All posts filed under: Reviews

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 …

Tung Wing Hong

Following the Imagined / CL3 Architects / Hong Kong / Mar 25 – Apr 26 / Christie Lee Hong Kong artist Tung Wing Long’s recent solo at CL3 Architects’ Wanchai office is a short but nevertheless sweet paean to the medium of video, where exciting things are happening right now, bolstered by new editing tools, the possibility of ever bigger screens and the general obsession with the immersive. The first thing the visitor sees on entering Following the Imagined is a video of a sleeping head. Inspired by Constantin Brâncuși’s The Sleeping Muse, Untitled (head) examines the idea of the medium itself. The term video art is often used interchangeably with the moving image; the piece questions whether a video needs to be moving for it to be considered video art. The eerie stillness of Untitled (head) is quickly disrupted by the spinning and whirling elsewhere. Immediately behind it, i/i is an installation of two CRT TVs that move in a continuous circular motion until at one point meeting before turning away. The two screens depict blurred views of a cityscape, though …

McArthur Binion

Hand: Work: II / Lehmann Maupin and Massimo de Carlo / Hong Kong / May 22 – July 6 / Diana d’Arenberg Parmanand / After decades of being overlooked, 73-year-old American artist McArthur Binion is having a moment. With a spate of recent exhibitions, notably his inclusion in the 2017 Venice Biennale Viva Arte Viva and a 2018 solo exhibition at the Cranbrook Art Museum in Detroit, this past month the artist has also celebrated the opening of several solo exhibitions in Asia. One at Lehmann Maupin Seoul was preceded by Hand:Work:II, a two-gallery show spread out across Massimo de Carlo and Lehmann Maupin in Hong Kong’s Pedder Building.  In the late 1970s Binion found himself at the centre of the dizzying, meteoric art scene in Soho, New York, hanging out with artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Dan Flavin and Sol LeWitt. Binion’s works are seemingly cut from the same mould as the two minimalist figureheads; they appear minimalist from a distance, but up close reveal themselves as something entirely different. Using oil stick, Binion draws vertical and horizontal lines in a grid over …

Various artists

Algorithmic Art: Shuffling Space and Time / Hong Kong City Hall / Dec 27 – Jan 10 / Valencia Tong / As I casually strolled into the dimly lit space of the group exhibition at City Hall, I considered a number of issues: the relationship between art and technology; how artists explore contemporary issues through the use of technology; whether machines can be creative – and whether machines that can think will threaten human existence. The sale of an art work generated by artificial intelligence at Christie’s in New York for almost US$500,000 sent shockwaves across the art world, as it tried to grapple with what the identity of an artist meant. So the exhibition Algorithmic Art: Shuffling Space and Time, curated by Hong Kong Arts Development Council 2017 Artist of the Year in Media Art Linda CH Lai, was a timely one. Coinciding with the exhibition, scholars and artists from around the world gathered at the School of Creative Media at the City University of Hong Kong, known for bridging art and science to foster creativity, for …

Fung Lam, Teriver Cheung, Anthony Lai

Hong Kong Episodes (Re-run) / JC Cube, Tai Kwun / Hong Kong / Jan 26–28, 2019 / Ernest Wan Hong Kong Episodes (Re-run) is a shorter, revised version of an October 2015 show that was conceived amid the social unrest in the city the previous year. The programme note describes the production as a “jazz-classical cross-over piece… accompanied by… video images”, but the visuals turn out to be just as important as the live music, if not more so. One reason is that the video depicts scenes with skyscrapers, housing estates, neon signs and people in a subway station, for instance, that are unmistakably Hong Kong — which makes it impossible not to take the title of the show seriously — whereas the music has about it nothing especially evocative of Hong Kong or, for that matter, any particular locale. Another reason is that the visuals, largely created by Anthony Lai, play with both time and space so effectively that the viewer’s attention is absorbed throughout. Among the eight “episodes”, each representing a three-hour period in a day, is …

Marcel Dzama

Crossing the Line / David Zwirner / Hong Kong / Jan 22 – Mar 9 / Katherine Volk / If artists are historians of our times, Marcel Dzama represents the present. Canadian-born, New York-based Dzama references the contemporary climate in the US under Donald Trump’s presidency; this was paired with influences from elsewhere, in particular Hong Kong, for his recent show at David Zwirner, which spanned both floors of the gallery. Dzama departs dramatically from his earlier approach of sparse characters on plain paper, with his style morphing into colourful, large-scale works that are bold and chaotic but meaningful. The new approach was influenced by the work and looser approach to creation of his friend Raymond Pettibon, as well as Dzama’s time living in and visiting large cities such as New York and Hong Kong, and the vibrancy and crowded energy of these places. The neon lights of Hong Kong aren’t Dzama’s only inspiration; the city’s iconic horse racing also features as a prominent theme across multiple works, including Ghost riders (or Watch out he don’t fall on …

Danh Vō, Isamu Noguchi

Noguchi for Danh Vō: Counterpoint / M+ Pavilion / Hong Kong / Dec 27 – Jan 10 / Christine Chan Chiu / Noguchi for Danh Vō: Counterpoint, the eighth show staged at M+ Pavilion, brought together the diverse works of two artists, Danh Vō and the late Isamu Noguchi. The word “counterpoint” refers to the two artists’ works being independent but possessing the ability to be interdependent, creating a harmonious rapport when juxtaposed. The exhibition lived up to its musical metaphor and more, highlighting the talent and ingenuity of one artist while exploring the imaginative, multi-layered approach of the other. Inspired by a leitmotif in traditional Chinese ink painting, Vō’s Untitled (Structure for Akari PL2) (2018), modelled after a Chinese Dong pavilion, took centre stage in the main gallery. Flanked and illuminated by Noguchi’s famous Akari lamps, visitors were encouraged to sit and rest there. Parallels soon became clear between Vō’s pavilion and Noguchi’s lamps: both are made from wood (cedar and bamboo respectively), are affordable, easily dismantled and rebuilt, and most importantly stand alone as sculptures in their own right, redefining their surrounding spaces.  …

Rei Hayama, Takashi Makino

Katherine Volk / The Pearl of Tailorbird / Memento Stella / Empty Gallery / Hong Kong / Dec 15 – Jan 26 / Katherine Volk / Two solo exhibitions, The Pearl of the Tailorbird by Rei Hayama and Memento Stella by Takashi Makino, took over the entire two-floor space of Empty Gallery. While both employ film, they provoke vastly different feelings and reactions. Spread across two floors, The Pearl of the Tailorbird took viewers on a journey. Winding through the top floor of the gallery’s iconic dark void were walls spiralling inwards like a maze; as visitors navigated the barriers, it felt as if they needed Ariadne’s silver thread to guide them out of the miniature labyrinth. This searching and disconnection are symbolic of Hayama’s exploration of the human condition alienated from nature. The layout itself was a structure within a structure, where perceptions were altered, and the spiral also alluded to other manmade or mythical cultural constructions of disorder, such as the Tower of Babel, from a biblical tale in which God punishes people’s attempts to build …

Irving Penn

Irving Penn / Pace / Hong Kong / Jan  25 – Mar 7 / Christine Chan Chiu / Irving Penn at Pace not only highlighted the artist’s accomplishments in fashion photography, portraiture and still lifes, thanks to a long, illustrious career at Vogue, but also revealed and celebrated his first love, painting. The first show in Hong Kong dedicated solely to Penn, it was an accurate if concise retrospective of a brilliant artist who sought to find beauty in everything he portrayed, and whose creativity extended beyond the lens. The audience was able to trace Penn’s path as it evolved and to appreciate the many facets of his practice. Works such as Large Sleeve (Sunny Harnett) (1951) and Black and White Fashion with Handbag (Jean Patchett) (1950) attest to his keen eye for fashion styling, zooming in on his talent for capturing sculptural form and detail in fabric, magnified by the stark black-and-white contrast of gelatine silver prints. They were displayed alongside ethnographic portraits from Morocco and nudes that convey softness and suppleness. Past the main salon were individual portraits of …

Various artists

Contagious Cities: Far Away Too Close / Tai Kwun Contemporary / Hong Kong / Jan 26 – Apr 21 / Diana d’Arenberg Parmanand / In 2003, the SARS outbreak led to a shutdown of Hong Kong. The virus infected 1,755 people in the city, killing 299. Fear of the epidemic led many, mainly expats, to flee. Those who didn’t leave avoided public spaces. A housing estate was put under quarantine, public transport and public areas were deserted, and schools were closed. At the height of the SARS crisis, iconic Hong Kong actor and singer Leslie Cheung jumped to his death from Central’s Mandarin Oriental hotel, adding to the trauma, gloom and anxiety that were already consuming the city. The crisis impacted Hong Kong physically, psychologically and economically, and like epidemics before, it shaped the city and its habits, policies and people. Contagious Cities: Faraway Too Close at Tai Kwun Contemporary, a group show with works by 10 local and international artists, attempts to explore the psychological and emotional dimensions of disease and contagion. Presented by the Wellcome Trust, a biomedical institution …