“The Afterlife of Rosy Leavers”: Hong Kong artist Angela Su at Blindspot Gallery, Hong Kong

Through her exploration with hallucination, the artist questions the perception of reality and how she positions herself in these uncertainties.

The solo exhibition showcases Angela Su’s newest works, which include drawing, video, hair embroidery and installation.

Angela Su, 'The Afterlife of Rosy Leavers' (film still), 2017, single channel video, 14:35min, edition 5 + 2AP. Image courtesy the artist and Blindspot Gallery

Angela Su, ‘The Afterlife of Rosy Leavers’ (film still), 2017, single channel video, 14:35min, edition 5 + 2AP. Image courtesy the artist and Blindspot Gallery

“The Afterlife of Rosy Leavers” is Hong Kong artist Angela Su’s first solo exhibition at Blindspot Gallery, Hong Kong. Her drawings, video, hair embroidery and installation at the show are the manifestation of her research on mental illness and social control. The exhibition is on view at Blindspot Gallery from 20 May to 30 June 2017. An event featuring a conversation with the artist is held on 24 May 2017.

Angela Su, 'Please tell me what’s been bothering you' (Detail: 1 of 27), 2017, digital print on paper, set of 27, installation size variable, 21 x 28.5 cm each, edition: 3 + AP. Image courtesy the artist and Blindspot Gallery.

Angela Su, ‘Please tell me what’s been bothering you’ (Detail: 1 of 27), 2017, digital print on paper, set of 27, installation size variable, 21 x 28.5 cm each, edition: 3 + AP. Image courtesy the artist and Blindspot Gallery.

Angela Su, 'Please tell me what’s been bothering you' (Detail: 1 of 27), 2017, digital print on paper, set of 27, installation size variable, 21 x 28.5 cm each, edition: 3 + AP. Image courtesy the artist and Blindspot Gallery.

Angela Su, ‘Please tell me what’s been bothering you’ (Detail: 1 of 27), 2017, digital print on paper, set of 27, installation size variable, 21 x 28.5 cm each, edition: 3 + AP. Image courtesy the artist and Blindspot Gallery.

Angela Su’s background in science informs her art practice. She is known for her scientific drawings, as well as works with the element of performance. In 1990, Su received her degree in Biochemistry from University of Toronto in Canada. After that, she decided to obtain another degree in Visual Arts from Ontario College of Art and Design University in Canada. Her works have been exhibited locally and internationally, including at Gallery EXIT, Grotto Fine Art and Goethe-Institut, Hong Kong; CAFA Art Museum, Beijing; National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; Saatchi Gallery, London; He Xiangning Art Museum, Shenzhen; and Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna. Her works have also been collected by M+ Museum, Hong Kong and CAFA Art Museum, China.

Earlier on, Art Radar has featured Su as one of the 7 Influential Women Artists From Asia-Pacific and 5 Hong Kong Women Artists to Know Now. Art Radar takes a look at her newest show in Hong Kong.

Angela Su, installation view of 'My sincere apologies', 2017, hair embroidery on bed sheet, 211 x 99 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Blindspot Gallery.

Angela Su, installation view of ‘My sincere apologies’, 2017, hair embroidery on bed sheet, 211 x 99 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Blindspot Gallery.

 Angela Su, installation view of 'My sincere apologies', 2017, hair embroidery on bed sheet, 211 x 99 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Blindspot Gallery.

Angela Su, installation view of ‘My sincere apologies’, 2017, hair embroidery on bed sheet, 211 x 99 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Blindspot Gallery.

Hallucination, mental illness, doppelgänger and artificial intelligence

The protagonist in the artist’s film The Afterlife of Rosy Leavers is named after a stranger of the same name. It all begins with a Facebook message which Su has received that says:

Hello Dear
How are you?
My name is Rosy.
I’d like to know you better.

Inspired by this message, the artist creates a virtual character who explores the notion of inner self, including doubling, hallucination and virtual reality. Meanwhile, external structures in relation to psychiatry, social control and resistance are also exposed.

The film reveals Rosy’s life experiences in a self-reflexive manner. From her early fascination with spirals to her experiences with hallucinatory psychedelics, the film explores limits of the mind-body duality. Other parts of the film also feature schizophrenic episodes, joining Socialists’ Patients Collective (SPK), and the uploading of her consciousness to cyberspace to live her life as an animated character.

Angela Su, 'Rorschach Test No.1', 2016, ink on drafting films, 151.5 x 105 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Blindspot Gallery.

Angela Su, ‘Rorschach Test No.1’, 2016, ink on drafting films, 151.5 x 105 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Blindspot Gallery.

Angela Su, "The Afterlife of Rosy Leavers", 20 May - 30 June 2017, Blindspot Gallery, Hong Kong. Image courtesy the artist and Blindspot Gallery.

Angela Su, “The Afterlife of Rosy Leavers”, 20 May – 30 June 2017, Blindspot Gallery, Hong Kong. Image courtesy the artist and Blindspot Gallery.

Psychiatry and scientific biological drawings

Su’s scientific drawings are featured in this show alongside her video work. These are drawings in perfect bilateral symmetry, which reference the famous psychological test named Rorschach inkblot test. The biomorphic forms are depicted over two overlapping layers of drafting films, as if engaging in word play with the idea of “twin” and “split”. Spiral, vegetative and floral forms mingle amongst structures that resemble human organs. Viewers can interpret them according to their intuition. The process of viewing them is similar to going through the diagnostic test for schizophrenia.

Speaking about her the audience she has in mind when creating works of art, Su once mentioned in an interview (PDF download) done in 2014 at Asia Art Archive:

My audience can be anybody. It’s the general public. And I don’t really think about my audience when I do my work. […] I think this is also the beauty of art as well. I mean the audience is free to make their associations, they are free to take back to create different meanings out of the work. It’s the ambiguity that intrigues me sometimes about a piece of work.

Angela Su, "The Afterlife of Rosy Leavers", 20 May - 30 June 2017, Blindspot Gallery, Hong Kong. Image courtesy the artist and Blindspot Gallery.

Angela Su, “The Afterlife of Rosy Leavers”, 20 May – 30 June 2017, Blindspot Gallery, Hong Kong. Image courtesy the artist and Blindspot Gallery.

Therapy session and doubling

In Please tell me what’s been bothering you, the female patient expresses her anxieties about having a doppelgänger. The conversation between her and her therapist is a frustrating one, as the work alludes to the generic conversations between patients and ELIZA. ELIZA is a first-generation AI computer psychotherapist from the 1960s created by German-American scientist Joseph Weizenbaum of MIT University. It is a chatbot that responds in a fashion that is similar to that of American psychologist Carl Rogers, speaking in open questions. The therapist only mirrors what the patient has to say with keywords, which eventually embodies the patient as their doppelgänger.

Angela Su, "The Afterlife of Rosy Leavers", 20 May - 30 June 2017, Blindspot Gallery, Hong Kong. Image courtesy the artist and Blindspot Gallery.

Angela Su, “The Afterlife of Rosy Leavers”, 20 May – 30 June 2017, Blindspot Gallery, Hong Kong. Image courtesy the artist and Blindspot Gallery.

Hair embroidery and the body

In My sincere apologies, a phrase is embroidered onto the stark white bed sheet using human hair. The phrase seems to be coming from a woman with mental illness, as it reads:

Since I am a troubled woman, I cannot help but produce yet another piece of art with the bed. Please accept my sincere apologies.

Through this apologetic line, viewers can delve into the artist’s state of mind to explore the notion of autonomy, agency and empathy in her daily struggles.

Angela Su, "The Afterlife of Rosy Leavers", 20 May - 30 June 2017, Blindspot Gallery, Hong Kong. Image courtesy the artist and Blindspot Gallery.

Angela Su, “The Afterlife of Rosy Leavers”, 20 May – 30 June 2017, Blindspot Gallery, Hong Kong. Image courtesy the artist and Blindspot Gallery.

In the same AAA interview, Su commented on the labour-intensive process of her hair embroidery artwork and drawings:

Long, hard, laborious process. Because when I do, for example, my embroidery, it’s labour-intensive. When I first started to do labour-intensive work ‒ whether it’s drawing or embroidery ‒ I, again, I romanticized the idea. I wanted to be contemplative. […] Sometimes it’s painful to do labour-intensive work. But for some reason I think I really enjoy doing it in a way. It’s sort of masochistic. Every time I finish something, for example an embroidery, I would think, “I’ll never go back to it! I’ll never do another piece of embroidery again!”. But for some reason, I will always go back to something bigger and do something even more complicated. It’s a very strange sentiment that I have. You know, it’s stitch by stitch, stroke by stroke, 14 hours a day, day after day and week after week.

Valencia Tong

1702

Related Topics: Hong Kong artist, gallery shows, installation, video, drawing, Hong Kong

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