All posts filed under: Reviews

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 this 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 …

Samson Young

It’s Heaven Over There / Centre A / Vancouver / Feb 23 – Jun 4 / Justin Ramsey / When the Sun Wah Centre was constructed in the 1980s, it was envisioned as a neighbourhood mall for Vancouver’s Chinatown, the kind one might find all over Hong Kong: a fountain on the main floor, central escalators wending their way up through glitzy tiers of fashion and food. This never materialised. The building’s few vendors nestle in a near constant state of pink-walled disrepair. The setting is apt for Samson Young’s exhibition It’s Heaven Over There, curated by Tyler Russell at Centre A, which has recently moved into the Sun Wah Centre, alongside other arts organisations that are transforming this under-realised mall into a cultural hub. The first display in Young’s exhibition resembles a shopfront: blaring pop music, a glass case full of trinkets. It is an appropriate beginning to an exhibition focused on the mall itself. It’s Heaven Over There is the second in a trilogy of site-responsive exhibitions by Young that critique utopian projects and their fraught, often unexpected …

Ho Tzu Nyen

R for Rhombicuboctahedron, Vol. 8 / Edouard Malingue Gallery / Hong Kong / Mar 26 – May 17 / Caroline Ha Thuc / Humidity, corruption, nationalism, irrigation, rice, empire of decay. A for anarchism. Modern nepotism. K for kingship. To think through the effects of ghosts. F for fiction, fluidity, forest, friction, frontier. Across past and present. Southeast Asia is a machinery of rots. Jellyfish, Malaya, legibility, Utama, ecology, buffalo, politics, tigers, slavery. Theatrical acts of civil disobedience. V for vampires, vaginas. C for cosmology, circle, contagion. Acts of political vengeance. Becoming animal. N for nation, narration, narcosis. A triple agent from the Japanese, the French, the British. L for linguistic, legibility, Lai Teck. P for paddy, politics, plateau. Endlessly, an algorithm selects and weaves different sounds and images from the database of text, music and online images that forms Ho Tzy Nyen’s ongoing project The Critical Dictionary of Southeast Asia. It asks what Southeast Asia is, and how we can grasp such a concept, which is at once real and constructed. Language itself is inadequate at reflecting the region’s …

Liu Heung Shing

Spring Breeze / Star Gallery / Beijing / Mar 20 – May 18 / Nooshfar Afnan / A carefree rollerblader whizzes past a large statue of Chairman Mao at Dalian’s Institute of Technology in 1981. Like this one, each of the pictures in award-winning photographer Liu Heung Shing’s solo show Spring Breeze is a reminder of the enormous changes China has experienced since the “reform and opening up” that started in December 1978. For some audience members it is a trip down memory lane. For others it is a lesson in China’s recent history: Mao statutes were and often still are ubiquitous in public squares. Rollerskating was a popular pastime during an era of dire economic conditions, with wheels unceremoniously tied with strips of fabric around people’s shoes. The composition is engaging from a purely formal point of view, with the contrast between the solidity of the monument and the sprightly movement of the skater; and the juxtaposition of the dark shade of the figure with the light-hued statute. The black-and-white photographs on display were taken by Liu in …