All posts filed under: Features

The Un/Safe Reading of Spectrosynthesis – Asian LGBTQ Issues and Art Now

By Anthony Leung Po Shan Spectrosynthesis – Asian LGBTQ Issues and Art Now at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei in September proclaimed itself to be Asia’s first “LGBTQ art” exhibition at a state-owned museum. In addition to being the icing on the cake after Taiwan became the first Asian country to legalise same-sex marriage, it also marks the homonormative order finally gaining acceptance in its political, economic, social and cultural aspects. Although successful in its scope and accessibility, the exhibition failed to explore a more creative/destructive gender imagination, and inevitably felt too safe to an audience familiar with gender issues. The exhibition took three years to prepare, with curator Sean C S Hu classifying all artists that belong to the politically marginalised or the non-heterosexual mainstream as “tongzhi”, a collective term that usually encompasses lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. The inclusive definition of the term was an attempt to efface the question of who does and doesn’t qualify, plus some works of unspecified gender orientation also helped to dilute the stereotypical image of “tongzhi art”. Although the 44 works from 24 …

Howie Tsui

Retainers of Anarchy By Elliat Albrecht There was a time when lawlessness was king and opposing forces lived, plotted, colluded and fought out their differences without the intervention of authorities. Virtue was valued but bravery and resourcefulness were crucial above all else. Such an anarchic atmosphere was characteristic of both the now-levelled Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong and the stories of wuxia, known in Cantonese as mou hap, a genre of fiction centred around martial-arts figures in ancient China. Hong Kong-born, Vancouver-based artist Howie Tsui drew from both for his solo exhibition Retainers of Anarchy at the Vancouver Art Gallery. His was one of three presentations in Vancouver by Hong Kong artists that marked the approach of the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from the UK to China in 1997; in addition, the Vancouver Art Gallery also hosted group show Pacific Crossings: Hong Kong  Artists in Vancouver, and Tsang Kin-Wah presented three public works around the city. The centrepiece of the exhibition was the eponymous Retainers of Anarchy (2017), a 25-metre-long digitally animated scroll …

Rachel Kneebone

Ovid in Exile By Diana d’Arenberg Parmanand British sculptor Rachel Kneebone forges the human condition out of clay. The great meta-narratives of humanity – creation and destruction, life and death, renewal, love, suffering, heaven and hell, the limitations and possibilities of the human body – are all tackled in her sculptures. It is a biblical, monumental endeavour. Aptly named, Kneebone creates architectural structures of white porcelain resembling towers or sculpture-like crypts of small bones, or tangles of roots or vines. The violent entanglement of limbs might be ripped straight out of Dante’s Inferno. She turned porcelain – a material associated with the decorative figurines and tea sets of the bourgeoisie – into the boundary-defying installation 399 Days at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London this year. The colossal sculpture, her largest to date, is a towering, epic explosion of limbs, flowers, spheres and genitalia. Fragments of the human body are intertwined, clambering and cascading down. They recall Rodin’s The Gates of Hell – her work was exhibited alongside the artist’s in 2012 at the Brooklyn Museum – or an erotic Tower of Babel, …

Lee Kit

Something You Can’t Leave Behind By Charlotte Chang The introduction to Lee Kit’s first solo show with Massimo De Carlo Hong Kong, Something You Can’t Leave Behind, opens with a lengthy quote containing sentence fragments and abrupt imperatives that is at once baffling and transcendent. After a series of disjointed declarative statements – such as “there is a movie in every corner”, “a bus ride might make you smile” and “our time has gone” – Lee commands viewers to “mute the voiceover”, before ending by saying “something you can’t leave behind”, the show’s titular reference to elusive and ineffable but persistent traces of life and memory. The intimate narrative of the show, composed of eight site-specific works with complex combinations of projections and Lee’s characteristic mixed-media paintings and drawings, is as much a stream of consciousness as the quote. While the show’s “something” seems intertwined with Lee’s individual consciousness, manifest in ghostly imprints of mundane objects, disembodied gestures and idiosyncratic expletives, the multifarious interplay between tangibility and intangibility, light and shadow, sharpness and blurriness, and contrasting scales brings out something more universal: that, in myriad ways, …

Luis Chan

Jazz with Luis By Winnie Lai A marriage between impeccable technical skills and confident spontaneity, jazz is a fitting musical analogy for Luis Chan’s fantasy world of colours and imagination, and provides the title of the veteran Hong Kong painter’s two-part retrospective at Hanart TZ Gallery, Jazz with Luis. It is divided into Landscape Fantasy, which opened on February 17, followed by Urban Figures on March 10. With a focus on his landscape paintings, Landscape Fantasy presents Chan’s works from the late 1950s to the late 70s, showing how he dealt with the subject in different media, and following the metamorphosis of his style from his early realist sketches to the iconic stylised works for which he is best known. The exhibition also features a detailed timeline and video interviews with the curator, scholars, and friends and the daughter of the artist. It paints a vivid picture of the fun, playful, passionate, carefree Chan, and illustrates the multifaceted impact he made to Hong Kong as an artist, writer, critic and cultural promoter and organiser.   Hong Kong became Chan’s home …

Adrian Wong

The Tiger Returns to the Mountain By Charlotte Chang Reconstituting a Palimpsest of Hong Kong History Chinese-American artist Adrian Wong’s site-specific installation The Tiger Returns to the Mountain, presented at chi art space by the K11 Art Foundation, takes the former Tiger Balm Garden as its locus of imagination in deconstructing Hong Kong’s cultural history. The historic garden, on whose site a luxury residential complex now stands, is a palimpsest of Hong Kong’s cultural history — a site whose every reincarnation throughout the previous decades, whether as private residence, theme park or repository of psychedelic statuary, has effaced its own past while leaving indelible marks, tracing the city’s existence from colonial times to the present. The title alludes to a Chinese expression that means “allowing someone dangerous to roam again”, but the titular tiger’s identity is left ambiguous. As viewers navigate the large-scale work, which mixes multi-sensory and Chinese architectural elements, they are invited to consider this question while engaging with Hong Kong’s layered history from different vantage points. Artomity: How does the installation take advantage of chi art space’s …

Tung Wing Hong & Phoebe Hui

X+Y By Charlotte Chang At X+Y, a dual solo exhibition of local artists Tung Wing Hong and Phoebe Hui that ran until October 30, two large-scale, mechanically intricate installations transform the chi art space into an immersive funhouse, with slowly rotating plasma screens hanging in mid-air and a pair of inviting, adult-size swings. Swinging on the latter trigger ripples in a pool of water that at first seem disembodied, and musical notes in the sequence of a well-known Tchaikovsky waltz. The show, part of the As Far As Near exhibition series presented by the K11 Art Foundation, displays Tung’s In Between (2016) and Hui’s Process with body, water & amp; pendulums (2009-2011, 2016) in a fluid continuum. Because of the sheer scale and mechanical complexity of Process, Hui had not had a chance to show it in Hong Kong before. In the intimate gallery, the placement of the two works without partitions highlights the artists’ common impulse of drawing on mechanics and technology to allow viewers to reconstruct self-awareness and spatial awareness. With their sentimental movements of slow …

G Roland Biermann

Transformations By Malcolm MacLeod The works of German-born, London-based photographer G Roland Biermann inhabit a space that flirts with reality, but really exists somewhere between our realm and the surreal. Transformations, his Hong Kong debut exhibition at Galerie du Monde, reveals a thematic concentration on uncertainty and the grey areas of existence, and how we humans interact with these spaces as both individuals and societies. In a city like Hong Kong, where green places mingle with high rises, and the pavements swell with workers glued to their phones, Biermann’s undefined worlds carry a poignant message. The works in the exhibition belong to three projects from between 2009 and 2016. The first chronologically, Apparitions (2009), depicts ghostly figures and objects inhabiting carefully curated spaces of Biermann’s imagining. These compositions resist traditional narratives and are rife with contrasts, making them an ideal jumping-off point for the exploration of metaphysical questions that is a consistent feature of Biermann’s oeuvre. Shown in groups of between two and five, they echo the diptychs and triptychs of medieval Christian art, or even the folding panels …

Mickalene Thomas

the desire of the other By Diana d’Arenberg Parmanand In 1994, while an art student in Portland, Oregon, Mickalene Thomas chanced on artist Carrie Mae Weems’s iconic Kitchen Table Series hanging in the Portland Art Museum. The series of black-and-white photographs depicted Weems at her kitchen table playing cards; smoking; sitting with her lover; reading with her daughter; doing her make-up. The artist played out these roles of mother, lover, friend and daughter, photographing herself over a year from 1989-90. They are mundane daily activities, but crucially they represent the intersection of art and the political, exploring power relations and cultural and racial identity through the portrayal of black women. “It was the first time I saw work by an African-American female artist that reflected myself and called upon a familiarity of family dynamics and sex and gender,” Thomas recalls. The historically significant series paved the way for generation of female artists to reimagine and represent themselves through their work. Among them was Thomas, who found the inspiration she needed to dedicate herself to becoming an …

Maria Taniguchi

Solo show. By Margot Mottaz Philippine artist Maria Taniguchi estimates that she has painted a few hundred thousand bricks since 2008, when she started her ongoing series of untitled brick paintings. Shown alongside a fountain installation at Galerie Perrotin this winter in the artist’s first solo show in Hong Kong, these minimal, solemn paintings have become Taniguchi’s signature pieces, through which her practice – video, sculpture, pottery and installation – is often understood. Large in format (on average 250 x 120cm) and repetitive in design, the paintings consist of small graphite rectangles carefully filled with black acrylic paint. The result might look mechanical but each brick has been painted individually in a laborious operation. The bricks, uneven in tone, with some darker than others depending on the ratio of paint to water, form abstract patterns that reflect the artist’s hand. Still, the series’ overall uniformity purposely belies Taniguchi’s labour-intensive, time-consuming efforts. This is perhaps a subdued comment on the undervaluation of manual labour in our post-industrial, globalised world, a topical subject in her homeland and …