Inaugural Human Rights Art Prize awards emerging Hong Kong artists

Hong Kong emerging artists win the first edition of the Hong Kong Human Rights Art Award for their humanitarian art. 

On 5 November 2013, the Hong Kong Refugee Advice Centre presented the inaugural Hong Kong Human Rights Art Prize to emerging and community artists for their recognition of the important role of art in raising social awareness of human rights. 

Emerging Artist winner Elva Lai Ming-Chu receiving her prize from judge Kacey Wong. Image courtesy HKRAC.

Emerging Artist winner Elva Lai Ming-Chu receiving her prize from judge Kacey Wong. Image courtesy HKRAC.

In November 2013, the Hong Kong Refugee Advice Centre (HKRAC) held the first edition of the Hong Kong Human Rights Art Prize, which awards emerging and community artists and recognises the importance of art in raising awareness about human rights. The Prize culminated in the exhibition of the fourteen shortlisted artists, accompanied by the announcement of the winners and a Christie’s charity auction at Sundaram Tagore Gallery on 5 November 2013.

Alvin Fung Tsz-Chung, winner of the Community Artist Prize, receiving his prize from Kacey Wong. Image courtesy HKRAC.

Alvin Fung Tsz-Chung, winner of the Community Artist Prize, receiving his prize from Kacey Wong. Image courtesy HKRAC.

The Prize is divided into two categories: Emerging Artists and Community Artists. The prize panel of judges included Melissa Lee, Lecturer of Diasporic Literature and Visual Arts at the Chinese University of Hong Kong; Kacey Wong, a well-known Hong Kong activist artist; and Vincent Piket, Head of the European Union Office Hong Kong and Macau. The three judges chose the seven finalists and the two winners in each category: Elva Lai Ming Chu – (Winner of Emerging Artist Category) and Alvin Fung Tsz-Chung (Winner of Community Artist Category). Additionally, the HKRAC staff awarded the HKRAC Choice Award to Lo Chi Kit in the Emerging Artist Category and Jack Li Yip Fuk in the Community Artist Category.

As one of the judges, Melissa Lee, states in an interview with HKRAC,

I think that the Art Prize is a wonderful new prize for emerging artists to gain recognition and have their artwork shown. The theme of the prize highlights the importance for young artists of being mindful of the world around them and to develop a social consciousness in their artistic practice.

Elva Lai Ming-Chu, 2013 Emerging Artist Prize, ‘Family Photo Album: Washing’, pencil, charcoal and inkjet on paper, one of series of five. Image courtesy HKRAC. © Elva Lai Ming-Chu

Elva Lai Ming-Chu, 2013 Emerging Artist Prize, ‘Family Photo Album: Washing’, pencil, charcoal and inkjet on paper, one of series of five. Image courtesy HKRAC. © Elva Lai Ming-Chu

The Winners

Elva Lai Ming Chu won the HKD30,000 Emerging Artist Prize and a two-week artist residency in Provence (France) for her work Family Photo Album: Washing. A series of pictures of photo albums, the work depicts the hardships of immigrants from Mainland China who came to Hong Kong in the 1960s, a time when many family members were separated by famine and poverty. Dr Kacey Wong said of the artwork,

Elva’s series of photographs taken from family photo albums inspires the viewer to think about their own family history in terms of immigration, memory and loss. It is a warm and sad contextual piece of work that everyone here in Hong Kong could relate to.

Alvin Fung Tzs Chung, 2013 Community Artist Prize, ‘Under the Sun’, series of three photographs. Image courtesy HKRAC. © Alvin Fung Tzs Chung

Alvin Fung Tzs Chung, 2013 Community Artist Prize, ‘Under the Sun’, series of three photographs. Image courtesy HKRAC. © Alvin Fung Tzs Chung

Photographer Alvin Fung Tzs Chung, winner of the HKD5,000 Community Artist Prize, presented a work titled Under the Sun, portraying three African refugees whom the artist met and interviewed in Hong Kong. In the photographs, the three subjects turn their back to the viewer, as a representation of the challenges faced by the artist in being able to fully understand the refugees’ stories without having experienced a similar ordeal.

Prize judge Melissa Lee, Lecturer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in diasporic literature and visual art and founder of the Fairytale Project, noted,

Alvin’s piece reveals the anonymity of being a refugee in Hong Kong in a way that is particularly captivating. The figures are turned away from the viewer, with only their colourful clothes to identify them. They are nameless, without rights.

Lo Chi Kit, 2013 HKRAC Emerging Artist Choice, ‘Under the Shadow’, cynotype on watercolour paper. Image courtesy HKRAC. © Lo Chi Kit

Lo Chi Kit, 2013 HKRAC Emerging Artist Choice, ‘Under the Shadow’, cynotype on watercolour paper. Image courtesy HKRAC. © Lo Chi Kit

Lo Chi Kit won the HKRAC Choice Award for Emerging Artist with his piece Under the Shadow, which depicts the Chinese character for ‘people’, from a photograph taken of a placard in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. By adding a square around the character, the word becomes the Chinese character for ‘prison’. Looking in more detail, the image features the names of detained, imprisoned and exiled human rights activists, to whom the artist dedicates his piece.

Jack Li Yip Fuk, 2013 HKRAC Community Artist Choice, ‘Impressions of a Subdivided Flat’, photograph. Image courtesy HKRAC. © Jack Li Yip Fuk

Jack Li Yip Fuk, 2013 HKRAC Community Artist Choice, ‘Impressions of a Subdivided Flat’, photograph. Image courtesy HKRAC. © Jack Li Yip Fuk

Community artist Jack Li Yip Fuk won HKRAC Choice Award for his photograph Impressions of Subdivided Flat, which highlights the difficulty that persons in Hong Kong face in securing affordable, adequate flats due to escalating prices in the property market. The artist states that the situation gives rise to a distorted future where people have lost their basic rights to housing.

The Human Rights Art Prize 2013 judges (from left to right) at Sundaram Tagore Gallery: Dr Kacey Wong, Melissa Chiu and Vincent Piket. Image courtesy HKRAC.

The Hong Kong Human Rights Art Prize 2013 judges (from left to right) at Sundaram Tagore Gallery: Dr Kacey Wong, Melissa Chiu and Vincent Piket. Image courtesy HKRAC.

The importance of humanitarian art

HKRAC is a non-profit charitable institution helping refugees rebuild their lives in Hong Kong. The NGO set up the annual art prize to emphasise the importance of involving both emerging artists and the artists active in the larger community in creating awareness around the issues of human rights in contemporary society. Prize judge Vincent Piket is quoted in the press release as saying,

Art is one of the most powerful tools to convey injustice, shed light on abuse and amplify the voices of the voiceless. The Hong Kong Human Rights Art Prize is a commendable initiative that I am honoured to take part in, and I have been very impressed by the poignant works of art that I have seen.

This year, another humanitarian art prize was inaugurated, the Artraker Award, which awards artworks created in the context of conflict.

 C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia

Related topics: emerging artists, Hong Kong artists, art prizes, art and the community, socially engaged art, art and activism, art awards, events in Hong Kong

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