All posts filed under: Reviews

Ko Sin Tung

Dust and Trivial Matters / The Bunker / Beijing / Jan 26 – Mar 29 / Nooshfar Afnan Cold, clinical sanitation overpowers the senses as you step down into underground art space The Bunker. Plastic film stretched over aluminium frames blocks off portions of each room and creates narrow alleyways and low ceilings. This mimics the dust-free rooms found in some factories and medical facilities. Emerging artist Ko Sin Tung leaves it to the audience to decide whether they are being protected from or deprived of something. The slightly opaque quality of the plastic sheets creates uncertainty about the nature of the objects behind them. Once the eyes adjust to the blurriness of the plastic, the pieces begin to take shape. During her stay in Beijing, Ko gathered an array of paraphernalia and second-hand household items for the show. She introduces the theme of cleaning by placing a lone metal scouring pad on the ground of the first clean room and lighting it from above with a white neon tube. In the next two rooms, Ko plays on the symbolism …

Shen Ling

Intensity of Concreteness /Tang Contemporary Art / Hong Kong / Jan 1 – Feb 9 / Elliat Albrecht / A drastic pivot between pleasure and gloom marked Beijing-based painter Shen Ling’s exhibition Intensity of Concreteness at Tang Contemporary. Embodying the latter, five of the 10 large-scale, square canvases in the show were of melancholy outdoor scenes rendered in cursory lines and layers of dry-brushed grey and blue paint. Black Crows on a Tree (2018), for example, depicts an incredulous orange cat glaring from beneath gnarled branches, while the hero of Winter Star (2018) is an emaciated tree veiled beneath sheaths of pearly rain. In contrast, the five other paintings teemed with abundance and joie de vivre, their densely layered compositions depicting men lying in repose among flowers, birds and stirring blades of grass.  Camouflaged beneath foliage, some of the men hold cameras, as in Jealous Night in Flowery Wind No.1 (2017); they appear pensive, passive and wholly unaware of Shen’s gaze.Along with her husband Wang Yuping, Shen is often classified as a member of the …

Ethan Murrow

We Travel in Our Minds / Duddell’s / Hong Kong / Oct 10 – Mar 10 / Christine Chan Chiu We Travel in Our Minds was the latest guest-curated exhibition that Duddell’s presented for its third consecutive autumn programme, with the aim of showcasing unique, rarely seen items from private Hong Kong collections. It highlighted unusual pieces from three collections in the Duddell’s library, replacing the books on its shelves as objects conveying knowledge, culture and history. They were complemented by a series of meticulously executed black-and-white wall drawings by Boston-based artist Ethan Murrow. Depicting imagined worlds of the whimsical and the absurd, they formed a fantastical backdrop for the objects. The result was a melange of contrasting artforms that balanced the classical with the modern, creating an interesting, serendipitous conversation between the two. Most of the antiques were from the Claire & Francis Heritage Lane Collection, with the oldest, a white pottery bird-shaped cup, dating to the Han dynasty (202BC-220AD). There were other animal-themed vessels in the form of a parrot-shaped stoneware cup from the Northernand Southern dynasties (420-589AD) and two small Yue ware …

Howie Tsui

Parallax Chambers /Art Labor Gallery / Shanghai / Nov 10, 2018 – Jan 8, 2019 / Nooshfar Afnan / As the martial-arts fiction community mourns the recent death of well-known wuxia novelist Jin Yong (1924-2018), it is refreshing to see his characters and stories live on in the works of Vancouver-based artist Howie Tsui. The artist grew up consuming endless hours of old Hong Kong martial-arts movies, including video adaptations of Jin Yong’s books. In retrospect the artist has realised that they were a lifeline to his cultural roots in his birthplace, and still provide a rich source of inspiration.  Tsui’s first solo show at Art Labor in Shanghai follows on the heels of his exhibition opening at Ocat Museum of Contemporary Art, Xi’an. The Xi’an exhibition showcases his giant, 20-metre-long, scroll-like video installation Retainers of Anarchy, originally commissioned by the Vancouver Art Gallery. Set in the fabled and now demolished Kowloon Walled City, it depicts in minute detail the lives of ordinary residents and martial-arts practitioners in the self-ruled community. The show at Art …

Lee Kit

We used to be more sensitive /Hara Museum / Tokyo / Sep 16 – Dec 24, 2018 / John Batten / Lee Kit’s exhibition occupies, as a single installation, the entire Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, an adapted modernist 1930s former residential building surrounded on two sides by a Japanese garden with an open lawn at the rear. Selections from the museum’s permanent contemporary sculpture collection are shown outside, and permanent installations are also displayed within the museum. It is necessary to appreciate the architecture, the architectural detailing – particularly the windows – and the other art and areas of the museum, including the shop and cafe, to fully appreciate Lee’s exhibition.  Rather than ignoring or competing with the museum’s architecture and its installed art, Lee actively embraces the museum, and both strategically and subtly places his own paintings, videos and installations within it. Lee’s entire installation beckons to be quietly looked at, but it also works if viewers quickly pace through the galleries, ideally accompanied by their own (loud) ear-plugged music, passing through the museum’s natural light, shadows and reflections layered by Lee’s added …

Kader Attia

Heroes Heridos / Lehmann Maupin / Hong Kong / Nov 1 – Dec 22 / By Diana d’Arenberg Parmanand / It is perhaps fitting that French-born Algerian artist Kader Attia is based in Berlin, a city of scars. A city where the ruins of a wall that once divided it are still visible; a city in which the atrocities committed during wars and by two repressive regimes are memorialised; where the architecture of communism and fascism stand side by side, sometimes pockmarked with bullet holes. It is a city where the scars are on display so that you are in constant confrontation with history and memory, and never able to forget the past.  And so it is with Attia’s work. Working across diverse media and forms – photography, film, collage, sculpture, drawing and installation – the artist has built up a two-decade career defined by rigorous research. Through his work he critiques power and hierarchical structures by examining the scars, trauma and injury inflicted by colonial and imperial powers on non-western cultures. Exploring the relationship between non-western cultures and western thought, he regularly …

Robin Moyer

My China (1976 – Present) Pékin Fine Arts Hong Kong Jun 23 – Oct 1, 2018 Valencia Tong Upon entering the gallery, it is as though the viewer has stepped into a time capsule. The black-and-white photos of various sizes, some framed and some unframed, are the work of award-winning photojournalist Robin Moyer from a career spanning over five decades in Asia. They showcase the transformations of mainland China and Hong Kong from 1976 to the present day. Steps at #24 Caine Road Hong Kong features a strong diagonal composition, with an advertisement printed at the side of the stone steps. The ad for Two Girls, a cosmetics brand with which generations of Hong Kong citizens have been familiar, evokes a sense of nostalgia. Bicycles is a snapshot of the daily life of ordinary citizens in mainland China in the 1980s, featuring what for a long time was China’s most popular mode of transport. The crowd in the foreground is juxtaposed against uneven shadows in the background cast by trees, adding to the depth of the image. This photograph not …

Jeremy Denk

Notes of Profundity Grand Hall, Lee Shau Kee Lecture Centre, University of Hong Kong Hong Kong Jun 1, 2018 Ernest Wan American pianist Jeremy Denk’s debut recital in the city, presented by the University of Hong Kong’s Cultural Management Office, is one of those unusual cases where a classical concert is given a title that is not merely a factual description of the programme, pressing certain preconceptions of the music on the audience rather than just letting them make their own minds up as they listen.  One can try in vain to find out from the programme notes what this recital’s title, Notes of Profundity, is intended to bring to mind. The words “deep”, “deeper”, “deepest”, “depth”, “profundity” and “profundities” appear nearly 30 times yet remain unexplained, as if we all already had an idea, and even agreed on, what musical or aesthetic “depth” is all about. Such an unhelpful attempt to sound profound is especially unfortunate as it must be anathema to Denk, a widely admired writer on music known for his lucid, engaging prose that deftly demystifies his …

Hank Willis Thomas

My Life is OursBen Brown Fine ArtsHong KongSep 20 – Oct 27, 2018Valencia Tong American conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas is known for examining issues of identity, race, intolerance and protest. For his first solo exhibition in Asia, at Ben Brown Fine Arts, he reinterpreted archival photographs he found of protests in Hong Kong and mainland China from past and present to highlight theuniversality of recurring themes of oppression across history. The artist also explores the notions of materiality and audience engagement, deliberately screen-printing the images onto retroreflective sheeting, which is usually used to make road signs visible in the dark. On top of that, painterly brushstrokes sit on the outermost layer, giving it the illusion of abstraction. It is only when the images are manually activated by light, such as a camera flash or a torch, that the full details of the historical images come to view. Since the appearance of the works keeps changing, mirroring the constant state of sociopolitical flux in the world at large, the viewer is literally and metaphorically invited to look closer and dig deeper, beyond what is …

Robert Rauschenberg

Vydocks Pace Gallery Hong Kong Sep 19 – Nov 2 Diana d’Arenberg Parmanand The “enfant terrible of the New York school”, as poet Frank O’Hara dubbed Robert Rauschenberg, reshaped 20th-century American art and left behind a boundary-breaking body of work characterised by experimentation and unorthodox use of different media. His early works, made in the 1950s and 60s, featured composites of found objects – bottles, a taxidermy goat head, newspapers, chairs, rubber tyres, photographs – and painting; Rauschenberg referred to them as “combines”. The Vydocks series, created in 1995, are essentially a two-dimensional continuation of the composites of found objects for which the artist was known. The lastseries in which Rauschenberg incorporated silk-screening before shifting into digital processing, the works are a rendezvous of diverse media, a synthesis of painting, photography and drawing. Pace Gallery Hong Kong features eight out of 13 identically sized white sheets of bonded aluminium works – the remainder are still held by the Rauschenberg foundation – sized to human scale so the panels are the height and width of a person’s reach, and the viewer can figuratively get into the paintings. The verticality of …