All posts tagged: John Batten

Crossing Hong Kong’s Harbour

By John Batten The very first art objects mass-exported from China to buyers in Europe, Asia and the Ottoman Empire were designed-to-order, ceramic and porcelain chinoiserie items, often purely utilitarian: crockery dinner sets, jars and storage urns. In the 18th century worldwide trade expanded due to growing demand, sturdier ships and established trading routes. Canton, as Guangzhou was then known, was China’s only port open for foreign trade, and encouraged by the success of the porcelain trade the earliest China Trade paintings were created there. This established the practice for visiting European traders and military personnel to buy or commission a painting as a souvenir of their visit or an export product. Executed by Chinese artisan painters, China Trade paintings were completed in a western landscape painting style, often naive and using rudimentary perspective. The paintings focused on depicting Canton life, including factories, trading houses, foreign diplomatic quarters, landscape scenes and visiting ships – subjects that appealed to Europeans. The monopoly on British trade with India and China held by the British East India Company for more than two centuries ended …

Andrew Luk

Practice de Sarthe Gallery Hong Kong Sep 2 – 9, 2017 John Batten Andrew Luk’s short exhibition Practice was the culmination of the Hong Kong artist’s month-long summer residency at de Sarthe Gallery. Given a large section of the gallery to use as a working studio, Luk collected a range of material to produce mixed-media installation pieces, some directly integrating with different physical parts of the gallery. The result was an exhibition with a rawness that was embellished by the finished beauty of the wall-based pieces (his Horizon Scan and Catalyst Kit series), alongside experimentations that successfully moved from studio idea to resolved sculptural form. The main installation Black Square Problem Setting (we’re talking about practice) references Russian artist Kazimir Malevich’s minimal painting Black Square (1915), which, radically for the time, was free from all content. Malevich commented: “I transformed myself in the zero of form and emerged from nothing to creation, that is, to Suprematism, the new realism in painting, to non-objective creation.” Luk evolves Malevich’s idea, literally putting the audience back into the picture by building a functional …

Ha Bik Chuen

Ha Bik Chuen’s Archive of Determination By John Batten For over 50 years, Hong Kong artist Ha Bik Chuen (1925-2009) built a large collection of art-exhibition catalogues, art books, magazines and clippings from newspapers and other printed matter. Often accompanied by his wife or children, Ha also photographed every art exhibition he visited, and his photograph archive comprises hundreds of boxes of prints, contact sheets and negatives. Now known as the Ha Bik Chuen Archive and featuring thousands of individual pieces, it is a historical collection of Hong Kong art and Ha Bik Chuen’s resources, a glimpse of past international art trends and a personal record of Hong Kong’s art scene between the 1960s and 2000s. The collection was formerly housed in Ha’s crowded home and its rooftop in Shim Luen Street, To Kwa Wan, where his family kept everything intact after his death, as he wished. It has now been boxed and relocated to a Fo Tan industrial unit where the Asia Art Archive began a three-year project in 2016, funded by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, to catalogue …

Angela Su

The Afterlife of Rosy Leavers Blindspot Gallery May 20 –  Jun 30, 2017 John Batten Among the first people to experiment with electronic synthesisers in the early 1970s were British band Curved Air. Their music captured the heady atmosphere of the era, while the cover of their 1972 album Phantasmagoria, drawn by prominent illustrator John Gorham, featured a long, curly title running from edge to edge, with a hooded figure in the background smoking a hookah. The album’s title was inspired by Lewis Carroll’s poem Phantasmagoria, meaning a fantastic sequence of haphazardly associative imagery. Carroll’s poem – the longest he ever wrote – is a comical, nonsensical conversation between a ghost and a Mr Tibbett. The ghost arrives intending to take up residence in Mr Tibbett’s home, but after a series of conversations and explanations of why he is there, eventually realises that he is at the wrong address; he should be at a Mr Tibb’s home. The poem reflects the Victorian era’s interest in the supernatural, the world of psychics and mediums who employed …

Sound and Space

By John Batten The growing maturity and diversity of Hong Kong’s art scene can be seen in the crossover of visual art and music. Hong Kong is surprisingly well served with international western and Chinese classical-music programming and visiting artists. Itinerant, traditional Chinese opera and music ensembles perform during the city’s festivals, while the city’s western orchestras and music-festival initiatives, by both the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and other musical organisations, offer varied, year-round programmes. One particularly successful example is Premiere Performances, with its annual February chamber-music festival and stimulating programming throughout the year. Similarly, the New Music Ensemble promotes modern and contemporary music through its own festival and performances. In early 2015 the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra faced criticism for its conservative repertoire that season. Audiences have shown plenty of support for contemporary music and ambitious musical presentations, reflected in the more adventurous repertoire of the Hong Kong Sinfonietta, and although the Philharmonic came up with a more adventurous programme for 2016, it could still find its claims for residency at the new …