Art Radar profiles 5 women artists from Hong Kong to keep an eye on.
Hong Kong’s art scene is rich in every aspect, from the presence of international galleries, institutions and artists to the abundance of local talent. Art Radar profiles 5 women artists from Hong Kong to know now, who engage with issues as diverse as personal memory, women’s and social community concerns.
Evan Wu was born in Hong Kong and studied graphic design and jewellery design at the Design First Institute of Art & Design and Hong Kong Polytechnic University. In 2012, she graduated from Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University with an MA in Fine Art.
Wu works in various media, including ink drawing, printmaking and paper cuts. Her works juxtapose tradition with contemporary elements. Wu reflects on the environment that surrounds her in her native city and her oeuvre is a manifestation of her concern for the community. As an example of the latter, a past work involved the use of waste magazine paper to make a delicate installation of butterflies, which aimed to create public awareness on the issue of recycling.
In her latest exhibition at Artify Gallery, Hong Kong, entitled “Tidbits of Life”, Wu presents works that capture the essence of local everyday life. With her humorous depictions, the artist provides the audience with an alternative taste of the city’s life. Wu encourages her audiences to reconsider preconceived ideas of the city they inhabit and the culture they have grown accustomed to.
Forever Beauty is an example of her delicate sense of humour and her exploration of local life. In this work, the artist pays tribute to local wisdom, by portraying women enjoying a homemade facial made of teabags and cucumber. Similarly, Pray represents the local worshipping culture. The glowing incense references the annual pilgrimages and prayers to the Gods for health and harmony during the Lunar New Year.
Wu also makes reference to the collision and coexistence of old and new, tradition and modernity in Hong Kong, such as the depiction of old buildings and a traditional wooden cart in Fruit Basket. In other works, such as Bird House, the artist comments on the high real estate prices that make it impossible for most people to attain their dream home.
Wu has exhibited in various locations, including Hong Kong Cultural Centre, Shantou University China and Hong Kong Arts Centre.
Angela Su was born in Hong Kong and lives and works there. She graduated in Biochemistry from the University of Toronto, Canada, in 1990 and received her BA in Visual Arts from the Ontario College of Art, Canada, 1994. Her dual training in science and art has influenced her artistic practice, which departs from existing scientific belief systems to create new, hybrid and imaginary realities.
Su’s works investigate the perception and imagery of the body, through metamorphosis, hybridity and transformation. The artist also explores the visual sensation of the pleasure of pain with drawings that juxtapose the precision of scientific sketches and fantastical inventions. Many of her works put human bodies in impossible positions and situations, and are akin to lab experiments on human specimens.
In her recent work IN BERTY WE TRUST!, the artist explored the relationship between the human body and the machine, challenging the way we perceive the body.
Su is inspired by old drawings of energy fields of atoms and molecules. She is interested in how old scientific illustrations are different from present day depictions, in the same way as maps could be. Su finds this discrepancy between old and new intriguing, as the black and white medical and scientific drawings convey “some kind of authority of truth”. The lack of visualising technology and equipment in the past also leaves a lot of space for imagination. As the artist says, “there is always a negotiation or oscillation between the real and the imaginary. And this is what I try to convey and explore through my drawings.”
Su also produces performance-based works, such as “One-Woman-Apartment” (2008) and “The Hartford Girl and Other Stories” (2012), through which she continuously investigates the tension of her dualistic state of being when under physical endangerment or distress.
Su finds inspiration from different artists, such as Kiki Smith, Joel-Peter Witkin, Gregory Crewdson’s early works, among others. The artist is also very interested in splatter films and sci-fi horror.
Her work has been exhibited extensively, including at Gallery Exit and Grotto Fine Art in Hong Kong, Goethe-Institut in Hong Kong, CAFA Art Museum Beijing, Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney, Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) Shanghai, Shenzhen Biennale, He Xiangning Art Museum in Shenzhen and the Saatchi Gallery in London.
Born in 1961 in Hong Kong, Annie Wan received a Diploma in Design and a Higher Certificate in Studio Ceramics from Hong Kong Polytechnics in 1982 and 1991 respectively. She graduated with a BA (1996) and an MA in Fine Arts (1999) from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
The artist works with ceramics and explores issues of memory, past, present and future in relation to our perception of time and how we remember. In a 2013 article on LEAP, Ting Wing Yan Vivian described her work as resembling that of “a future archaeologist”, who seeks a method to create the present, through a lingering between expectation and nostalgia and searching for possibilities to experience the world. The future archaeologist collects, documents and preserves the flimsy evidence of being through her ceramic works.
Wan’s oeuvre is based on the process of ceramic moulding. The artist has, throughout her career, moulded a variety of objects and shapes, both tangible and intangible. The moulding also retains the function of ‘remembering’ or recording a memory in its shape.
Mimicking the form of an object, be it a kitchen utensil, a fish can or a book, as well as something invisible like air and sunlight, the ceramic moulds function in some way like a photograph. But unlike a photograph, which only reproduces a two-dimensional image of the original, the mould has the material quality, the weight and the mass of the original. The mould thus functions almost as a materialisation of the past or a memory. However, it also leaves a blank space for emotion, imagination or distortion, in that the mould can never contain the content of the original.
Wan’s concern is not with inspecting material civilisation nor about formal replication, rather it is with change — the dynamics of transformation and the transience of time. The ceramic works, as a tangible form and record, embody the subtle changes of life.
In her Trilogy of a Book, Wan makes clay replicas of books in three different ‘states’. Fragile Book represents a banned book in China, which cannot be opened and has lost its content, but still appears in a bookshop when it is impressed with a barcode. Organic Book references what writer Carlos Ruiz Zafrón called the “soul” of a book, which embodies the soul of the writer and all its readers; in Wan’s work, grass grows in the book, as evidence of this soul as life. Fossil Book was created by coating an entire book and its pages with clay and firing it. The paper was burnt during firing, leaving only the ceramic ‘fossil’.
Wan has exhibited both in Hong Kong and abroad, including at the Hong Kong Arts Center, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Heritage Museum of Hong Kong, the Museum of International Ceramic Art in Denmark, Foshan Ceramics Museum in China, Guangdong Museum of Art in China and Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park in Japan, among others.
Celia Ko was born in Hong Kong and is currently based there. She graduated with a BFA in Drawing and Painting from the California State University, Long Beach, USA.
Ko is primarily a painter, but she also works in other media, including installation and mixed media wearable art objects. The artist has been developing a new series of works called “Red Fruit Series” for some years, while also continuing on her engagement with work that explores personal and family history and memory.
In her ongoing “Red Fruit Series”, Ko takes painting to be the perfect language to express emotions, truthful and untruthful, to deceive, to provoke imagination and stimulate curiosity. In Curious Fruits belonging to the series, one of the main concepts is ‘teasing’ – a play between the opposition of ‘torment’ and ‘pleasure’. The paintings, inspired by Baroque-style chiaroscuro, play on the dramatic atmosphere of their staged subjects. Charged with allegory and symbolism, they make audiences raise questions and complete the narratives themselves.
Crated Memories is about personal family memories, as well as a desire to preserve her past within the narrative of Hong Kong’s past, expressing the “collective memory” of a place. The installation includes eight wooden crates with paintings and photographs. The work is inspired by Ko’s family life in the harbour, where shipping was a major component of daily life. For generations, her family has sailed across the seas, but their roots have always remained in Hong Kong. The cargo is what she calls “a consignment of personal thoughts, memories, imagination and reflections inspired by family stories.” Through images of her family’s past, the harbour, maps and other representations, “time and events [are] reconstructed, connecting and layering past lives, culture, places and memories.”
In “That Moment Now” series, Ko casts a modern gaze on ancestral artifacts and moments of family history. Paintings of her maternal grandparents bring back a moment long gone, allowing the artist to reconnect with her late relatives. Through the paintings, she re-establishes a relationship with and provokes a reflection on a photographic moment that was lost in the past.
Ko’s mixed media “Wearables” are jewel-like objects that the artist has been developing for more than a decade. They reflect Ko’s interest in early Hong Kong life and China’s late Qing period, corresponding to her interest in her family history. The objects carry a wide array of symbols and are filled with images, borrowed words and ideas.
Celia Ko has exhibited in Hong Kong, with various solo exhibitions including at Lingnan University (2009), Para Site and the Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre, among others. She has also exhibited abroad, including at Red Mill Gallery, Vermont (USA) and various locations in California, USA.
Phoebe Man was born in Hong Kong and currently lives and works there. She received a BFA from the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 1991 and an MFA in New Genres from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2000. She holds a PhD in Fine Art from the RMIT. She was the co-founder and board member of Para Site Art Space and currently is an Assistant Professor at the School of Creative Media of the City University of Hong Kong.
Man is a conceptual artist, media sculptor, independent curator and teacher. She is a communicator: her works are attempts to communicate with herself, society, art history and the audience, and she believes that the “personal is political.”
Watch an excerpt of ‘Home Sweet Home’ by Phoebe Ching Ying Man on youtube.com
Her works are mostly cross-disciplinary and address social concerns, including self-exploration, researching ideologies and doing experiments of visual language. She works in a variety of media including mixed media sculpture, installation art, performance, video art and web art. Some of her work could be viewed as feminist and, although the artist says she is inspired by many feminist artists, she insists that her work “is never an illustration of feminist theory.”
One of her early series of works, entitled “Sanitary Napkins”, addresses the social and cultural perception of women issues in Hong Kong, such as menstruation, through her own personal experience. Using sanitary napkins as her main medium, she comments on the common view of menstruation as a dirty phenomenon. In her work, she composes flower-shaped elements with sanitary napkins and egg shells, creating an aesthetic interpretation of the concepts of menstruation.
In her recent series “Rewriting History”, Man explores the psychological consequences of sexual assault. The series includes paper cuttings, writings, installation and interactive installation, and animation. The works release memory and imagination, deconstructing and reconstructing them, in the process of trying to respond to the misconception of sexual assault in society and arouse more discussion on the topic. Paper cutting is an art form that has been traditionally practiced by women, as a means to decorate their home through the expression of their thoughts. The paper cuts in this series concentrate on the trauma of the victims, the misconceptions of sexual assault, the desire for a supportive society and the encouragement of the offenders to cease committing crime.
Phoebe Man has exhibited at home and abroad, including at the Venice Biennale, Shanghai Biennale, Gwangju Biennale, European Media Art Festival, Videobrasil International Electronic Art Festival, Impakt Festival, International Video & Mulitmedia Art Festival: Videoformes. She has also curated for international exhibitions and events, such as Asian Experimental Video Festival in Macao, Kuala Lumpur Experimental Film and Video Festival, EX!T 2010: Experimental Media Festival in Taiwan and Experimental Film/Video Festival in Seoul. She has received awards from the Hong Kong Independent Short Film & Video Competition, Asian Cultural Council, Hong Kong Museum of Art and Philippe Charriol Foundation.
C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia
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- Johnson Chang on Chinese art past, present and future – interview – February 2014 – looking back on 30 years in Hong Kong art, Hanart TZ’s Johnson Chang discusses the changes over the decades and his plans for the future
- Southeast Asian women in the diaspora – “Troubling Borders” book review – February 2014 – a new anthology of Southeast Asian art looks at how the region’s women artists are pushing literal and figurative boundaries
- The continuous reinvention of Hong Kong art – Caroline Ha Thuc book review – January 2014 – art writer Caroline Ha Thuc explains how Hong Kong’s contemporary art builds bridges between a place and its people
- “Hong Kong Eye”: New narratives in Hong Kong contemporary art – picture feast – May 2013 – the exhibition attempts to point out what distinguishes Hong Kong art from other art in the region
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