All posts filed under: Features

Andrew Luk 陸浩明 & Samuel Swope

By Brady Ng / More than a decade ago, futurists and techno-hobbyists started to pronounce with unalloyed confidence that drones would upend the way we live. Aside from widely publicised use cases for the military, law enforcement and surveillance, the proposition was that they could also provide entertainment through photography or as general playthings, while others could automate tasks for us, like robotic cleaners or all-seeing autonomous security guards that watch over homes from above. As social and cultural developments iterate and unfold, technological advancements that ostensibly make our lives easier come with strings attached. Yet the overarching concern is velocity – prosperity and power await the first to switch zero to one. The cultural theorist and philosopher Paul Virilio described this condition as “dromology”, likening the evolution of society and culture to a race. Hong Kong-based artists Andrew Luk and Samuel Swope have teamed up for a project that unpacks Virillo’s observation. To make their point, the duo built a racetrack for drones in de Sarthe’s gallery space. Luk and Swope sound like architects …

Lau Hok Shing, So Wing Po, Zhang Ruyi 劉學成、蘇詠寶、張如怡

Amid columns of art books at Blindspot Gallery’s Wong Chuk Hang office is what looks like an object belonging in a Chinese scholar’s study. But stare at it a bit longer and an image of a tear gas cloud – a common sight on Hong Kong streets in the second half of 2019 – comes to mind. Suddenly, an object that supposedly inspires turns into one that muddles and impedes. This ambiguity threads through most of the works at The Palm at the End of the Mind, a group show by three artists, Lau Hok Shing, So Wing Po and Zhang Ruyi. The title, lifted from the first line of Wallace Stevens’ poem Of Mere Being, is something of a riddle. Which palm does Stevens refer to here – the palm of a hand or a palm tree? (It turns out to be the latter.) And never mind what lies at the end of mind – what, precisely, is the end of the mind? Despite the mind being human, the poem appears to be reaching …

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 …

ektor garcia

By Christie Lee / It must be a strange moment for ektor garcia. The artist, used to a nomadic lifestyle, is, like everyone, on lockdown, in his case in Mexico, his birthplace. Under normal circumstances, he would have flown to Hong Kong for his show Oax.D.F.L.A.N.O.H.K., yet the pandemic left him no option but to direct Empty Gallery where to place each piece through video conferencing, arranging them to mimic his own living space. On entering the black box exhibition space, visitors encounter ventanal (2020), which means ‘a large window’ in Spanish. Consisting of spider leg-like forms that twist and knot into each other, the work was created with the ancient lost-wax casting process, where molten metal is poured into a wax cast mold. One feels a perverse thrill looking at these slightly menacing forms. From there, the eye is directed towards Portales (2020), a series of hanging curtains fashioned from metals or animal skins. These are intricately latticed, the shadows they cast on the wall behind adding to the frenzy. While the ones crafted from animal …

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 …