Month: September 2016

Film: Life

Director: Anton Corbijn Cast: Robert Pattinson, Dane DeHaan UK, 111 minutes Venue: General release By Elizabeth Kerr It might be an overused word, but some photographic images are undeniably iconic, whether for politically charged reasons (Nick Ut’s little girl running from napalm in Vietnam, anything by Diane Arbus) or purely artistic ones (Man Ray). So it’s no surprise that someone, in the person of rock star shooter Anton Corbijn, would eventually investigate the intersection between photography, art and celebrity. Photography dominates pop culture more than it ever has before, which is not to say it didn’t have a major role in the past. Though Life magazine claimed its mandate was in photojournalism, many of its most memorable snaps comprised photo essays about movie stars, the veteran Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren and rising star James Dean among them. Burned into our collective consciousness nearly as indelibly as Ut’s Vietnam image is the endlessly reproduced photo of doomed young actor Dean strolling the streets of Times Square, coat bundled around him, cigarette balanced precariously on his lip. …

Film: Performer

Director: Lukasz Ronduda, Maciej Sobieszczanski Cast: Oskar Dawicki, Agata Buzek, Andrzej Chyra Poland, 63 minutes Venue: 10 Chancery Lane Gallery By Elizabeth Kerr Performance art, even for the most dedicated among us, can be challenging. Fans call it confrontational and current; the unconvinced call it pretentious and plodding. Either way, in most cases a performance-art piece is experienced, to some degree, out of context. Anyone looking for an entry point into the art form would be well advised to start their exploration with Performer. Writer-directors Lukasz Ronduda and Maciej Sobieszczanski’s dual biopic and critique of the work of Polish performance and video artist Oskar Dawicki is a clever, innovative and enlightening peek behind the curtain: exhibition as accessible feature narrative. Since his emergence in the mid-1990s Dawicki has consistently explored the essences of language, reality, performance and existence. Those concepts are all central to film, so it’s surprising he hasn’t used the medium before. In Performer, Oskar (Dawicki) is an artist struggling equally with inspiration and finances. His mentor, Zbigniew Warpechowski played by Andrzej Chyra, …

Wesley Tongson

Pékin Fine Arts in partnership with D3E Art Beijing Mar 12 – May 28, 2016 By Nooshfar Afnan The first show in Beijing by Hong Kong artist Wesley Tongson (1957-2012) is arranged chronologically, to give the viewer a sense of the artist’s oeuvre over the course of his prolific working life. The exhibition aims to introduce Tongson’s versatility, but is focused on works created during the last 20 years of his life. Works in the first room attest to Tongson’s classical training in both Chinese ink painting and calligraphy, and western art. A series of landscapes, in particular mountain views, combine traditional ink painting with patches of bright colour. These atmospheric additions of ink-splash colour create a meditative quality, as in Mountains of Heaven (no. 224) (2000). Tongson is perhaps best known for splashed-ink paintings, a technique he taught himself, although he was also influenced by its best-known 20th-century exponent Zhang Daqian (1899–1983). Whereas the master only used blues and greens, and traditionally ink painting is devoid of colour, Tongson’s western training resulted in a …

Kwan Sheung Chi & Mariana Hahn

Social Fabric Mill6 Foundation Hong Kong Mar 22 – Apr 23, 2016 By Caroline Ha Thuc Mill6 Foundation’s dual exhibition Social Fabric, curated by David Elliott, which brings together German artist-in-residence Mariana Hahn (b.1985) and Hong Kong artist Kwan Sheung Chi (b.1980), aims to reflect Hong Kong’s “irrevocable loss of memories in the relentless march of progress, while questioning its future”. This statement assumes that the idea of a social fabric has already been lost: the exhibition leaves aside the complexity and diversity of Hong Kong’s population to focus on its confused identity and the loss of some very specific communities. The two artists’ works are clearly separated in the space, and do not respond to each other; instead they follow their own visions and languages. Kwan Sheung Chi has conceived his installations around the recurring concerns of his work, questioning the Hong Kong identity and the very status of contemporary art in a society led by materialism. A feeling of coldness and emptiness dominates the atmosphere. Every work stands like a provocative joke: Hong …

Zhao Zhao

Tang Contemporary Art Hong Kong Mar 21 – Apr 24, 2016 By Nicolette Wong Beyond the much-discussed streak of provocation in his oeuvre, contemporary Chinese artist Zhao Zhao has consistently explored the subjects of oppression, violence and the dissidence and powerlessness of the individual in his homeland through various media. His latest works continue his engagement in these subjects, with subtle ruminations revolving around security that is shattered, voided or denied from those who seek it. The focal point of the exhibition, Fragments (2015), is an intricate installation, vulnerable to accidental disruption because its brass fragments are movable on the floor, embodying a sense of risk that invites the viewer to reflect on their relation to it. This lack of security – and its potential impact on the viewer – evokes the inspiration for the work, the deadly explosion that took place in Tianjin in August 2015, representing yet another failure of public safety in China. Where previous works from the Fragments (from 2007) and Constellations (from 2013) series reflect on the notion of violence …

Wu Tsang

Duilian By Diana d’Arenberg Parmanand In 2005, Massachusetts-born, LA-based performance artist Wu Tsang set off for China to trace her ethnic roots. Her father, who was born in Chongqing, fled China as a child with his journalist parents in 1949, on the cusp of the Communist victory in the Chinese Civil War. They travelled through Hong Kong, the first port of call for thousands fleeing persecution and fearing the onset of the Communist regime, and made their way to the US. Almost 70 years later, Tsang took the same journey back to China, and it was to prove serendipitous creatively. “I grew up in a white American part of the States. We were the only Asians, so I had a mythical notion of my heritage,” she says.  Coming across the story of Qiu Jin led to a decade of research and artistic discovery. “I had an awakening,” she says. “I researched everything I could about her.” Poet, feminist and queer revolutionary Qiu is regarded as a heroine in China, but in 1907 she was far …

Konstantin Bessmertny

Deity of Doubt By Charlotte Chang Deity of Doubt, the alliterative title of  Konstantin Bessmertny’s new solo exhibition at Rossi & Rossi Hong Kong, refers directly to the scepticism captured in philosopher René Descartes’ famous proposition “dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum” (“I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am”). This sense of intellectual  doubt about both established traditions and  contemporary society pervades the paintings and sculptures in the show, tying them to the varied oeuvre of an artist known for combining  technical mastery in painting, humanistic  learning and a candid sense of humour to create layered, critical works filled with references to western art history and popular culture. Born in Blagoveshchensk, Russia and based in Macau since 1992, Bessmertny was trained in Fine Art in the grand academies of the former USSR. As a student he “kept the fire” of traditional artistic training – a reference to Mahler’s idea that “tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire” – and cultivated his scepticism towards today’s institutionalised doctrines that “destruct the classical” …

João Vasco Paiva

Benches, Stairs, Ramps, Ledges, Ground By Richard Lord The work of Hong Kong-based, Portuguese-born artist represents a formal investigation of how urban environments are affected by human use – and how those environments in turn affect those humans. Even by his standards, however, his latest work, Benches, Stairs, Ramps, Ledges, Ground, shown after a three-month residency at Jacob Lewis Gallery in New York, is a particularly direct interpretation of this mission, with urban materials that depict aspects of urban environments subjected to the stresses and strains typical of those environments. While in New York Paiva contacted people who make skate ramps, covered those ramps with satellite images of urban areas, depicted in ink that would run readily, and got skateboarders to do their thing on them. “I’m very interested in not controlling the final outcome, and so I wanted to work with these images but I wanted not to control them,” he says. “Street skateboarding is interesting – it’s a repurposing of urban space. It’s about which parts of structures they find interesting and use. …

Morgan Wong

An in-depth but casual conversation between Hong Kong artist Morgan Wong and art writer Caroline Ha Thuc   Caroline Ha Thuc: From the beginning of your career time has been at the core of your practice: how to visualise it, how to grasp it and even recently how to smell it. Where does this obsession come from? Morgan Wong: I have no clear-cut notion of when and where this obsession or interest came from. I always see my work Plus-Minus-Zero (2010) as one of my fundamental encounters with the subject of temporality. However, there are always threads connecting previous and future works, like Journey – Hong Kong (2007) and I Got Time (2013), and I think it is important that some traces stay hidden so that connections appear at the right moment, instead of everything being too logical in the first place. My latest project, KIGOJA Standard Time (KST) (2016), in which I deal with time zones as immaterial borders, could be seen as revisiting time difference as a subject, but it also connects with …

Laurent Grasso

Elysée Edouard Malingue Gallery Hong Kong Mar 16 – Apr 30, 2016 By Caroline Ha Thuc The ultimate theme of Laurent Grasso’s exhibition at Edouard Malingue Gallery is the representation of power, and its fascinating continuity through the centuries, irrespective of the political system. From kings to emperors, and from dictators to republican presidents, the same symbols have passed from hand to hand, embodying the sheer supremacy of the operative leader. The exhibition’s name is borrowed from Elysée, a new film by Grasso (b.1972), which in turn takes its name from the early 18th-century Elysée Palace, the official residence of the French president. The artist shot the film in the palace’s Salon Doré (Golden Room), named after the gold colour that dominates it and used by every French president except Valéry Giscard d’Estaing as their main study. It was originally decorated for Empress Eugénie, Napoleon III’s wife, and contains furniture masterpieces such as a large Louis XV violet-wood desk created by sculptor and cabinetmaker Charles Cressent. The Palace’s history itself is instructive: it was bought …