All posts filed under: Features

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 …

Women in Art: Hong Kong

Au Hoi Lam, Fang Zhaoling, Jaffa Lam, Ko Sin Tung, Man Fung-yi, Mediha Ting, Choi Yan Chi / By Seth O’Farrell / As I walked down the corridor of Murray Edwards College, Cambridge at the new exhibition Women in Art: Hong Kong, the words of writer Eileen Chang came to mind: “Between memory and reality there are awkward discrepancies, producing a solemn but subtle agitation.” The works on show, by artists as varied as Fang Zhaoling, Au Hoi Lam and Ko Sin Tung, are mostly unrelated to one another: some are political, some pay homage to traditional Chinese craft and others fall somewhere in between. But what unites them is a certain restlessness in their melding of memory and reality, and of past and future, as they interrogate the notion of a Hong Kong identity. Co-curated by the New Hall Art Collection and Eliza Gluckman, Women in Art: Hong Kong is dedicated exclusively to women artists working in Hong Kong. The works represented range from guohua painting to conceptual installation, covering 50 years of artistic …

Performing Society: The Violence of Gender

By Christie Lee / Half-used paint. Paint-streaked trainers. Crinkly plastic drop cloth. Three panels in shades of pink and orangey-red. A scene of unfinished business. But there is also a palpable sense of energy to it. On the wall opposite, an oil painting depicts a row of female nudes ascending the stairs, their bodies half-translucent, their flesh cutting into each other, giving a sense that whoever was there a moment ago had hurried off, leaving behind a trace of their presence. The two pieces could have been by the same artist, but they’re not. While the trainers and panels – meant to evoke “the carnal colour of the flesh”, according to the exhibition catalogue – are part of Pamela Rosenkranz’s Sexual Power (Three Viagra Paintings), the nudes belong to Jana Euler’s Nude Climbing Up the Stairs (2014). It is a liberating but also curious opening for Performing Society: The Violence of Gender, a show that – as one discovers in the proceeding exhibits – puts the systemic violence done to our bodies on glaring display. The exhibition is …

Wesley Tongson

The Journey / By DeWitt Cheng / The idea that life is a spiritual journey was once common in European and American religious culture: Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan’s 1678 allegorical adventure of a Christian soul, used to be required reading. Spirituality has largely fallen by the wayside, however, replaced by modern materialism. In developed countries now we focus on scientific and economic progress, and largely neglect the spiritual aspect of life, still part of the social menu of traditional cultures, which patronising contemporary standards adjudge backward. The paintings of Hong Kong artist Wesley Tongson (1957-2012), aka Tong Ka Wai, in The Journey at San Francisco’s Chinese Culture Center through March 9, 2019, constitute a spiritual pilgrimage as well. Curated by Catherine Maudsley, and featuring biographical notes by Cynthia Tseng, the artist’s sister – who, she reveals, did her brother’s art homework when he was a child, before his interest in art surfaced in adolescence – the show reveals a talented hand, both disciplined and intuitive, at the service of a restless, relentless creative drive. Tongson, who grew up in a …