All posts filed under: Reviews

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 Ours Ben Brown Fine Arts Hong Kong Sep 20 – Oct 27, 2018 Valencia 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 …

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 …

Sara Tse

Re Visit  Tai Kwun Hong Kong Jun 8 – Jul 8 Christine Chan Chiu Touch Ceramics, in Hong Kong’s newest centre for heritage and arts, Tai Kwun, kicked off with an inaugural show of Sara Tse’s newest works. An artist long fascinated by the transience of time and the impermanence of life, Tse is known as much for her tactile abilities in modelling and manipulating clay as for the sentimental content of her pieces. The exhibition was not only a tribute to technique and craftsmanship but also a timely throwback to things past. Tse discovered her signature method by chance, when the cloth used to clean her ceramic work table had hardened along with the clay. Experimenting by heating up the cloth, she discovered that while the cloth itself had been incinerated, what remained after the process was the exact replica of the cloth, but in porcelain, creating something that will last forever. Tse applies this method faithfully to her latest works, where she has turned her attention to cartography to highlight how Hong Kong …

Mark Bradford

Hauser & Wirth Hong Kong Mar 27 – May 12, 2018 Valencia Tong Spanning the 15th and 16th floors of H Queen’s, the newly built luxury art and cultural hub, Hauser & Wirth’s brand new Hong Kong space was inaugurated by an exhibition by US artist Mark Bradford. The US representative at the 2017 Venice Biennale, the Los Angeles-based abstract artist brought to the Hong Kong show some of his newest works, which feature a map motif. At first glance, the viewer is greeted with a scene of overwhelming tranquility, surrounded by turquoise-blue paintings against the stark white walls of the spacious gallery. The bright blue colour of the majority of the paintings evokes the feeling of being immersed in a vast ocean. However, on closer examination, the images provoke anxiety; they do not depict nature and freedom, but aerial views of a claustrophobic, restrictive urban reality. It is as if the viewer assumes the perspective of an overhead surveillance camera that sees where all the boundaries and borders of urban geographies lie, and these separations divide populations into communities according to …

Mak Ying Tung 2

The Anything Machine 26 May – 22 Jul 2018 de Sarthe Gallery, Beijing Nooshfar Afnan Machines and electronic devices are ubiquitous in our daily lives, dominating almost every aspect of them. For The Anything Machine, her first solo show at de Sarthe Gallery in Beijing, Mak Ying Tung 2 investigates through a new body of work two ideas related to machines. While some of the works question whether we exaggerate our veneration of these devices, others query whether these electronics can play an even larger role, such as in the creation of art. The latter theme is addressed in her installation Physicality II (2018), in which two Dyson fans, one blowing hot air and the other cold air onto thermal paper create an array of hues ranging from sand to indigo to green. While the art is properly framed and offers a pleasing visual display of colours, we are left wondering whether fans can replace the mind, heart and hand of an artist. The installation Physicality I (2018) employs another household appliance: a piece of …

Cheuk Wing Nam, Han Jinpeng

Wander in Style Leo Gallery at Little Tai Hang Hong Kong May 20 – Jul 31 Christine Chan Chiu For Wander in Style, a collaboration with Leo Gallery, Little Tai Hang is displaying works by new-media artists Cheuk Wing Nam and Han Jinpeng in its gallery and outdoor public areas. The whimsical pop-up show explores social themes and challenges the conventions that have traditionally surrounded classical art. Cheuk’s sound sculpture Avaritia – Silent Greed consists of about 90 green glass bottles of various sizes, suspended from a large ceiling grid similar to those used for hanging ower pots. Dangling inside each of the bottomless containers is a shard of plastic that is connected to a power source and programmed to swivel around randomly. The result is a cacophony of sounds of varying frequencies as the plastic shards strike glass. Viewers are encouraged to visit at dusk, specifically at 7pm when it is most atmospheric: from
this hour, it becomes clear in the darkened space that the bottles are also individually lit with warm fluorescent lights. The …

Jane Lee

Red States Hong Kong Arts Centre Hong Kong May 11 – Jun 10 Christine Chan Chiu The aptly named Red States showcased 17 new works and smaller existing pieces and studies by Singaporean artist Jane Lee, revolving around the boldest of all colours. Alluring and provocative, the exhibition invited its audience to contemplate the emotions and connotations that the colour red conjures. More importantly, it provided an insight into Lee’s innovative practice and artistic virtuosity for the past 15 years, highlighting her vastly tactile signature techniques, including coiling, layering, mixing and stacking. At the entrance, visitors were greeted by a large heap of tangled red canvas threads, a prelude of what was to come. The rectangular piece The Story of Canvas #2, hanging in the main gallery, is made of more layers of canvas threads, giving it an organic, fibrous texture. The Story of Canvas #1 and The Story of Canvas #1a followed – compositions of roundels of varying sizes made from coils of red canvas strips, strategically arranged and spanning 500cm along the wall. These works prompt the viewer to abandon all preconceived …

Huang Yongping, Shen Yuan

Hong Kong Foot  Tang Contemporary Art Hong Kong Dec 20, 2017 – Jan 27 Katherine Volk Huang Yongping and Shen Yuan don’t avoid provocative subjects, and their work often creates controversy. Late last year, for example, Huang’s work was topical when his piece Theatre of the World, featuring lizards consuming insects as a metaphor for human violence, helped provide the title of the exhibition Art and China after 1989: Theatre of the World at New York’s Solomon R Guggenheim Museum. After arguments between animal cruelty activists and proponents of artistic freedom, his work was ultimately pulled from the show. Neither did the pair shy away from contemporary discourse in the four works they made specifically for the opening of Tang Contemporary Art’s new space at H Queens. The title, Hong Kong Foot, refers to the fungal infection more often known as athlete’s foot, which was historically a common local condition among settlers, missionaries, soldiers and refugees. As Huang says, it has now been redefined as the way Hong Kong infects those who come to the city with its characteristics. Central to the exhibition was Huang’s …

Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra

Concert Hall, Hong Kong  Cultural Centre Hong Kong Jan 18, 2018 Ernest Wan In each of its past three concert seasons, the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, under the leadership of music director Jaap van Zweden, has presented one opera from Richard Wagner’s tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen, aka the Ring Cycle. The plaudits that these concerts and the commercial recordings made of them have received meant there were high expectations for Götterdämmerung (1874), the fourth, longest and toughest work in the cycle. Happily, this final instalment did not disappoint. The orchestra, over a hundred strong, inevitably sometimes overwhelmed the solo singers, with the former just behind the latter on the stage. Daniel Brenna sounded youthful as the hero Siegfried should, but his voice and tone were wanting in power and focus respectively. As Gunther, the ruler of the Gibichung race, Shenyang had a sound that was dark and indistinct in Act One, but thereafter his voice opened up. By contrast, Eric Halfvarson sang with power and authority throughout, in a vivid and often frightening portrayal of the villain Hagen, Gunther’s half-brother. Peter …