All posts filed under: Features

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 …

Jin Meyerson

Before the Beginning and After the End / By Katherine Volk / Before the Beginning and After the End at Pearl Lam Galleries is a culmination of what Jin Meyerson describes as his “greatest hits and misses”, comparable to a rock star compiling their chart toppers alongside little-known B-sides. Spanning seven years, they contain hints at his accumulated perspective and the defining experiences of his evolution as an artist. Meyerson was born in Incheon, South Korea, and spent his first years in an orphanage. At the age of five he was adopted by a Jewish-Swedish family and raised in Minnesota. His upbringing was just the start of his multicultural experience; as he jokes, “I was multicultural before the term was invented”. First moving to New York, then Paris, then setting up a studio in Hong Kong and moving back to South Korea, Meyerson’s narrative transcends borders and speaks to a universal viewpoint. He has a relationship with images, aesthetically psychedelic but digitally sourced, that “always comes from multiple points of entry – and it has to, otherwise I feel …

Fictioning as Method: Constructing Mythologies and The Other Story

By Christie Lee As Simon O’Sullivan says in Myth-Science and the Fictioning of Reality, the power and function of contemporary art have always been in summoning forth the thing that has “yet-to-come”. In an era of post-truth and alternative facts, when it appears increasingly difficult to sift through deluge of materials on social media and arrive at the truth, and when reality has become stranger than fiction, where does that leave contemporary art? Two recent Hong Kong shows, Constructing Mythologies at Edouard Malingue Gallery and The Other Story at Karin Weber Gallery, might provide some clues. At first glance, the two shows seem to take different approaches – curated by Caroline Ha Thuc, Constructing Mythologies tells of the myths, be it from folklore or constructed by official authorities, that penetrate Southeast Asia, while Ying Kwok’s The Other Story asks that we ignore the fictitious aspect of art for a moment to focus on the process of art-making. But both shows bring to the fore the importance of fictioning, the idea of venturing beyond oneself into the unknown. Upon entering Constructing Mythologies, viewers …

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 …

Catherine Opie

By Diana d’Arenberg Parmanand American photographer Catherine Opie once described herself as a “kind of twisted social documentary photographer”. Born in Sandusky, Ohio, the young Opie picked up a camera at age nine, inspired by the photographs of Lewis Hine, and immediately began photographing friends and her community. Over several decades she has gone from marginalised photographer of the marginalised to a member of the establishment: she had a 2009 retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum, New York, is a tenured professor at UCLA and sits on the boards of the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Like Walker Evans before her, and later Robert Mapplethorpe and Diane Arbus, Opie shares an interest in and affection for subcultures, and for individuals and communities overlooked by society. Her early series Being and Having (1991) and Portraits (1993-97) mixed traditional portrait photography with less traditional subjects, depicting her friends in the lesbian and gay community in Los Angeles, transgender women and men, drag queens, and members of the tatted, …

Sarah Morris

By Nooshfar Afnan The Importance of Conversation Conversations and research form the bedrock of Sarah Morris’s artistic practice. The artist conceives most of her creative ideas through conversations, followed by research to give shape to those thoughts, and then even more conversations to realise a work. These conversations involve fellow artists, curators and potential film subjects. But the spark for new ideas for artistic projects most regularly comes from conversations with the group of culturally diverse young professional studio assistants from a variety of disciplines that she surrounds herself with. The New York-based artist was in Beijing in March for the opening of her solo show at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Sarah Morris: Odysseus Factor. Resembling a mid-career retrospective, it is one of her biggest shows to date. It also marks a decade since Morris came to China to shoot her film Beijing (2008) about the Olympics. Ten years is also the amount of time it took Odysseus to sail home to Ithaca and the duration of the Trojan war, hence the show’s title.  Morris is busy …