo’s contribution to the exhibition consists not only of select examples of his practice produced between 2010 and 2018, but also of building a bridge between two institutions and two cities—M+ in Hong Kong and The Noguchi Museum in New York. The exhibition is structured as a counterpoint, a relationship between two separate melodies that interweave and complement each other while maintaining their respective independence.

Works by Noguchi and Vo are presented in the gallery space of the M+ Pavilion as well as outside, in the Art Park of the West Kowloon Cultural District. The installation in the gallery is inspired by the scholar’s pavilion and garden—a leitmotif in traditional Chinese ink painting—imagining Vo as the resident scholar. The focal point inside the gallery is Vo’s Untitled (Structure for Akari PL2), a modified design of a traditional architectural form from Guizhou Province, in southwestern China. This small pavilion is adorned with PL2 model Akari lamps designed by Noguchi, forming an illuminated seating area, and it is surrounded by nearly three dozen selections from Noguchi’s practice produced between the 1920s and the 1980s. Works such as Cloud Mountain (1982–1983), made from galvanised steel; the collapsible, puzzle-like Strange Bird (1945, cast 1971); and the amorphous, allusive, alabaster Leda (1942) demonstrate Noguchi’s artistic versatility through diverse forms and materials.

Outside the M+ Pavilion, two modified shipping containers hold Vo’s carefully designed installations of his work, including a copper piece of We the People (detail) (2011–2016)—a reproduction at a one-to-one scale of the Statue of Liberty separated into more than three hundred fragments—a violently dismembered ancient marble sculpture, a gilded cardboard box, and a calligraphic rendering of the Cinderella story as told by the Grimm brothers. Vo’s presence outside the gallery is echoed by the Noguchi-designed Play Sculpture, installed nearby. This sculpture is one of the pieces that Noguchi developed for his utopian playscapes.

Complementary programmes, including a talk series, a teachers’ private viewing, and special guided tours, will accompany the exhibition. For more information, please visit www.mplus.org.hk/counterpoint.

Co-curated by Doryun Chong, Deputy Director, Curatorial, and Chief Curator, M+; and Dakin Hart, Senior Curator, The Noguchi Museum

Dates and times: November 16, 2018 – April 22, 2019
11am–6pm
Wednesday to Sunday and public holidays. (Closed on December 25, 2018; January 1, 2019; and February 5–6, 2019)

Location: M+ Pavilion, West Kowloon Cultural District

Admission is free


 

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Childhood by Isamu Noguchi,1970 © The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / ARS. Photograph: Kevin Noble

‘Isamu Noguchi: Citizen, Spaceship Earth’ Talk

Date and time: November 17, 2018 (Saturday)
1:30pm–3:00pm

Location: JC Cube, Tai Kwun (10 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong)

Speaker: Dakin Hart, Senior Curator, The Noguchi Museum

Registration: Free admission. Limited capacity on a first come, first served basis. Please register online in advance: www.westkowloon.hk/en/counterpoint_talk


 

About M+
M+ is a museum dedicated to collecting, exhibiting, and interpreting visual art, design and architecture, moving image, and Hong Kong visual culture of the 20th and 21st centuries. In Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District, we are building one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary visual culture in the world, with a bold ambition to establish ourselves as one of the world’s leading cultural institutions. Our aim is to create a new kind of museum that reflects our unique time and place, a museum that builds on Hong Kong’s historic balance of the local and the international to define a distinctive and innovative voice for Asia’s 21st century.

About the West Kowloon Cultural District
Located on Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour, the West Kowloon Cultural District is one of the largest cultural projects in the world. Its vision is to create a vibrant new cultural quarter for Hong Kong. With a complex of theatres, performance spaces, and museums, the West Kowloon Cultural District will produce and host world-class exhibitions, performances, and cultural events, as well as provide 23 hectares of public open space, including a two-kilometre waterfront promenade.

About The Noguchi Museum
Founded in 1985 by Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988), one of the leading sculptors and designers of the 20th century, The Noguchi Museum was the first museum in America to be established by an artist to show his own work. Comprising ten galleries in a converted factory building, and a sculpture garden, the Museum, widely viewed as among the artist’s greatest achievements, is an international hub for Noguchi research and appreciation. In addition to housing the artist’s Archive and managing the ongoing Isamu Noguchi Catalogue Raisonné, the Museum exhibits the full range of the artist’s work. Frequently changing installations from the permanent collection and special exhibitions offer a complex view of Noguchi’s art and illuminate his enduring influence as a category-defying, multicultural, cross-disciplinary innovator.

 

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Julian Charrière at Ping Pong

Ben Brown Fine Arts and Ping Pong Gintonería present:

An Invitation To Disappear

Video Screening
Monday November 19, 8.30 –10pm

Shot in Southeast Asia, Julian Charrière’s new film An Invitation to Disappear records a psychosocial transcendent rave set in the fields of a monoculture palm oil plantation. A linear camera shot through nauseatingly infinite rows of trees is underpinned by the mesmerizing pulse of natural sounds and techno beats, developed together with the British DJ and producer Inland. The film also marks the first outcome of the artist’s collaboration with philosopher Dehlia Hannah, responding to the 200th anniversary of a volcanic eruption in Indonesia that plunged the world into darkness and weather extremes—a climate cooling crisis remembered in Europe as the “year without a summer.” The delirium of the rave feels increasingly alienating within the man-made grid of the plantation, culminating in feelings of unease competing with the temptation of intrigue. Fog, flashing strobes, and overwhelming sounds turn the palm grove into a melancholic party zone in which the lack of people only exacerbates the dystopian vibe.

LG/F, Nam Cheong House
129 Second Street, Sai Ying Pun
T (852) 9835 5061
Mo-Su 6 to 11pm

More 

Image courtesy the artist and Ben Brown Fine Arts.

 

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Bedroom

By Elliat Albrecht

Conceived by American psychologist Abraham Maslow in 1943, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is one of the mainstays of popular psychology. The pyramid-shaped chart arranges human needs in order of necessity: at the bottom of the pyramid sit basic physical needs such as shelter, food and water, and stacked above are less tangible entities such as safety, belonging and love, esteem and, at the pinnacle, self-actualisation. For Maslow, each tier must be satisfied before the next can be achieved.

A similar system could be sketched for the development of a healthy art ecosystem. Needs such as funding, physical space, community support, and political and creative freedom must be met to build a robust art scene that gives artists meaningful opportunities. Such a scene requires a diversity of exhibition spaces, including commercial galleries, museums and non-profit, alternative galleries. But in Hong Kong, where space is at a premium and government funding is lacking, the most visible institutions are often the most commercially viable. Take for example the recent influx of hyper-professionalised, international, blue-chip galleries that tend to deal in canonical luxury objects at the exclusion of local or lesser-known art.

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Home 5000 by Chan Po Lam, Installation view, plywood, concrete, rockwool, prescription pills, resin, 160 x 70 x 114 cm, 2018. Courtesy the artist and Bedroom.

A few outstanding commercial galleries are invested in Hong Kong artists, but the championing of local or experimental practices is most often left to the city’s hard-working alternative or artist-run organisations. They suffer from high rent and a lack of grants, though: the past couple of years have seen the shuttering of several important organisations, including Things that can happen, Holy Motors, Neptune and Spring Workshop.

However, in late July a glimmer of hope rose above the fifth floor of a tong lau in Tai Kok Tsui, where friends Angela Jang and Michael Yu inaugurated Bedroom, a new alternative space self-funded through Jang and Yu’s day jobs, with their first exhibition and rooftop party.

Jang and Yu, both in their mid-20s, originally procured the former office unit as a studio in which to make their own art; Jang works between photography, painting and installation, while former Basel-based Herzog and de Meuron architect Yu makes ink drawings. Yu’s professional background is evident in the thoughtful, subtle homages to the unit’s past that were preserved during renovations, such as curious, dangling electrical cords and oddly placed outlets. But as they worked to freshen up the space for their own use, the partners began conceptualising how they could use the unit further for workshops and exhibitions.

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Heaven by Hung Fei, Installation view, satin, cotton, hemp ropes, hoop, dimensions variable, 2018. Courtesy the artist and Bedroom.

The first show at Bedroom – the name comes from the room in the back where Yu occasionally crashes for the night – was pitched to Jang and Yu by Jerry Wong, a 20-year-old artist, DJ, designer, and photographer. Titled Maslow and using the five tiers of Maslow’s pyramid theory as a conceptual framework, the exhibition comprised the works of five artists of Wong’s generation, born between 1994 and 1998. The artists made their works entirely from materials sourced around Tai Kok Tsui.

Embodying the fulfilment of physiological needs was Chan Po Lam’s Home 5000 (all works 2018), a post-apocalyptic, one-man shelter in the form of a plywood structure painted to look like impenetrable concrete. Sherwin Wong tackled the notion of safety with an installation, Sense Safety, that comprised a makeshift plywood coffin, a perishing houseplant and an arrangement of objects connoting comfort or safety, including condoms, a telephone, money and a family photo.

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Sense Safety by Sherwin Wong, Installation view, plywood, deceased plant, soil, wood, found objects, artist’s personal items, 230 x 182 x 90 cm, 2018. Courtesy the artists and Bedroom.

Nearby was Hung Fei’s entrancing mobile Heaven of dangling, cream-coloured hands, delicately sewn from satin, cotton and hemp, and representing the embrace of loved ones, albeit spookily so. Towards the back of the room, Chan Hon Lam’s Everyone’s Ridiculous invited viewers to step into a black velvet-curtained semicircle and gaze into a broken mirror while a recording of a droning voice questioned the entangled nature of the ego. Finally, representing self-actualisation, Jerry Haha’s sculptural contribution Hierarchy comprised an assemblage of ladders painted in a gradient of red to yellow. The sculpture was hoisted onto the rooftop during the party on the opening night, pointing to the sky like an offering. 

“It had always been a distant dream of mine to have a space in whatever shape or form, where creative people from different backgrounds can just hang out, mingle and collaborate or showcase their work,” says Jang.

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Hierarchy by Jerry Haha, Installation view, acrylic paint, wooden ladders, dimensions variable, 2018. Courtesy the artist and Bedroom.

To this end, the partners offer Bedroom as a “versatile venue for young artists, designers, musicians and curators alike to showcase works that are undiscovered locally”, according to a statement on its website. In August, Jerry Wong held a screen printing workshop there, during which the public could bring garments to be adorned free with various designs. On 8 September, Jang presented her own installation work alongside a live sound performance by Heejin Jang. Writer and curator Hera Chan organised the space’s second exhibition, Fan Death in Bedroom, which opened on 16 September; exploring the audacity of youth and its urgent romances, it featured work by Lee Lee Chan, Yen-Chao Lin and Oliver Lewis, Dipali Gupta, Isabelle Ng, Nguyen Trinh Thi, Shen Yuan, Xiaoshi Vivian Vivian Qin and Amy Yao. 

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Everyone’s Ridiculous by Chan Hom Lam, Installation view, wool, glass, canvas, video 2 min 30 sec, sound, 380 x 120 x 120 cm, 2018. Courtesy the artist and Bedroom.

The opening of Bedroom this summer signified a tenacious optimism and faith in the importance of alternative, non-commercial spaces for artists. If such things come in waves for Hong Kong, let this be the flow to counter last year’s ebb.

Jeremy Denk

Notes of Profundity
Grand Hall, Lee Shau Kee Lecture Centre, University of Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Jun 1, 2018
Ernest Wan

American pianist Jeremy Denk’s debut recital in the city, presented by the University of Hong Kong’s Cultural Management Office, is one of those unusual cases where a classical concert is given a title that is not merely a factual description of the programme, pressing certain preconceptions of the music on the audience rather than just letting them make their own minds up as they listen. 

One can try in vain to find out from the programme notes what this recital’s title, Notes of Profundity, is intended to bring to mind. The words “deep”, “deeper”, “deepest”, “depth”, “profundity” and “profundities” appear nearly 30 times yet remain unexplained, as if we all already had an idea, and even agreed on, what musical or aesthetic “depth” is all about. Such an unhelpful attempt to sound profound is especially unfortunate as it must be anathema to Denk, a widely admired writer on music known for his lucid, engaging prose that deftly demystifies his subjects.

Much of the music in the programme is contemplative and has an episodic quality to it. The opening Rondo, K. 511 by Mozart, is episodic by definition, comprising as rondos do a refrain and contrasting episodes. Denk gave an appropriately moody rendition of this pensive work, finding considerable drama in the episodes. Next was Prokofiev’s Visions fugitives, a collection of 20 aphoristic pieces, each averaging only about a minute in length, that cover a huge range of moods. Denk performed these in a straightforward manner, without trying to make them seem any more enigmatic (or possibly “profound”) than they are.

In Beethoven’s Op. 109 Sonata, the tension that resulted from Denk’s refusal to reconcile the disparate alternating musics in the first movement was wonderfully exacerbated in the following prestissimo, which was played with tremendous speed and vehemence. The final movement both began and ended with a great sense of calm and resolution, yet the pianist never downplayed the vigorous intervening variations.

The introspection of Schubert’s Sonata D. 960, a last-minute substitute for two previously announced works, is wholly in keeping with the rest of the programme. The extraordinary harmonic shifts towards the end of the meditative slow movement were accentuated by Denk’s carefully executed dynamic gradations. His performance was let down, however, by wayward tempo fluctuations in the principal theme of the dance-like fourth movement, producing a disorientating effect on each return of this theme.

Two encores wrapped up the recital. The first was a flowing account of another Mozart andante in rondo form, the middle movement of his Sonata K. 545. The second was Donald Lambert’s transcription of the Pilgrims’ Chorus from Wagner’s opera Tannhäuser. It opened with a simple chordal presentation of the hymn-like melody, but soon burst into a wild gallop in Harlem stride style. Denk brought the house down with his uproarious playing, an intentionally irreverent act suggesting that he would have none of the promotional pretentions to “profundity”, whatever that means.

Image: Jeremy Denk. Courtesy HKU MUSE.

Hank Willis Thomas

My Life is Ours
Ben Brown Fine Arts
Hong Kong
Sep 20 – Oct 27, 2018
Valencia Tong

American conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas is known for examining issues of identity, race, intolerance and protest. For his first solo exhibition in Asia, at Ben Brown Fine Arts, he reinterpreted archival photographs he found of protests in Hong Kong and
mainland China from past and present to highlight theuniversality of recurring themes of oppression across history.

The artist also explores the notions of materiality and audience engagement,
deliberately screen-printing the images onto retroreflective sheeting, which is usually used to make road signs visible in the dark. On top of that, painterly brushstrokes sit on the outermost layer, giving it the illusion of abstraction. It is only when the images are manually activated by light, such as a camera flash or a torch, that the full details of the historical images come to view. Since the appearance of the works keeps changing, mirroring the constant state of sociopolitical flux in the world at large, the viewer is
literally and metaphorically invited to look closer and dig deeper, beyond what is apparent.

Thomas - I think it_s gonna rain today (gold on silver on gold) - 2018 -Ambient (THO00070)

I Think it’s Gonna Rain Today (Gold on Silver on Gold) by Hank Willis Thomas, Screenprint on retroreflective vinyl, mounted on Dibond, 75.6 x 87.6 cm, 2018. Courtesy the artist and Ben Brown Fine Arts.

Nowadays digital images circulate at an unprecedented speed, especially on social media. We are used to the habit of browsing without a discerning eye, often believing what we come across without critically thinking about the implications or hidden agenda behind it. Consequently we are easily persuaded by glossy advertisements, cropped news images that distort our perception of what is being reported, and filtered Snapchat and Instagram photos that manipulate reality. In the age of fake news, propaganda and instant gratification, it is wise to pause and reflect on what is happening around us, because history often repeats itself.

To create the works on view, the artist uses traditional photographic techniques rather than a digital camera. Going back to the roots of his photographic training, he emphasises the craftsmanship required in the dark room to carefully create a masterpiece. Echoing this process are gallery walls painted in a dark colour, making viewers observe the works the way they would Andy Warhol’s screenprints or abstract expressionist paintings. The tension between the abstract and the figurative blurs the lines between the narrative presented by the media and reality itself. The artist asks us to re-examine our assumptions about injustice and protests that are ongoing in society.