All posts tagged: John Batten

Another Garden of Remembrance 另一個紀念花園

By John Batten / So, you have entered the Garden of Hong Kong.  (Something like) ‘How to…’ instructions (with extra comments) to listen to a DVD, or appreciate a broken washing machine or refrigerator, in Lee Kit’s Hong Kong Garden:       Be comfortable and confident as you walk in the garden.       Walk around to get a good overview of what’s inside.       Don’t touch, just look.       Listen, to the music. There’s not much, but it’s everywhere.      And there is thumping. Thumping.             Thump thump thump.       Can’t hear it? Listen again.      It’s quiet, and only heard intermittently, near the two swans’ video.            Thump thump thump       (I remember the banging of hands or sticks or anything hard against the       city’s street-signs and steel barriers, just like this, a strong tinny-steel thump).       Don’t walk in bare feet.      There are smashed-up bits of washing machine …

Andio Lai 黎仲民

By John Batten / Andio Lai’s path as an artist has been refreshingly indirect. Each personal misstep and doubt forced a self-assessment and redirection to where he is now – and “now” does not necessarily refer to his status as a visual artist. It is a label that sits uncomfortably for him, but if the word “artist” is associated with musicians, cartoonists, gamers, players and those that draw creative stories, then it is a little closer to being an accurate description. After finishing secondary school, Lai – as was expected by the traditional school he attended – began studies at Monash University in Melbourne, on track for a career in business. He settled into university alongside close school friends from Hong Kong during his first-year foundation course, but the following year he found the first-year economics degree courses much less satisfying than reading the campus library’s selection of sci-fi books. Unhappy with his studies, realising he was not cut out to be a businessman and mildly homesick, he returned to Hong Kong in late 2009. …

Bouie Choi Yuk Kuen 蔡鈺娟

By John Batten / Bouie Choi Yuk Kuen reminded me that we first met when she and fellow Chinese University of Hong Kong fine arts students were invited to use empty units of the former Police Married Quarters in 2008 to show their work before its closure for renovation into PMQ. This was a touching memory; the battle to save the historic PMQ was one of many campaigns to save Central Hong Kong’s heritage buildings in which I was involved. After its closure as residential quarters for the police, the PMQ units were decrepit and had seen no paint or repair for decades: perfect for artists to use and fill with sound, lights, videos and found objects for their installations – or, as Choi did, hang paintings on dusty walls of ripped wallpaper. Hong Kong’s old colonial city also plays an underpinning role in Choi’s recent work, the physical remains of the past under attack. After Choi’s early experiences with the unrenovated PMQ, and later seeing that site and its modernist buildings conserved, she was a community worker …

Tobe Kan Kiu Sin 簡喬倩

By John Batten / Tobe Kan Kiu Sin graduated from the Hong Kong Art School/RMIT University with a fine arts degree in 2017. It was a fortuitous education: she had previously applied to but was not accepted into Hong Kong’s two other established fine arts undergraduate programmes, at The Chinese University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Baptist University’s Academy of Visual Arts. Undoubtedly, the art school’s programme was more suitable for her. Kan’s fellow students were not all fresh secondary school graduates, but similar to her: a bit more mature – she was born in 1984 – with some work experience and a thoughtful commitment to the self-financed study of visual art. Initially enrolled in the sculpture stream of the course, she immediately moved to painting, where her mentors included Art School teacher and artist Ivy Ma and alumni artist Carol Lee Mei Kuen, with Lee curating Kan’s first solo exhibition, Peck-eyes Ravens, at the studio of CL3 Architects in 2018. Kan grew up in Hong Kong’s Fanling and Kwun Tong districts and went to a “nice, not competitive” …

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 last 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 …

An open letter to the government from the International Association of Art Critics-Hong Kong (AICAHK)

We write with great concern after the violent events in Admiralty on 12 June 2019. The International Association of Art Critics-Hong Kong (AICAHK) opposes thegovernment’s proposed amendments to the fugitive/extradition legislation currently before the Legislative Council. AICA was founded in 1950 under the patronage of UNESCO, with the main objective to support worldwide art criticism in all its forms. AICA has over 4,600 members, grouped into 61 different sections around the world. The Hong Kong section of AICA was established in 1996. One of the main objectives of AICAHK is “to defend freedom of expression and thought and oppose arbitrary censorship.” AICA-Hong Kong and AICA-Taiwan are currently the only AICA sections located in greater-China as, currently, the People’s Republic of China does not fulfil AICA’s human rights and freedom of expression criteria. It is an unfortunate and embarrassing reality: the mainland is not able to be a member of AICA. Hong Kong has the rule of law, freedom of expression and assembly and an independent judiciary. The mainland, seventy years after the founding of the People’s Republic ofChina, doesn’t. …

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 …

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 夏碧泉

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 photographic 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’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 …