“Screaming Books” opened on 1 March 2018, marking a major milestone for Galerie Ora-Ora, and the wider Hong Kong art scene.
Art Radar looks at its new space and inaugural show, and speaks to the gallerist to find out more about the gallery’s mission and its inaugural exhibition at H Queen’s.
Founded by Henrietta Tsui-Leung ten years ago in Hong Kong, Galerie Ora-Ora is a research-based contemporary art gallery specialising in sculpture and works in ink. The gallery has grown from its base in contemporary Asian art to represent nearly 40 major artists from around the world, including Europe, North America, Australia, Asia, China and Hong Kong.
The gallery is dedicated to both emerging and more established artists, and is now one of the leading contemporary art galleries in Hong Kong, for both Chinese and Western art, and participates extensively at art events across Asia and internationally. A long-time supporter of Chinese contemporary ink, the gallery represents a number of that movement’s key artists and supports its market with their vast network of corporate and private collectors. Indeed, the gallery’s co-founder Henrietta Tsui-Leung is an expert in contemporary ink art and is currently completing her PhD degree in Art Criticism and Theory at Shanghai University.
Tsui-Leung comes from a background in business, finance and real estate, and has for over a decade been focused on contributing to the Hong Kong art scene by sponsoring cultural initiatives and charity events. With an aim to create a strong and vibrant art community, she also co-founded the Hong Kong Art Gallery Association, where she is Co-president.
The gallery believes that art should, in a sense, transcend the limitations of its particular time or period – and its name, Ora-Ora, or ‘from era to era’, embodies that mission. The move to the 17th floor of H Queen’s – a major new development in the centre of Hong Kong – marks a milestone in Galerie Ora-Ora’s history, and more widely, in the growth of the art world in Hong Kong. The H Queen’s development houses non-traditional spaces to be used for exhibitions, with the goal of promoting the arts as well as expanding its audiences.
Galerie Ora-Ora’s inaugural exhibition in the new space is “Screaming Books”, a group show that explores the relationship between literature and visual art through the work of eight Hong Kong and Chinese artists: Halley Cheng, Hung Keung, Peng Jian, Peng Wei, Xiao Xu, Xu Lei, Zhang Yanzi, as well as an iconic calligraphic graffiti work by Tsang Tsou-Choi (also known as the ‘King of Kowloon’). The show embodies the spirit of the gallery’s mandate – as ever, both research-based and future-oriented.
Influenced by ancient and classical literature famed in Chinese and Western references, “Screaming Books” – the gallery’s first show for 2018 – asserts the universality of art, exploring its aptitude for unfettered expression, emotion and meaning. The title of the exhibition originates partly in Alexander Rodchenko’s (b.1891 – d. 1956) Russian Revolution-era poster of the writer and socialite Lilya Brike screaming “Books!” – a vocal union of art and text.
“Screaming Books” asserts the enduring power of the image through a group of artists working in contemporary Chinese ink art. The show reflects upon the blurred and often symbiotic relationship between art and literature – examining visual art’s propensity for narrative, as well as literature’s expressionistic indeterminacy. In our globalised age, the works in the exhibition display the artists’ willingness to draw on an impressive range of cross-disciplinary influences.
On Galerie Ora-Ora’s new, light-filled space at H Queen’s and inaugural show, Gallery Founder and Director Henrietta Tsui Leung commented:
Art and literature are not opposing forces, but divided souls screaming for each other in the night. “Screaming Books” is a tightly curated, scholarly exhibition that gathers leading artists for whom our shared legacy of literature is an inspiration. Celebrating the opening of our new gallery space at H Queen’s, “Screaming Books” marks a significant milestone in our gallery’s history and reflects our long-standing vision in promoting contemporary ink to a wider audience from Hong Kong and beyond.
Building upon philosophical context and literary influence, “Screaming Books” is comprised of contemporary works in ink by Chinese artists who have used this inspiration in myriad ways. Xiao Xu’s artistic practice, for example, is marked by the influence of Franz Kafka’s oeuvre, as well as the magic realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Peng Jian, Peng Wei and Zhang Yanzi, on the other hand, find inspiration in the literary language and imagery of the past in order to reinvent it with modern interpretations. Peng Wei delves into the correspondence of artists of the past, pairing their words with her images: this union creates new levels of awareness and understanding. Peng Jian’s towers of books form the landscape architecture of a library, while Zhang Yanzi’s work Tianwang Buxin Dan references a traditional medical recipe.
Expropriating the power of books to spread ideas, Hong Kong artist Hung Keung uses the form of a video forum to explore the solitary nature of reading, creating an apparent psychological dichotomy between the interiority of the act and its externalising distribution format.
“Screaming Books” is completed by a work by fabled Hong Kong street artist Tsang Tsou Choi, who relentlessly challenged the extant social order through his synthesis of public art and political language. On the occasion of the show and the gallery’s expansion to H Queen’s, Art Radar spoke with Henrietta Tsui-Leung, Co-Founder and Director of Galerie Ora-Ora.
Why have you chosen this moment in the gallery’s history for such an expansion?
I have always worked to promote the Hong Kong arts scene as a whole. A bespoke art gallery hub, designed by William Lim, and with the vision of Henderson Land behind it, represents an expansion of the Hong Kong gallery scene. For us as a gallery, with our roots in Hong Kong and our eyes on the world, to be here, in the heart of Central, in the midst of international galleries, is ideal. Our artists, many of whom attended our Grand Opening last week, stand behind us and are ready for the opportunities our new space brings.
Over the last ten years, how have you seen the contemporary art world develop in Hong Kong?
The art market has deepened, in that there are increasing resources and knowledge available, and broadened, in that there are new entrants, particularly in the gallery scene. Since I co-founded the Hong Kong Art Galleries Association, the market has grown and there is more choice than ever. As a gallery with a focus on Chinese contemporary ink, we are proud of the growing collector base and market understanding of the medium, and the way our artists have experimented and innovated in this field. The promise of M+ on the horizon will hopefully help bring the final piece of Hong Kong’s art ecology, a thriving museum sector, into being.
In terms of the inaugural exhibition, “Screaming Books”, why have you chosen this theme and these artists to open the new space?
As a gallery, we often describe ourselves as research-based and future-focused. Our artists are the product of academic environments and literary and philosophical study. Our opening exhibition “Screaming Books” probes the harmonies and discords of the relationship between art and literature. The joyous unions and the screaming, if you like. It’s a joyous show, and we are delighted to be showing works by the King of Kowloon, as well as great artists we work with regularly, such as Xu Lei, Peng Jian, Zhang Yanzi and Hung Keung.
“Screaming Books” is on view from 1 to 17 March 2018 at Galerie Ora-Ora, H Queen’s, 80 Queen’s Road Central, Central, Hong Kong.
- “Michael Borremans: Fire from the Sun”: inaugural exhibition at David Zwirner’s new space at H Queen’s, Hong Kong – March 2018 – David Zwirner’s new space at H Queen’s, Hong Kong opens with an exhibition of Michaël Borremans
- Cotton and Clay: Chinese artist Yin Xiuzhen’s reflections on society’s condition – in conversation – Mach 2018 – Art Radar sat down with contemporary Chinese artist Yin Xiuzhen in her studio on the outskirts of Beijing
- “The Weight of Lightness”: ink art at Hong Kong’s M+ Museum – January 2018 – the exhibition is the museum’s first presentation of ink art from its collection
- Contemporary Asian Ink Art as a Visual Language: Ink Asia 2017, Hong Kong – art fair round-up – December 2017 – the 3rd edition of the fair celebrates the aesthetics of ink art amidst the growing interest among art collectors
- “The Best Is Yet to Come”: 4 emerging artists-in-residence at Hong Kong’s K11 Art space – December 2017 – K11 Art Foundation presents a residency exhibition moderated by Huang Xiapeng
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