All posts filed under: Features

Jeffrey Shaw

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

The Optimism in Swamps / 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 in all …

Lee Kai Chung

Of Myth and Memory / 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 for germ …

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 …

Luke Ching Chin Wai & South Ho Siu Nam

By Diana d’Arenberg Parmanand / The first exhibition in Hong Kong addressing and engaging with the city’s current political and identity troubles, Liquefied Sunshine | Force Majeure is a creative dialogue between Hong Kong artists Luke Ching Chin Wai and South Ho Siu Nam that explores the notion of storms, one natural, the other political. With works made in 2014, the year of the Umbrella Movement protests, and 2018, the two socially engaged artists respond to the earlier protests and presciently foreshadow the protests and riots that are still unfolding in the city. In the bifurcated gallery space, Ching’s exhibition greets visitors with Liquefied Sunshine (2014-15), a wall of 721 postcards of Hong Kong and Taiwan landmarks, obscured by strokes of white ink suggesting a curtain of heavy rain. A video installation, Weather Report: Liquefied Sunshine (2014-15), depicts artificial rain brought by water trucks descending on art museums in Hong Kong and Taiwan. The inspiration behind the work lies in the use of water cannons against protestors in Taiwan’s 2014 Sunflower Movement, and an incident shortly after that when rain fell …

Mandy El-Sayegh

By Christie Lee / Somewhere between dizzying grids, newspaper clippings and a xeroxed copy of a page from a Chinese colouring book is Mandy El-Sayegh’s subjectivity. Or was: as the artist says, her subjectivity is a process. “I view myself as someone who is always changing. It [one’s subjectivity] depends on different moments in time. If you accept that as you are mutable, you’ll be more accepting of change,” says El-Sayegh, who is in Hong Kong to open Dispersal,her first solo exhibition at Lehmann Maupin. One end of the gallery is dominated by her Piece Paintings (2010-), featuring a smorgasbord of figurative imagery in unexpected juxtapositions. Theyare hoisted against an installation piece featuring copies of the South China Morning Post, meticulously arranged in a grid-like format on the walls and floor and smeared with a thin veneer of white paint. El-Sayegh says she deliberately picked a newspaper that was easily comprehensible to a western audience, and one that conveys a sense of truthfulness, to ask what context newspapers provide to help us to understand the …

Chen Danqing

By Diana d’Arenberg Parmanand / Shanghai-born artist Chen Danqing was only 14 when he started painting Mao propaganda posters in the 1970s. “I painted more than 100 portraits of Chairman Mao on the street walls in Shanghai and its suburbs and also on factory iron sheets,” he says. “During that time, there were millions of amateur and professional painters in China who painted millions of portraits of Mao Zedong.” Sent to live in the countryside in Jiangxi province for five years as part of a nationwide programme of forced collectivisation during the Cultural Revolution, Chen painted what was prescribed in the socialist realist style. The posters were part of a progression in a career that would eventually earn him accolades as a painter in China. After the Cultural Revolution he was admitted to the China Central Academy of Fine Arts, graduating in 1980 and staying on to teach until he moved to New York City a couple of years later. It was during this period that he painted his series of seven Tibetan paintings, which would …