All posts filed under: Features

Virginia Overton 弗吉尼亞·奧弗頓

Signs of the Times / By Christina Ko / When you are dealing with works as large and savagely stark as Virginia Overton’s installations, it’s easy to reduce the importance of a scattering of pieces on paper, which might initially seem to be simply two-dimensional precursors or stylistic explorations that precede their sculptural siblings, forged of aluminium and light. To many artists, paper is usually just a canvas, its function no more than to support the paint that sits on top of it; to Overton, it is a material with a history and significance equal to that of the salvaged aluminium that forms the rest of the pieces. Overton’s practice is not defined by any overarching message or cause, and, by her own admission, defying categorisation can be “problematic” in a world that loves a pigeonhole. But if there is a connective thread, it is that she works exclusively with salvaged materials, and that respecting the past life of said materials is an important aspect of the process – whether they be her go-to industrial …

Garden of Six Seasons 一園六季

By Brady Ng / Around the world, many public gardens, especially those normally maintained to symmetrical and groomed perfection, have been left untended during citywide lockdowns or movement control orders. In Paris, a friend walked by the Jardin de la Nouvelle-France, peered inside, and called it a “little jungle”. This wildness without wilderness is the consequence of eight weeks of precautionary restrictions. When people cannot visit parks and gardens, their upkeep is similarly affected. While human activity in public ground to a near halt in many major cities, nature reclaimed its place in our constructed environs. Wild boar roamed down paved roads in Berlin. Dolphins frolicked in sections of the Bosphorus normally busy with tankers and cargo ships. Monkeys climbed up to my sister’s fourth-floor apartment in Singapore and tried to break in. Taking its title from the name of a neoclassical garden in Kathmandu built in 1920, Garden of Six Seasons was a wide-reaching exhibition that also functioned as a precursor to the Kathmandu Triennale scheduled to open in early December and run for more than a …

Andreas Mühe 安德里亚斯·穆埃

Pathos as Distance / By Diana d’Arenberg Parmanand / Shown at Whitestone Gallery in Hong Kong, Pathos as Distance by Andreas Mühe is a survey of the artist’s work, comprising 30 photographs taken from 2004 to 2018. The East German-born photographer, who grew up in the last decade of the Cold War in a still divided Germany, creates images that portray the present through the lens of history using temporal distance to invoke pathos in a contemporary society suffering from historical amnesia. Mühe displays a fascination with power, pomp and grandeur, photographing monumental buildings, politicians, celebrities and rock stars, and even the German chancellor Angela Merkel. But he also dives into his country’s own history, subverting the totalitarian aesthetics and discourses of power that he draws on. The first photographs encountered in the exhibition are four self-portraits of the artist from the series Mühe Kopf (2018). Resembling album covers by German rock band Rammstein, with whom the artist has worked, the white, sculpted clay faces stare at the viewer with piercing blue, ceramic eyes. They are a form of vanitas, …

Jeffrey Shaw 邵志飛

WYSIWYG / By Brady Ng / Sometimes, art can leave its viewers scratching their heads. Much of it is staged to be seen from a distance in sanitised rooms, short pieces of text pasted beside it lazily flicking at pre-verbal notions. You might not engage with these objects beyond mental acrobatics or passive sensations. What you see or feel is often exactly what you get. Though that plight persists, the emergence of participatory art in the late 1950s and early 1960s shook things up. One of the artists who sought to transform the process of viewing art into active participation in its creation, Jeffrey Shaw developed a practice that riffed off the technological developments of the day. Anyone who approaches his work is meant to handle the apparatus he designed and built – clunky monitors (now slimmed down), stationary bicycles (now more robust), dials, knobs, switches, sensors. Shaw has been based in Hong Kong for 11 years. In 2009, he joined City University of Hong Kong as its chair professor of media art, and was dean of the …

Ho Sin Tung 何倩彤

The Optimism in Swamps / 沼地裡的樂觀 / By Christie Lee / At the opening of Ho Sin Tung’s Swampland, one wades (pun intended) through paintings and installations, taking care not to bump into a furry wall or knock over a ghost sculpture. Sufjan Stevens’ Mystery of Love, the theme song to the 2017 film Call Me by Your Name, washes over the crowd, who chat and clink glasses. The title of the show evokes the uncertain state that Hong Kong is in after eight months of protest, with the dimly lit gallery and cobalt walls conveying moodiness – although Ho says they weren’t her decisions. The setting looks markedly different from previous exhibitions by the artist, known for intricate drawings of her obsessions, usually borderline characters aspiring to reach an idealised state, only to find that it inevitably ends in failure. The artist, who was born in Hong Kong in 1986 and is a fine arts graduate from The Chinese University of Hong Kong, says she’s always been interested in the same themes. “This work is about the desire …

Lee Kai Chung 李繼忠

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

Irene Chou

A World Within: The Art and Inspiration of Irene Chou / By Christie Lee / There’s been a revival of interest the world over during the past few years in the works of female artists, and not least in Hong Kong. One manifestation of this is an exhibition at the Asia Society of Irene Chou, the Hong Kong- and later Brisbane-based artist who illuminated the Hong Kong art scene with her abstract ink paintings in the mid to late 20th century. Born in Guangdong in 1919, Chou grew up in an artistic environment: her father was a writer, her mother a calligrapher. Lingnan School painter Zhao Shao’ang was her first ink-painting teacher but it wasn’t until 1966, when she began to study under Lui Shou-kwan, a Hong Kong artist who advocated that an artist should combine technique and individual expression in his or her art, that she began to find her own footing. From Zhao she learned technique; from Lui she learned to let go of imitation, a practice long revered in the traditional master-apprentice …

Ed van der Elsken

Hong Kong the Way It Was / By Christina Ko / As the city’s future hangs in the balance, historically and technically fascinating photos taken by Ed van der Elsken in 1959-60 transport viewers to Hong Kong’s past. The subject of F11 Foto Museum’s fifth-anniversary exhibition, Dutch photographer Ed van der Elsken’s photos of Hong Kong taken around 1959-60, has by coincidence or fate been tied to several important dates in the city’s democratic history. Hong Kong the Way It Was showcases familiar Hong Kong scenes through warm yet unfamiliar eyes. Van der Elsken was on a 13-month tour of the world when he stopped in the colony for three weeks, falling for this “prettiest of harbour cities”, as he termed it, though he showed but a few of the photographs publicly for almost three decades. In 1989, spurred by the events of Tiananmen Square, he dug up the film negatives – which had never been printed – and disappeared into his darkroom for over a month, despite having been diagnosed with a terminal disease the …

Ellen Pau

The Life of an Image / By Ysabelle Cheung / “I’m trying to make poetry, not a film,” Ellen Pau said to me, somewhat enigmatically, during the opening hour of her latest solo show. For the previous 20 minutes she had been describing, in elliptical phrases and brief anecdotal vignettes, the processes of her three-decade investigations into varied media. Yet walking around the darkened, hermetic space of Edouard Malingue Gallery, which featured early and new works clustered around the restaged focal piece Great Movement (1996/2019), I found I had more questions. The slow, creeping organ notes emanating from the speakers: had I heard them before? Where were the faceless figures that were being shown on the thermal video screen? And what was that unidentifiable aroma permeating the room? Pau’s work and practice have always been somewhat ambiguous, but she places the responsibility on the viewer to understand the implications of this ambiguity. In most if not all of her works, there are layered, buried double meanings, framed by her explorations into metaphors around the body and technology and, more recently, our psychological, …

Philip-Lorca diCorcia

Moments of Influence / By Christina Ko / Dogs watching porn. A cross-dressing hustler. A woman in a yellow rain hat. Out of context, none of these photographs or their subjectsmight seem particularly extraordinary or groundbreaking to the innocent bystander, but together they make up part of the oeuvre of one of the 20th century’s most influential photographers, Philip-Lorca diCorcia. The American photographer is the subject of David Zwirner Hong Kong’s latest show, a retrospective that features key pieces from each stage of his career: early, staged photographs set up to resemble reportage; the more glamorous yet highly narrative images he shot for magazines such as W; and excerpts from his acclaimed series Hustlers (1990-92), in which he paid male sex workers their usual session rate for the privilege of photographing them in situations that seem everyday. While many of these images fairly obviously hail from another era, their influence hasn’t dimmed since they were created in the 1980s and 90s. “A lot of people were very excited, sometimes even emotional [when they heard about this show] – because this is like flipping …