The solo exhibition of photographic work by Luke Ching reveals changing urban landscapes.
Art Radar takes a look at some of the Hong Kong artist’s works included in the exhibition at Gallery Exit.
Hong Kong-based conceptual artist Luke Ching was born in Hong Kong in 1972 and received his MA in Fine Arts at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Over the past twenty years, he has participated in numerous exhibitions and residencies, including at MOMA P.S.1 Contemporary Arts Center (New York), Blackburn Museum & Art Gallery (United Kingdom) and Fukuoka Asian Art Museum Residence Program (Japan).
Social issues and bureaucratic politics influence much of Ching’s conceptual work. Ching responds to the spaces and people around him, with a particular focus on city environments, sometimes intervening, such as when he became a security guard at the Hong Kong Museum of Art and lobbied for chairs to sit on while the guards were on duty.
“For now we see through a window, dimly” specifically explores urbanisation, but it also gives an insight into the development of Ching’s political sensibility through his life experiences. It was through using sporadically available locations and barely affordable resources that Ching gradually built up this archive of historical changes in various cities.
The exhibition is a collection of work created between 1998 and 2006, a period during which Ching turned apartments into pinhole cameras. For example, in the work 41 Salisbury Road, Tsimshatsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong (2004), Ching used a temporary activity room. He explains in his artist statement that
the view outside resembled a three-dollar tourist postcard, squeezing all famous buildings into a rectangle […]. The distance of this postcardesque perspective enabled you to identify each and every well-known building, but not the people. Due to a long duration of exposure, no person in the streets could be captured on the picture. There are too many landmarks in Hong Kong, yet streets are easily forgotten.
Ching used this technique on a regular basis, recording architectural changes in Hong Kong as well as other countries. Some of the works question architectural aesthetics, such as the buildings that can be seen in the gentrification of Wan Chai, or the images of Hong Kong Island’s last squatter village in Pok Fu Lam.
This apartment-as-camera-obscura technique can be an arduous process, in which Ching spends from 30 minutes to a whole day within pitch-dark spaces and in solitude. Light-sensitive paper or film was placed on walls to record the long exposure images. People would blur and disappear in the process, leaving behind the static buildings, as well as traces of the artist himself in small pin and tape marks.
Ching would see images only through a small hole and as upside down projections of the world outside. Urban renewal and its challenges became an increasingly important theme in the works through this intense concentration on a specific place. As Gallery EXIT explains about the work,
images were formed between sight and touch, triggering new observations of pre-existing matters.
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