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Hong Kong International Black Box Festival – Don’t miss this month’s exciting performances and workshops

Five Easy Pieces: A provocative, groundbreaking performance that probes the limits of what children know, feel and do 


Five Easy Piecesby Milo Rau/International Institute of Political Murder/CAMPO (Switzerland/Germany/Belgium).            Photo: Phile Deprez.


Wednesday to Friday, 31 October – 2 November 2018, 8:00pm 
Saturday, 3 November 2018, 3pm

Hong Kong Arts Centre Shouson Theatre
2 Harbour Road
Wan Chai, Hong Kong
$380, $280, $200 
Tickets now available at URBTIX
Half price for senior citizens aged 60 or above and full-time students, as well as people with disabilities and their accompanying minders.

Five Easy Pieces, an award winning play from Belgium by Milo Rau, the International Institute of Political Murder and CAMPO, is a profound, confrontational experience that blends realism and brutality. In five simple exercises, short scenes and monologues, seven young actors re-enact scenes based on the life of the Belgium’s most notorious criminal, child killer Marc Dutroux. At times funny, at times deeply disturbing, these scenes unfold against a projected backdrop of moments from Belgium’s history, from Congo’s declaration of independence to the 1998 “White March” against corruption.

Aesthetic and theatrical questions blend with moral issues: How can children understand the real significance of empathy, loss, old age, disappointment, or rebellion? What does it mean for adults to observe them in these scenes? And what does it say about our own fears, desires and taboos? After touring to international popular acclaim, Five Easy Piecespremieres this year in Hong Kong at the Hong Kong International Black Box Festival. Due to popular demand, this Hong Kong premiere includes an additional performance on Saturday, November 3.

Tickets are selling fast, so don’t miss out!

Learn more and buy tickets:

Screen Shot 2018-10-11 at 7.10.18 PM


About Hong Kong International Black Box Festival (October 11 – November 3, 2018)
From 11 October, Hong Kong Repertory Theatre and West Kowloon co-present the Hong Kong International Black Box Festival with four world-renowned productions – One Fine Day (Beijing), MDLSX (Italy), Oedipus Schmoedipus (Australia/Hong Kong) and Five Easy Pieces (Switzerland/Germany/Belgium) and a programme of artist-led workshops and talks. Under the theme “Becoming Real”, the four-week festival showcases bold and unconventional forms of theatre that blur the lines between representations of fiction and reality, and offer new perspectives that challenge our limits and understanding of the everyday.

About Hong Kong Repertory Theatre
Hong Kong Repertory Theatre is the longest standing and largest professional theatre company in the city, established in 1977 and incorporated in 2001. Since its establishment 41 years ago, it has presented more than 300 productions, many of which have become classics of the local theatre canon. HKRep produces and develops a high quality, innovative and diverse repertoire, encompassing Chinese, international, classic, and contemporary theatre, as well as original new works by local artists. It aims to develop the audiences’ interest and appreciation of theatre and to enrich the city’s cultural life, through its leadership position as the city’s flagship theatre company. 

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



Sara Tse

Re Visit 
Tai Kwun
Hong Kong
Jun 8 – Jul 8
Christine Chan Chiu

Touch Ceramics, in Hong Kong’s newest centre for heritage and arts, Tai Kwun, kicked off with an inaugural show of Sara Tse’s newest works. An artist long fascinated by the transience of time and the impermanence of life, Tse is known as much for her tactile abilities in modelling and manipulating clay as for the sentimental content of her pieces. The exhibition was not only a tribute to technique and craftsmanship but also a timely throwback to things past.

Tse discovered her signature method by chance, when the cloth used to clean her ceramic work table had hardened along with the clay. Experimenting by heating up the cloth, she discovered that while the cloth itself had been incinerated, what remained after the process was the exact replica of the cloth, but in porcelain, creating something that will last forever.

Tse applies this method faithfully to her latest works, where she has turned her attention to cartography to highlight how Hong Kong has evolved. The exhibition is well timed for its revitalised venue, formerly the Central Police Station compound, which has been granted a new lease of life. Indeed, Re Visit  was conceptualised to pay homage to the historical buildings and their surroundings. Tse’s creative process involved referencing old hand-painted maps, using Chinese calligraphy brushes to meticulously trace along the lines of these maps onto expendable rice paper, then subjecting the latter to her signature transformative treatment, leaving only porcelain replicas remarkably similar to the real maps. Some of these were then cut and displayed in the form of slides through a projector, their enlarged images intentionally revealing the nuanced imperfections of the firing process.


Sara Tse. Courtesy the artist and Tai Kwun.

On view are also items for which Tse is better known: a pair of socks, a young girl’s qipao, a toddler’s crocheted cardigan, even a plush teddy bear – all reconstructions of actual items but in porcelain, and amazingly real in their uncanny, detailed reproduction. Having been lovingly reincarnated into their new bodies, they are as durable as they are delicate.

The theme of nostagia has always been central to Tse’s works. Her art-making process is a cathartic one: in recreating the past, she succeeds not only in reliving it, but ultimately also in preserving it. While her maps provide an unbiased look into Hong Kong’s changing geographical landscape, the other more intimate pieces offer a glimpse into past experiences and relationships – metaphors for long-buried memories.

Clayplay No.8.5

Clayplay by Sara Tse. Courtesy the artist and Tai Kwun.

Re Visit was as much the artist’s personal story as it was Tai Kwun’s, with her intricate, unique approach to porcelain-making taking centre stage. The exhibition prompted the viewer to question the role and form of traditional porcelain, and to re-examine the significance that such everyday items hold in our lives, be they perishable or durable. It also shone a much-deserved spotlight on porcelain as an art form, reminding us that this traditional craft is very much alive.


Presented by JOCKEY CLUB New Arts Power and performed by Spring Glory Cantonese Opera Workshop, Backstage is a theatrical play that takes place backstage with an opera troupe. The two protagonists, a veteran Cantonese opera producer and a young journalist, represent two generations of people who differ in age and cultural background. Backstage strengthens the audience’s understanding of the vibrant, diverse elements of the art in an easy-to-understand way, combined with the format of a modern play. Viewers will be introduced to exquisite costumes, colourful make-up, elegant body movements, spectacular martial-arts routines, one-of-a-kind Chinese musical performances and peerless singing skills. (Check out the interview with Barbara Tang, executive director of Spring Glory Cantonese Opera Workshop, by Ernest Wan.)

October 24, 7.30 pm
October 25, 3 pm

$200 / $160 (Enjoy up to 30% exclusive discount, apply code NAPJENG30 at URBTIX) .

Ko Shan Theatre New Wing, Auditorium
77 Ko Shan Road, Hung Hom, Kowloon





By Ernest Wan

All eyes in Hong Kong’s performing-arts world are currently on the Xiqu Centre in the West Kowloon Cultural District, which is slated to open at the end of this year. The building is officially described as “a centre for the production, education and research” of xiqu, the Putonghua word for what has conventionally and conveniently been known as “Chinese opera”. Accordingly, since last year West Kowloon has been presenting a number of talks that seek to increase people’s understanding of this art form. However, every year since 2014 a local performing group has been educating the public on Cantonese opera — the genre of xiqu found in Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China’s Guangdong and Guangxi provinces — in a much more adventurous fashion: in the form of contemporary drama, in English, and mostly in other parts of the world.

According to Barbara Tang, executive director of Spring Glory Cantonese Opera Workshop, the idea of the theatrical work came from the inadequacy of talks on the subject. “For many years I have given talks on face-painting and costumes in Chinese opera. The non-Chinese-speaking audience members are always so eager to learn more that they shower me with questions afterwards, and I don’t even get to go to the toilet. So one day I said to Fai Gor,” referring to her husband, the esteemed veteran performer Yuen Siu-fai, “‘The foreigners are so intrigued by this art, so why don’t we go to Edinburgh [Festival Fringe] and tell them all about it?’”


The leading lady in Backstage. Courtesy Hong Kong Arts Development Council.

The couple wanted to give the audience a more engaging experience than a talk could provide, so they asked the actress Musette Tsang, Tang’s daughter from a previous marriage, to write the script for a play and direct it. The story of this play, Backstage, involves a Cantonese opera troupe on tour in a foreign country, where a reporter, played by Tsang herself, has a peek behind the scenes of its inner workings. Yuen plays a master of the art who has retired and moved to the country visited by the troupe, whose producer is played by Tang. Having learned with the reporter about the art from the troupe members at work, the audience is invited to go onstage for some first-hand experience, such as having stage make-up applied and practising a few stylised body movements used in Chinese opera. All of this equips them with the knowledge to enjoy the ensuing performance, led by Yuen, of a substantial operatic excerpt.

Such an approach, says Tang, is able not only to answer questions people often ask about the art form, but also to encourage them to find out more about it. She highlights the embarrassment of richness offered by the various elements that are all integral to Chinese opera, which contrasts sharply, for instance, with Western opera, where the music is all-important; with ballet, where the dance is; and with drama, where the words and dialogue are. “You may not be a fan of the singing, but you may appreciate the stylised movements,” she says. “You may not find these movements graceful, but you may like the martial arts. You may not be into kung fu, but you may adore the make-up. But when all of these things are brought together, you’ll find it fascinating.”


The general in Backstage. Courtesy Hong Kong Arts Development Council.

has received broad acclaim since its 2014 premiere in Edinburgh, and has been performed in the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, China, South Korea and back home in Hong Kong. The hometown performances this year are preceded by an outing in Singapore, and next year it will be taken as far afield as Hawaii and Costa Rica. These tours afford what is for most people around the world a rare opportunity to acquaint themselves with Cantonese opera, one of the three genres of Chinese opera, out of hundreds in existence, that are on Unesco’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

In Hong Kong there are at least six Cantonese opera performances each day, or more than 2,000 a year, according to Tang. Yet this art form is popular mostly among, and therefore generally associated with, the older generation. “Today’s [younger] Hongkongers are so busy and so impatient, and they have so many choices of entertainment. They may stay at home and play video games, or go out and watch a movie. But when it comes to Cantonese opera, even students won’t buy a ticket at half price to a three-hour performance of something they aren’t familiar with. We need to arouse their interest in it, so that they’ll want to come and discover more.”

Backstage aims to help the uninitiated develop an appreciation of this centuries-old art form, says Tang. Perhaps surprisingly, this can be easier with non-Chinese-speakers in the city. “Unlike many locals, foreigners often admire Chinese culture and don’t think of Cantonese opera as old-fashioned. They just don’t have an introduction to it and don’t know how to approach it. I hope that, after seeing Backstage, they’ll have the incentive to buy a ticket to the theatre.”

Tang describes Cantonese opera as “the most characteristic, traditional, authentic and indigenous performing art of Hong Kong”, and until the past few  decades it was a popular form of recreation for people from all walks of life. Given all the discourse in recent years on “localism” and the search for a Hong Kong identity, it is more important than ever for anyone concerned with the city’s history and culture, whatever his or her native land or tongue, to look into and draw inspiration from this art.

Spring Glory Cantonese Opera Workshop performs Backstage at the Ko Shan Theatre New Wing in Hung Hom on October 24 at 7.30 pm and October 25 at 3 pm.


Art for the People

The value of art beyond the market
What Hong Kong’s private sector should learn from their counterparts in Chengdu

By Vivienne Chow

In the countryside about an hour’s drive from the centre of Chengdu in southwest China lies a hidden gem. Behind the greenery lies a pathway around a still pond, which reflects an obscurely shaped building. It appears to be comprised of two blocks piled up, covered with chains of tiles draped on the facades, gently reflecting sunlight under the blue sky, and forming a tranquil picture of nature and modernity.

This is Zhi Art Museum, designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, one of the latest additions to China’s booming private museum scene. Zhi means “knowledge” in Putonghua, and reflects the institution’s ambition to become a cultural landmark in Sichuan province. The museum’s inaugural exhibition Open bringstogether nine international artists including Chico MacMurtrie, Mariko Mori, Carsten Nicolai and Zhang Peili, whose conceptual works challenge perceptions of contemporary life. The entire project is a statement on the value of art beyond the much-hyped art market.

Cities around the world are scrambling to lay claim to the title of cultural capital. GDP is no longer the sole indicator of a city’s value, and a vibrant cultural life not only brings entertainment but also knowledge, fulfilment and creativity. Many governments recognise this; for example, the Arts Council England published a paper in 2014 outlining the contributions of culture and the arts to the economy, health and well-being, society and education.

Chengdu, Sichuan’s capital, is one of the latest to join the race. The second-tier city of more than 14 million population, which has a history stretching back to 311 BC, generated GDP of 1.39 trillion yuan (HK$1.7 trillion) in 2017, the eighth highest in mainland China. It is already famous for being the home to China’s iconic pandas and delicious spicy hot pot that numbs diners’ lips and tongues, as well as beautiful nature. The city is already doing pretty well.

But its ambition doesn’t stop there. In addition to the first edition of Art Chengdu International Contemporary Art Fair, the city is eager to boost its cultural offerings. Cultural institutions, public and private, have a key role to play.

A 2016 study of Chengdu’s cultural ecology showed that the city has 86 museums, 49 of them public and 37 private. Although it suggested that there was room for improvement in public participation in these institutions, it also encouraged private sector to contribute further to cultivating the city’s cultural life. Art Chengdu, for example, managed to erect two marquees in the city’s pedestrian zone with the help of local government.

Zhi Art Museum was developed by property developer Fantasia Group, which has three companies listed in Hong Kong and mainland China. The museum is adjacent to residential blocks but its architecture and ambitious inaugural exhibition suggest it positions itself as more than just a decorative item.


A4 Art Museum, Exterior view. Courtesy Vivienne Chow.

A4 Art Museum is another stunning private institution in the city. Formerly known as A4 Contemporary Arts Centre, and founded in 2008 by Chengdu Wide Horizon Investment Group, the institution recently moved into a new building designed by Antoine Predock in Luxelakes Eco-City, a large property development with luxury housing surrounding a man-made lake. 

Again the museum positions itself as more than just a value-added item to boost property prices. It is currently hosting Turner Prize-winning artist Martin Boyce’s solo exhibition Hanging Gardens, featuring the artist’s iconic installations as well as new works commissioned by the museum. Also on show is homegrown artist Chen Qiulin’s solo show Peppermint, in which she examines the dynamics of human relationships through new-media works inspired by visits to her estranged childhood friends. The institution is also home to a version Kohei Nawa’s iconic PixCell-Deer which is over five metres tall, the largest the artist has ever made.

By contrast most Hong Kong property developers lag far behind. Some have stagied exhibitions at shopping malls, but only a tiny number dedicate resources to authentic arts and culture programmes. Resourceful individuals have been turning their passions into mini private institutions like F11 Photographic Museum and Liang Yi Museum that showcase their private collections, but there is a lot more the property giants can do. Building a vibrant, sustainable cultural ecology is not just the responsibility of a few people.

Oscar Murillo at David Zwirner Hong Kong

19 September – 3 November 2018
Opening reception: Wednesday, 19 September, 6 – 8pm

David Zwirner is pleased to present an exhibition of paintings and works on paper by Oscar Murillo at the gallery’s Hong Kong location, marking the artist’s first solo presentation in Asia.

Born in Colombia and based in various locations, Murillo is known for an inventive and itinerant practice that encompasses paintings, works on paper, sculptures, installations, actions, live events, collaborative projects, and videos. Taken as a whole, his body of work demonstrates a sustained emphasis on the notion of cultural exchange and the multiple ways in which ideas, languages, and even everyday items are displaced, circulated, and increasingly intermingled. Through his command of gesture, form, and spatial organization, Murillo is able to convey a complex and nuanced understanding of the specific conditions of globalization and its attendant state of flux, while nevertheless maintaining the universality of human experience within this milieu.

In recent years, Murillo has traveled extensively throughout the world to research and prepare exhibitions and other projects, making works both in the studio and in unexpected locations. As a result, airplanes, which are able to move more or less freely and without regard to borders, and the contemplative isolation afforded by these long journeys, have become an important site of production for the artist. As Murillo explains: “Constant transnational movement has become an integral facet of my practice. Flight becomes not just a means of travel but a sacred ‘other’ space, the aeroplane seat itself becoming a unique ‘studio’ at a remove, a non-place which is both physically confined and freed from being in any real geographical location. Within this space, during the proscribed periods of time each journey affords, I engage in notation, mark making, recording, layering gestural marks onto surfaces: sketchbooks, Japanese paper, printouts from Google Maps, landing cards. This practice becomes a process of experimentation, of accumulation, and, in a sense, of research.”

These notations, in turn, form the basis of Murillo’s large-scale canvases on view in this exhibition, which the artist considers to be his first show to present purely paintings. As Emma Enderby notes, these works embody a “radical synthesis”1 in both their form and content. To make them, the artist first stitches together fragments of worked canvases that have been subjected to various processes in different locations, sometimes over the space of years. Through an associative working method, he then builds up layers of both found and invented imagery and phrases as well as gestural markings in intuitively placed planes, resulting in dense surfaces that at first glance appear abstract and even lyrical. By combining personal allusions with more universally recognizable references, Murillo aligns these paintings with preceding art- historical movements that conceptualized art not as a hermetic language, but rather as a critical tool for interpreting a world outside of itself—comprising, as he notes, “an accumulation of thought, gesture, discourse, action, and motion.”

On the occasion of the exhibition, a new publication on the artist’s work, featuring a text by Victor Wang, is forthcoming from David Zwirner Books and will be available in both English only and bilingual English/traditional Chinese editions.

Image: catalyst #25 by Oscar Murillo, 2017. © Oscar Murillo. Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner.

David Zwirner
5-6/F, H Queen’s
80 Queen’s Road, Central
T (852) 2119 5900



Mark Bradford

Hauser & Wirth
Hong Kong
Mar 27 – May 12, 2018
Valencia Tong

Spanning the 15th and 16th floors of H Queen’s, the newly built luxury art and cultural hub, Hauser & Wirth’s brand new Hong Kong space was inaugurated by an exhibition by US artist Mark Bradford. The US representative at the 2017 Venice Biennale, the Los Angeles-based abstract artist brought to the Hong Kong show some of his newest works, which feature a map motif.

At first glance, the viewer is greeted with a scene of overwhelming tranquility, surrounded by turquoise-blue paintings against the stark white walls of the spacious gallery. The bright blue colour of the majority of the paintings evokes the feeling of being immersed in a vast ocean. However, on closer examination, the images provoke anxiety; they do not depict nature and freedom, but aerial views of a claustrophobic, restrictive urban reality. It is as if the viewer assumes the perspective of an overhead surveillance camera that sees where all the boundaries and borders of urban geographies lie, and these separations divide populations into communities according to their race and class. The grungy texture and layering of the paintings recall graffiti and torn posters on walls. The paintings encapsulate the everyday experiences of the city dweller.

Next, Storm the castle by Mark Bradford, Mixed media on canvas, 213.4 x 274.3 cm, 2018. © Mark Bradford. Photo: Joshua White. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth.

In the context of Hong Kong, where land is scarce and a hotly sought-after commodity, power struggles between communities and landlords often erupt as boundaries blur, especially as the urban fabric keeps changing when reclamation of land causes borders to expand into the sea. 

The question of identity arises as communities are disrupted by rapid development, often for financial gain, resulting in social injustice. Bradford’s paintings remind us to pay attention once again to how marginalised communities, often voiceless and powerless, are oppressed during the process of city planning. Often the seemingly objective lines on maps are simply facades that do not reveal the reality of the lives of the people who live there.

Bradford’s paintings are not meant to show peaceful shades of blue on a sunny day, but are rather a collective plea for people with power and authority to delve deeper, beyond cold, structural, institutional violence, and think about what is at stake for vulnerable populations.

Image, top:  I finally touched the sky by Mark Bradford, Mixed media on canvas, 76.2 x 61 cm / 30 x 24 in, 2018. © Mark Bradford. Photo: Joshua White. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth.

Don’t miss the 11th South Island Art Day on Saturday, September 22

Following highly successful South Island Art Days over the past five years, this year the South Island Cultural District (SICD) is teaming up with the Hong Kong Art Gallery Association (HKAGA) to host an even more exciting event.

SICD and the HKAGA promise an exciting, varied programme including exhibitions in 13 art spaces, giving visitors the opportunity to attend openings, interact with local and international artists, join guided tours and further experience the diversity of contemporary art through performances and outdoor installations.

Admission to the Art Day is free and each participating gallery is offering complimentary food and drinks from our local partners.

We look forward to welcoming you together with more than 5,000 other art lovers to Hong Kong’s New Destination for Contemporary Art on September 22.

For more information visit or contact us on T +852 2696 2300 E

Image: Courtesy SICD.

Gert & Uwe Tobias

By Diana d’Arenberg Parmanand

During the Ottoman invasion of Wallachia in 1462, Sultan Mehmed II, who had marched into the territory with an army of more than 150,000 troops, entered the small town of Târgoviște in what is today Romania to find a forest of 20,000 Turkish men, women and children, all impaled. The perpetrator: Voivode Vlad III Dracula. The carnage earned the ruler the moniker Vlad “Tepes”, or the Impaler, among the local population. A little further afield in England, his numerous acts of heinous cruelty, and his patronymic, would inspire the creation of Irish writer Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula. They also sowed the seeds of inspiration for the work of identical twin brothers and artistic collaborators Gert and Uwe Tobias.

Born in Transylvania, Romania to a Saxon family, the artists explore their cultural identity through mythology in their woodblock print paintings, ceramic sculptures, typewriter drawings and watercolours. Having spent their childhood under Nicolae Ceaușescu’s rule, the myths and misconceptions of Vlad Dracul, as he is known in Romania, did not initially colour their youth. There he was a historical figure, a hero, a warlord ruler who staved off the Ottoman threat and defended Christendom, albeit with an iron fist.

It was only after years in Western Europe, having migrated to Cologne, Germany in 1985, just four years before the iron curtain of communism was ripped down, that they found out about the well-known vampiric Dracula mythology of Hollywood, which trickled into their work. “We played with this cliche about the land behind the mountains, Transylvania,” they say. “We combined the titles of Dracula B-movies with the iconography of folklore. These were our first large-format woodcuts.”

Tobias - Untitled - 2017 (TOB00024-25)

Untitled, Coloured woodcut on canvas, signed, dated and numbered ‘2/2’ on the reverse, 150 x 130 cm, 2017. Courtesy the artists and Ben Brown Fine Arts.

Studying fine art under the German artist Walter Dahn, a member of the rebellious 1980s artist group the Neue Wilde (“Wild Youth”), the Tobiases worked individually until graduating in 2002 from the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Braunschweig. After a joint project, say the brothers, “We realised that in cooperation we could allow for things that we would not allow ourselves alone. The added value is that from the dialogue between the two positions, a third emerges.”

Today, like characters out of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, they work and live together in their Cologne studio, a former potato factory. Each woodblock painting is first worked on by one brother individually, with the other subsequently brought in to add to it. When a piece is completed the brothers both sign it with their initials, GUT, which also means “good” in German, signing off on what the other did. It’s never clear to the viewer where the work of one ends and the other begins. “A certain amount of space is of course necessary to leave oneself and the others behind,” they say. “It is important that each individual sees himself in his work.”

The brothers have revived and breathed new life into the large-scale woodcut as a form. Working with a collage system, they draw inspiration from a diversity of materials. “All our work is based on the principle of collage,” says Uwe. “It starts with the fact that Gert and I work together. Our influences come from different directions, for example arts and crafts or art history or magazines. All these influences are transformed into our imagery.”

Tobias - Untitled - 2017-18 (TOB00040)

Untitled, Ceramic, signed and dated on the underside, 35.6 x 27.3 x 27.3 cm, 2018. Courtesy the artists and Ben Brown Fine Arts.

Surreal portraits of ghoulish long-necked figures with stylised hair and large, elfin ears and faces look as if they have been hacked together from different images from Nosferatu or a Fritz Lang film, or from movie posters. The brothers’ large woodcuts and wall paintings are littered with art-historical references to Max Ernst, German Expressionism, Russian Constructivism and Bauhaus.

Their recent Hong Kong exhibition at Ben Brown Gallery featured a series of nine woodblock prints on canvas, as well as mixed media on paper and four large hand-painted ceramic pots. 

Accommodating the smaller spaces of Hong Kong homes, a number of the woodcut prints are scaled down to portrait size for would-be local collectors, all executed in a palette of subdued sherbets and grisaille. This is a departure from the brothers’ darker, bolder graphic works, but the prints still bear the floral and animal motifs that occur throughout their body of work, and a recurring cast of characters from their self-created world that is dark, quirky and humorous.

The prints, all untitled and executed in 2017, marry beauty with horror. In one, a teal-coloured sleeping femme fatale is watched over by an owl, while another with a carnivalesque, mask-like face, reminiscent of James Ensor’s deathly figures, is visited as if in a haunting nightmare by a surreal moth-like creature and a bird sprouting a bloom from its head. The figures, in their shades of grey and blue, and reversal of dark and light, resemble photographic negatives.

Tobias - Untitled - 2018 (TOB00035)

Untitled, Mixed media on paper, signed and dated on the reverse, 43 x 33.5 cm, 2018. Courtesy the artists and Ben Brown Fine Arts.

Although neither brother has ever visited Hong Kong, they drew from the region for inspiration, adding here and there a phoenix, an Asian floral motif (perhaps a bauhinia) or a hairstyle adorned with hairpins suggestive of the Tang dynasty. Contrasted with these motifs is a layer of geometric grids, which draw on modernist geometric abstraction. These make up the background of the larger woodblock prints, lending them visual depth and spatial fragmentation. The woodcuts have a rough-hewn, handcrafted finish and are all hand-printed­, with uneven textures and outlines reminiscent of folk art. But unlike traditional woodblock prints, the brothers only produce two of each printed canvas, slightly different from each other. The prints are composed almost like puzzles, with layer on layer of shape, texture and colour, a juxtaposition of the handcrafted and the industrial.  

Combining line, shape and colour with fairy tales, the prints are at once exotic and folkloric, naive and modern. Like the mythology that inspires them, which blends fiction and historical fact, the Tobiases’ work is a hybrid. Stitched together from diverse influences, they create an altogether new, fantastical world.

In Search of Southeast Asia through the M+ Collections

In Search of Southeast Asia through the M+ Collections is the first exhibition to present how M+ is addressing the complex region of Southeast Asia in the building of its multidisciplinary collections.

Encompassing visual art, design and architecture, and moving image works from, and about, Southeast Asia—including the nations of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam—the exhibition highlights how M+ is developing a unique perspective on the region as a place that is defined by multiple narratives, histories, and identities.

Featuring archival materials, architectural models, contemporary art installations, and moving image artworks, the exhibition illuminates the region’s historical and contemporary contexts as well as the flow of ideas across borders.

Now until 30 September 2018

Opening Hours: 
Wednesday to Sunday and public holidays

M+ Pavilion, West Kowloon Cultural District

Free Admission




Conjunction public talk: Powers at Play 

In conversations with M+ curators Pauline J. Yao (Lead Curator, Visual Art) and Shirley Surya (Associate Curator, Design and Architecture), the invited speakers will present how their practice and research have addressed and engaged with state and institutional forces in the context of postcolonial nation-building and present-day statecraft in Southeast Asia.

Date and time: 
12 September 2018 (Wed), 6:30–8:30pm

Hong Kong Arts Centre Louis Koo Cinema (2 Harbour Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong)

Conducted in English (with simultaneous interpretation in Cantonese)

Kiri Dalena (visual artist, the Philippines)
Lai Chee Kien (architectural historian, Singapore)
Charles Lim (visual artist, Singapore)
Lim Chong Keat (co-founder of Malayan Architects Co-partnership and Architects Team 3, Singapore/Malaysia)

Free admission. Please register in advance.




M+ Screenings: Southeast Asia Moving Image Mixtape

Organised in conjunction with the exhibition, M+ Screenings: Southeast Asia Moving Image Mixtape presents a selection of moving image works produced in and about Southeast Asia that identify key voices, influences and motivations in experimental filmmaking in Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Featured works include three shorts by emerging Thai filmmaker Pathompon Mont Tesprateep, and three films selected by Tesprateep that illustrate his influences. Learn more and buy tickets:

The programme also includes a free screening at 7:30pm at the Laundry Steps, Tai Kwun on 18 September. No registration required. Learn more: 

Date: 18 September (Tuesday)
Venue: Laundry Steps, Tai Kwun
Free admission. No registration required

Date: 21–23 September (Friday–Sunday)
Venue: Broadway Cinematheque
Standard tickets: HK$85
Concessions are available

Tickets are available now at the Broadway Cinematheque box office and self-service ticketing machines, as well as online at