All posts filed under: Reviews

Various artists

Threading Through Time / The Mills / Hong Kong / Jan 10–19, 2020 / Ernest Wan / Completed in late 2018, the revitalisation of the three remaining factories of Nan Fung Cotton Mills pays tribute to the industrial past of Hong Kong, once a leader in global yarn production. Jockey Club New Arts Power recently presented a series of installations and 45-minute performances at several locations within this complex of buildings in Tsuen Wan, now a hip attraction known simply as The Mills. For the project, Threading Through Time, participating artists had been asked to respond to The Memory of Herbs, a newly commissioned short story by Chan Wai that chronicles a woman’s career as a textile worker and, implicitly, celebrates Hongkongers’ can-do spirit over half a century. The three installations that make up Kay Chan’s Literary Walk are straightforward. One of them, situated on bridges connecting two buildings, consists of panels on which excerpts from the short story are displayed, and vintage telephones through whose handsets a recording of such excerpts is played back with background music by Fung …

John Currin

Gagosian / Hong Kong / Nov 26 – Feb 29 / Christie Lee / “There is a kind of distortion that happens with adoration,” says John Currin. I’m not sure that’s true at the artist’s first show at Gagosian Hong Kong. Despite the blooming cheeks, perfect brows, rosy lips and impeccable curls, the artist’s portraits are more kooky than sweet. For one thing, the women are smiling with teeth. Showing the teeth used to be a breach of etiquette for the upper class—usually the only class who could afford the time to sit for formal portraits before the modern era. Whereas classical portraits usually feature solemn sitters, the women in Currin’s portraits have either delirious or vacant expressions. One would never expect a half-naked woman who is looking sideways out the frame to pull a sort of semi-insane smile. Nor would one expect a woman decked in a red robe in the style of a saint to be grinning stupidly. In The Philosopher, a woman decked in a brownish-grey trench coat and a bandana holds a wine bottle …

Tang Kwong San, Kwong Man Chun, Apple Wong Hiu Fung

Long to Belong  / Contemporary by Angela Li / Hong Kong / Nov 21 – Dec 14, 2019 / Valencia Tong / In a city divided by prolonged social upheaval, three young emerging artists from Hong Kong contemplate their place in the world and what it means to belong. A common thread that links the works on view at the exhibition Long to Belong at Contemporary by Angela Li is a hazy sort of nostalgia, which arises from these individuals’ deep, dream-like introspection. Amid the prevailing anxiety that lingers like thick fog over the city’s uncertain future, the show, part of Hong Kong Art Week’s Art Gallery Night, draws a large crowd. To the left of the entrance, Kwong Man Chun’s oil painting Huang Cen Ling and Tenement House (2017) captures the artist’s journey of retracing his roots while simultaneously juxtaposing scenes of the past against those of the present. He flattens both space and time as they collide into the depiction of a single interior space, visualising his transition from a rural setting in mainland China …

Shirley Tse

Stakeholders, Hong Kong in Venice / La Biennale di Venezia / Venice / May 11 – Nov 19, 2019 / John Batten / “Butterflies stir a breeze and the ripples flow unceasingly: far away the cyclones swirl. It’s a whole, connected world. Oh, Gaia!” * Shirley Tse’s tactile, predominantly hand-crafted installations at last year’s Venice Biennale were a unique offering. Her Stakeholders presentation in the indoor ground-floor rooms and adjacent outdoor courtyard of the three-storey residential building in the Hong Kong pavilion at the Venice Biennale was not whizz-bang technology or smart-idea-as-art; nor was it not big-so-I-must-be-noticed or I’m-backed-by-a-big-gallery. It was refreshingly uncomplicated, using found and natural objects, unconsciously recycled and studiously repurposed. It allowed contemplation and a place for the public to rest and consider: the artist installed a row of simple aluminium bleachers; elevated, rowed seating usually found next to a sports court. Directly in front of these seats was an imagined abstracted game of badminton, Playcourt. Inside, glimpsed from the courtyard through open doors was the sprawling installation Negotiated Differences. Thinking was encouraged at the Hong Kong …

N S Harsha

Gathering Delights / Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textile (CHAT) / Hong Kong / Jul 28 – Nov 3 / Valencia Tong / Tucked away among industrial buildings in Tsuen Wan is the Centre for Heritage Arts and Textile (CHAT). Located at The Mills, a former textile factory which has witnessed the development of Hong Kong throughout recent decades, the centre historicises the role of fabrics and textiles through its programmes. At Gathering Delights, a solo exhibition by Indian artist N S Harsha, curated by CHAT co-director Takahashi Mizuki, visitors are greeted with almost 200 sewing machines lined up along the corridors surrounding the second-floor atrium. On each machine of the installation Nations (2007-19) is a flag of a different country in the United Nations; threads in colours including red, blue, orange and green are woven in all directions over the supporting metal structures, signifyingthe interdependent nature of international diplomacy. The Mysuru-based artist’s paintings and sculptures examine the geopolitical order of countries such as India, delving into labour practices while highlighting traditional culture. Inside the main exhibition area, an acrylic-on-canvas triptych, which …

Various artists

Yummy Gummy / Eaton / Hong Kong / Aug 23 – Sep 1 / Ellen Wong / Yummy Gummy, curated by Wong Ka Ying, was the most eclectic of the programmes and activities dedicated to celebrating women in this year’s lineup at Women’s Festival Hong Kong. For starters, Ho Sin Tung’s I’ve often sailed in her (2019) could be seen in the lift – not the ideal place spacially to display the piece, but one that attracteda larger crowd than would normally attend a gallery exhibition thanks to its location in the Eaton Hotel. The way in which the curator, the Eaton Hotel team and the artists worked together to appeal to a wider crowd is valuable for future reference. Alysa Chan’s Just cut it! (2019) outside the exhibition venue within the hotel was a companion piece to Sadako’s My Personal Feelings (2016-2019) inside the venue. Both used techniques superficially associated with mass media to raise issues related to minorities, and both were somewhat straightforward in their approaches. Chan’s work questioned the relationship between hair length and impressions of primness through the poster format, …

Max Hattler

Receptive Rhythms / Goethe-Gallery / Hong Kong / Sep 4 – 28 / Valencia Tong / Squares. Circles. Colours. Repetition. These are the words that come to mind as the visitor tries to comprehend the sensory overload unfolding before the eyes in the small exhibition space in the lobby of the Goethe-Institut, located in the Hong Kong Arts Centre. With a focus on the claustrophobia-inducing aesthetics of the high-rise architecture of Hong Kong’s residential estates and the geometrical patterns found on the city’s streets, the show brings to the fore fleeting images from our contemporary existence as city dwellers, and re-examines often neglected, mundane experiences through the lens of abstraction.  Hong Kong-based German video artist and experimental filmmaker Max Hattler explores the interplay between film animation and photographicimage in the exhibition, Receptive Rhythms, for example in the rapid transitions in the video Serial Parallels (2019), highlighting the vertical nature of the architectural landscape found in the densely populated urban metropolis. Moving images of each nearly identical rectangular components, which represent the facades of apartments stacked against each other, create a mesmerising effect reminiscent …

Wing Po So

From the Body to the Body Through the Body / de Sarthe Gallery / Hong Kong / Sep 7 – 21 / Vivienne Chow / Change is the only constant in life – which is why sitting on one of the bean bags inside Wing Po So’s From the Body to the Body Through the Body could induce a warm sensation of strange familiarity and calmness in viewers. The 11-metre-long immersive installation is like a gigantic cocoon, a pit stop where one can hide and seek solace during what could be a painful process of transformation before being reborn into a better version of oneself, like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon or a phoenix rising from the ashes. From the Body to the Body Through the Body is the title not just of the monumental installation but also of the artist’s first solo exhibition at de Sarthe Gallery. The show is the conclusion of the third edition of its annual artist residency programme deSAR, which was inaugurated with Andrew Luk’s Practice in 2017. Instead of staging haphazard group shows …

Wong Ping

Heart Digger / Camden Arts Centre & Cork Street Gallery, London / Jul 5 – Sep 15, 2019 /  Margot Mottaz / How to write about art when the world is on fire? More specifically, how to write about art from Hong Kong when the territory is experiencing a historic revolution? The answer is simple: art is freedom. It offers a new perspective, a common language to challenge opposition, ignorance and oppression. And Wong Ping’s two-venue exhibition in London does exactly that. Spread across the Camden Arts Centre (CAC) – which awarded Wong the inaugural Emerging Artist Prize at Frieze in 2018 – and the Cork Street Gallery, the works in Wong Ping: Heart Digger employ just the right amount of humour and cynicism to expose the darkest sides of contemporary society in their full absurdity. Wong unmistakably belongs to the 21st century. Explicitly political, he tackles everything from alienation and taboos to violence and corruption in the age of online dating, surveillance and social media, all packaged in a low-resolution saccharine aesthetic and deadpan …

Xu Zhen

The Glorious / Perrotin / Hong Kong / Mar 25 – May 11 / Katherine Volk / Walk into Perrotin, and a towering sculpture commands the middle of the room, surrounded by two large-scale series from Xu Zhen’s solo exhibition The Glorious. The juxtaposition of media and styles typifies Xu’s exploration of cultural exchange, authenticity, history, globalisation and capitalism. The prolific artist founded MadeIn Company in 2009 and creates work both individually and through the collective practice of the group. In Eternity – Northern Qi Painted Bodhisattva, River God Ilissos from West Pediment of Parthenon (2018), from Xu’s Eternity series, a replica of a Northern Qi (AD 550-577) figure is posed upside down on top of a replica of a Classical Greek sculpture, with the head and arms removed from the former to match the latter. The two headless, handless bodies are seemingly defenceless, conjoined at the necks in an unwilling but inevitable clash of cultures. The sculptures depict Gods and the Buddha as figures elevated beyond mankind; comically connected, they satirically confront the fluidity and struggles of humanity, globalisation and relationships between ideologies from the east and …