All posts filed under: Reviews

Claire Lee

The Awakening  Charbon Art Space Hong Kong Oct 14 – Nov 11 Caroline Ha Thuc Claire Lee’s new series, which she started in early 2016, pertains to the figure of the bison, a species on the brick of extinction. The artist doesn’t question the bison’s perception but rather follows an anthropomorphic approach, using the mighty but fragile body of the animal to reflect on our human condition. The series needs to be contemplated as a whole, and the setting itself is part of the work. At the back of the gallery, sheets of poetry have been hung on the branches of trees, recalling shamanic prayer trees. Visitors can sit there and listen to the artist’s voice reading some of her poems. Most of the drawings are unframed, hung slightly away from the walls as if floating, or laid on rough wooden tables. The installation, in black, white and wood colours, creates an ethereal feeling and invites meditation. Lee’s drawings constantly play with the juxtaposition of calmness and sorrow, violence and healing, as she grabs the ephemeral …

Eric Fok

Far East Chronicle Karin Weber Gallery Hong Kong Nov 17 – Dec 30, 2017 Valencia Tong During the Age of Exploration, European men set sail to distant lands in the Americas, Africa and Asia to expand their empires. The treacherous journey to conquer new territories accelerated the development of cartography and mapmaking. Such maps have been an instrumental part in the history of colonialism; they depict boundaries and are expressions of power that reveal the geopolitical dynamics of a region. In this exhibition, Macau-born artist Eric Fok uses the rhetoric of the Age of Exploration in his intricate map-like works to explore the postcolonial condition of cities in Asia. He combines the imagined with the real, as well as history with modernity. The exhibition is reminiscent of a maritime museum showcasing historical artefacts. The meticulously hand-drawn illustrated maps are framed and hung on the walls of the gallery, dimly lit by the warm yellow light that floods the space. At the far end of the gallery is a wooden briefcase displaying one of the artist’s works. Despite the vintage look …

Toshio Matsumoto

Everything Visible is Empty Empty Gallery Hong Kong Sep 9 – Nov 18, 2017 Katherine Volk Visitors to the new Toshio Matsumoto (1932-2017) show at Empty Gallery were immersed in the artist’s experimental visuals as soon as the elevator doors to the gallery opened. Pulsating, coloured waves radiated from a central void and filled the opposite wall, while the entrance space was filled with cosmic sounds. White Hole (1979) simultaneously startled and mesmerised, taking the viewer on a journey into the void. This captivating start to the exhibition was only a taster of what was behind the next door. The gallery consulted with the late artist’s archive to present a retrospective of his newly restored work. The dark space, enclosed between black walls, ceilings and floors, was the perfect setting to display the dynamic aesthetic of the post-war image maker. Empty Gallery brought together a selection of the artist’s documentaries and short experimental films from 1960 to 1979, each featuring drastically different subjects, but connected through their enquiries into the complicated conditions of a changing Japanese society. Phantom (1975) and The Song of Stone (1963) …

Masatoshi Masanobu

Axel Vervoordt Gallery Hong Kong Nov 15, 2017 – Feb 10, 2018 Valencia Tong The word Gutai suggests wild, expressive gestures and performances, but the work of late Gutai artist Masatoshi Masanobu (1911-95) from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s in this exhibition at Axel Vervoordt Gallery is rather controlled and subdued. Masanobu met painter Jiro Yoshihara, co-founder of the post-war avant-garde group, in Kobe in 1947; Yoshihara founded Gutai in 1954 when Masanobu was 43. A prolific artist, Masanobu participated in a number of Gutai exhibitions until the group dissolved in 1972. The earth-tone enamel colours of the paintings in the current exhibition, coupled with the primitive yet abstract composition, make them oddly calming. The emphasis on the materiality of the paintings, rather than the fleeting performative actions, creates an illusion of weight and solidity. The mind becomes lost as the eye follows the wriggling lines, hand-drawn but calculated – unlike, for example, the casual scribbles of Cy Twombly. The brushstrokes recall a magnified version of the patterns of felt or knitted fabrics. As the Gutai Manifesto says, “Gutai art does not change …

Various artists

Misty Clouds, Scattered Colours Edouard Malingue Gallery Liverpool Community Cinema Sep 28 – 30 Christie Lee While better known as the birthplace of The Beatles and for rowdy weekend party nights, Liverpool is also home to the UK’s oldest Chinese diaspora, the majority of whose ancestors arrived in the late 19th century, after Alfred Holt and Company established its first direct steamship link to China. They suffered from decades of racism, segregation and, in the worst case scenario, repatriation. So it’s apt that Edouard Malingue Gallery chose to stage Misty Clouds, Scattered Colours, a three-day moving-image programme intended to dismantle notions of the other, in the heart of the city. Taking its title from Chinese literary classic Journey to the West, a Ming dynasty tale of a group of pilgrims who overcome many challenges and hardships to attain enlightenment, its 15 works were screened over three nights, focusing on the themes of self, space and nation respectively. While diverse in subject matter and style, they came together to provide a heady investigation into themes of history, power and identity. …

Lam Tung Pang

Fragmentation Chambers Fine Art Beijing Jun 24 – Aug 20, 2017 Nooshfar Afnan Broken pieces of oversized Chinese bowls, apparently haphazardly strewn around the courtyard of Chambers Fine Art, constitute the first of several works by Lam Tung Pang that force us to contemplate the show’s title Fragmentation. Being Disappeared – Disappeared Hong Kong Art (3) (2013) is made up of pieces of a work originally shown as part of a public installation in Hong Kong in 2013 but shut down after 24 hours, due to a dispute between the venue and the organisers. It was returned to the artist in the broken pieces that form the current work. Lam felt profoundly impacted by this turn of events but could also sympathise with both parties. The artist realised that he could simultaneously hold two contradictory views, a condition that he terms the “fragmented self”. For his inaugural solo exhibition in Beijing, curated by Abby Chen, Lam presented objects, sketches, paintings, installation works and two videos. For any Hong Kong artist exhibiting in mainland China, it is …

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 …

Chris Huen Sin Kan

Of Humdrum Moments Pilar Corrias London 19 May – 17 Jun, 2017 Alex Quicho Hong Kong artist Chris Huen Sin Kan exhibited eight large paintings at London’s Pilar Corrias gallery, each dedicated to a fleeting everyday moment – moments that Huen believes are forgotten in the narrative of our everyday lives. These are drawings more than paintings: painted in oil, colours nonetheless appear as distinct, as if from a marker pen. As confidence underpins shakiness, something about Huen’s style seems purposely naive. Observing the convergence of so much movement to reveal unspoiled white ground raises questions about the mechanisms of his apparent spontaneity. Once undervalued, the snapshot finds itself prized today. From Wolfgang Tillmans to Juergen Teller, many artists have found the exalted in the in-between, fine-tuning our whittled attention spans to appreciate otherwise neglected details. In Huen’s work, the freeze-frame quality of mercurial surfaces – the water in a kiddie pool, the twist of dense foliage, a restless dog’s sudden gaze – hints at photographic reference material. The snap of a shutter seals an otherwise fleeting instance …

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 …

Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra

Concert Hall, Hong Kong Cultural Centre Apr 22, 2017 Ernest Wan Mahler’s Symphony No 6 constituted the bulk of this concert by the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra with music director Jaap van Zweden – but the premiere of Conrad Tao’s swallow harbor that preceded it was just as interesting: a work inspired by Hong Kong is a rarity on the programmes of the city’s flagship ensemble. Born in Illinois to Chinese parents, the 22-year-old composer visits Hong Kong infrequently and, as he has said himself, his “portrait” of the city is based on his impressions during a short sojourn at the end of last year. Another influence, according to Tao, is Varèse’s early works, especially Amériques. In swallow harbor, there is no confluence, as one might expect, of western and eastern aesthetics à la Chou Wen-chung, a protégé of Varèse who is the grand dean of Chinese-American composers. Yet, sure enough, it employs a wide array of percussion instruments, begins with a sound incorporating a lion’s roar, from a friction drum, and abounds in fragmentary bursts of timbres and other explosive …