With two exhibitions focused on art from Hong Kong, CFCCA takes a hard look at the 20th anniversary of the United Kingdom’s handover of the city.
Presenting a solo exhibition by Samson Young, and a group exhibition of 7 artists, the Manchester-based gallery aims to make Chinese art and culture available and accessible.
Focus: Art in Hong Kong
At this year’s Venice Biennale, Hong Kong artist Samson Young (b. 1979, Hong Kong) takes his visitors on an exploration of charity songs in the Hong Kong Pavilion. At the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art in Manchester, however, he takes viewers down quite a separate path. Entitled “One of Two Stories, or Both (Field Bagatelles)”, Young presents an exhibition inspired by the tales of 17th-century Chinese travellers, who found their way to Europe on foot.
Happening concurrently is the group exhibition “From Ocean to Horizon”, featuring seven emerging to mid-career artists: Ko Sin Tung, Sarah Lai, Au Hoi Lam, Trevor Yeung, Ocean Leung, Tang Kwok-hin and Kong Chun Hei. For each of the artists, this exhibition will mark the first time that they are presenting their work in the United Kingdom. Centering the exhibition around the line of the horizon, the artists contemplate the shifting boundary between ocean and sky, particularly in the context of the island-city that is Hong Kong. Exploring the natural geography of Hong Kong, its relationship to the ocean and the natural harbour, the exhibition is a deep examination of the geo-spatial topologies of the city itself.
The decision to feature two shows of Hong Kong artists is no coincidence: the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA) deliberately chose to show the art of Hong Kong amidst an increasingly fractured political situation. With debates surrounding the survival of democracy in a city under mainland Chinese control, this summer marks the 20th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to China. Initially, Hong Kong and China functioned under a “one country, two systems” framework that effectively kept Hong Kong separate in terms of judiciary and legislature. Within twenty years, however, the relationship between the two entities have become fraught, with mass pro-democracy protests erupting in 2014 in Hong Kong. Hong Kong still maintains a small, vocal pro-democracy minority to this day.
With a complex background to look back on, according to CFCCA the two shows of Hong Kong artists are aimed at exploring
the diversity of Hong Kong’s art and artists, the complexity of the art ecology and the rich layers of cultural and political history which surround the city.
Stories of Chinese Migrants: Samson Young
Samson Young’s exhibition deliberately explores Hong Kong through the lens of lore, blending fact and fiction together in his presentation. Taking the tales of 17th-century travellers, who would travel to Europe on foot, Young pulls together a two-part exhibition that addresses the stories and experiences of Chinese migrants. Using his signature medium of sound, Young creates a five-part radio drama, which he presented in front of a live studio audience each night from 30 June 2017 to 4 July 2017 (incidentally, the broadcast is still available to listen to on FM and online).
Accompanying his radio drama is his newly commissioned gallery exhibition, which features multi- channel sound and visual installation works. Aiming to provoke his visitors into thinking about the past, Young uses his works to ask his audience how journeys are remembered and retold. A large-scale installation, which spans several rooms of the gallery, Young’s exhibition glows with a smouldering nostalgia. Tinted by multi-coloured fabrics lining the windows, Young’s installation recreates a living room, inviting visitors to step in and explore various sound and video works. Including touches such as an audio track, accompanied by a script of an exchange between a mother and son, Young’s installation becomes intimately personal, inviting people to engage in what appears to be human histories.
An Exploration of Geo-political and Social Change in Hong Kong
“From Ocean to Horizon” was born out of the desire to investigate deep social, political and geographical changes to Hong Kong’s landscape. In recent history, Hong Kong went through major, rapid changes, creating a dense urban sprawl with its own particular characteristics. Yet, it also maintains a relationship to its harbour, and continues to be shaped by its own island geography. Responding to the context of Hong Kong, the artists in the show created works that respond to the city’s shifting landscape.
Outstanding works include Trevor Yeung‘s (b. 1988, Guangdong Province, China) Spirit Work (2017). Consisting of a filled fish tank, filter and lamp, Yeung’s installation follows on from his practice of using botanical and horticultural references. Previous works from Yeung include plants and sea snails in vitrines, palm-tree shaped candle stands, and other references to natural scenery. Yeung’s installation for CFCCA is not unfamiliar to Minimalism: with two fish tanks stacked one on top of the other, Yeung’s work has a stark, clear transparency, coupled with a plain geometry. It is as though Yeung is drawing a metaphor for the state of the fish tanks to the current socio-political landscape of Hong Kong.
Taking a personal, private approach to the topic is Au Hoi Lam’s Unutterable Antecedents, Consequences, and Coincidences (2017). Asking the question “After all these years, are you doing well?” on lined paper emblazoned with a Coat of Arms of British Hong Kong, Au’s art piece is a quiet look at the personal lives shaped under the legacy of the rulers of Hong Kong. Stark and plain, Au’s approach is markedly different from the other works in the exhibition.
A significant portion of the exhibition has also been dedicated to the work of Kong Chun Hei (b. 1987). An artist who focuses on drawing, Kong’s works were created whilst he was in residency at CFCCA. Stretching over a two-month period, Kong’s residency saw the creation of six new artworks, presented in his residency studio. An interesting mix of installation, video and ink on paper, Kong’s presentation at CFCCA comprises works such as Dryer (2017), where an electric hair dryer is mounted onto the wall, its cable stretching across the wall in an elegant loop.
In perhaps what is his most traditional work, Stripes (2017), an ink on paper work, showcases vertical lines of grey and white moving across the surface of the board, illuminated by a single LED light.
Kong’s foray into media installations also include Flicker (from the outside) (2017). Kong places a projector in front of a mini television, leaving its screen to reflect a flickering blue. Displayed on a couch in the middle of his studio alongside two black chairs with chrome legs, Kong’s installation has a casual, unpolished edge to it.
With an eclectic mix of media, approaches and aesthetics, the Centre for Contemporary Chinese Art takes a hard look at Hong Kong and the contemporary artistic practices that are emerging from the island. With two exhibitions this summer, the 20th anniversary of the handover definitely does not go unremarked, making the history and socio-political landscape of Hong Kong accessible for visitors to examine through the lens of art.
- Preview: M+ Screenings: City Limits at Broadway Cinematheque, Hong Kong – August 2017 – M+ showcases 15 artist videos, narrative films, documentaries and animations to explore urbanisation in Asia
- Changing landscape: Skulpture Projekt Münster 2017 – August 2017 – Art Radar has a look at some of the artists participating in Skulpture Projekt Münster 2017
- “The Afterlife of Rosy Leavers”: Hong Kong artist Angela Su at Blindspot Gallery, Hong Kong – July 2017 – through her exploration with hallucination, the artist questions the perception of reality and how she positions herself in these uncertainties
- “91 Square Meters of Time”: Taiwanese video artist Wu Chi-Yu at TKG+ Projects, Taipei – May 2017 – through moving image, Wu Chi-Yu reimagines narratives of history and time
- Hong Kong sound artist Samson Young at Kunsthalle Düsseldorf in Germany – January 2017– Art Radar takes a look at the key works from the exhibition
Subscribe to Art Radar for more updates about Chinese contemporary art