The exhibition features signature works by Gordon Cheung, James Clar, Troika, Doreen Chan and Alejandro Guijarro.
The five artists delve into the relationship between technology and creative outcomes, presenting new visual narratives of original artworks or familiar images through technological reworking.
The exhibition “Transmission” brings together works by Hong Kong and international artists including Gordon Cheung, Alejandro Guijarro, Troika, James Clar and Doreen Chan. Hosted by Galerie Huit, the show features various new multimedia images, installations and objects, including digital algorithmic paintings, LED constructions and monochrome C-prints. Each artist has found a unique, methodical and scientific way to construct each narrative presented in the exhibition. At the same time, visitors may relate to the everyday images presented or recognise paintings by Old Masters reworked in this show. As a whole, “Transmission” presents a strangely intimate yet fresh angle towards the familiar and archetypal, probing into how technology enables different visual narratives to emerge and transmit ideas.
Art Radar spoke with one of the gallery owners, Yas Mostashari Chang, to understand how the exhibition and its theme were conceived:
We would like to introduce new things in this exhibition. We believe that the message is more interesting when it is left open to the viewers. Regardless of the intended message, if there is any, the artists would like to convey originally through their works, the viewers may interpret differently each time they see the works based on their experience or mood at the moment. However, with this exhibition “Transmission”, we would like to explain the creative process behind the works of each artist. All of them have utilized technology in some way. By putting the works of five artists in a group exhibition, we hope that there is a larger room for the viewers to explore this theme and commonality.
Gordon Cheung’s The Course of Empire – Destruction (After Thomas Cole) (2016) at first glance gives the appearance of using a blur brush to paint over appropriations of Thomas Cole’s historical landscape paintings. At closer inspection, the rather detailed strokes hint at a digital algorithmic approach to create such impression. By redistributing the pixels of the image of the original painting, Cheung lets the pixels stretch themselves out and travel across the work to appear as if they were erasing the image itself. While Cole’s romantic painting depicting the rise and fall of an empire is still recognisable, Cheung’s technological reworking is a metaphor for the idea that history revises its past. Other of Cheung’s works in this exhibition also express a similar concept to rework Cole’s original 19th century romantic paintings.
Alejandro Guijarro also took inspiration from old narratives. Guijarro’s Lead is a subliminal abstract image that digitally reads the marks, repairs and traces of lead pigments of the Old Masters’ paintings. This is a vigorous process of four years of X-rays and digital scanning. Looking at Lead, the Old Masters’ paintings are transferred from their original state through photography. While the process of Guijarro’s research is an organised and repetitive process, the result is an unpredictable distribution of the black-and-white spectrum. The work responds to what photography is able and unable to do by examining the spatial relationships in photographic representations. As a whole, Guijarro’s Lead connects the art of the past to the contemporary.
Similarly engaging with technology as a catalyst or a limit to creative narratives, Troika, a group of artist from France and Germany, probe into the value of chance and the limits of algorithmic forecasting in their work Reality is Not Always Probable (2018). It is comprised of thousands of seven-millimetre ivory cube dice that are historical tools to determine chance, fate and luck. The side of the dice facing outwards is determined by a set of rules within a binary system. Diligent and process-driven, Troika position the ivory cube dice neatly together, resulting in the rows and columns of a rectangular piece. By putting the dice together in a specific way, a pattern emerges. Yet, alluringly, the resulting pattern cannot be predicted. Troika’s work interrogates the various relationships we form with technology and the ways in which the digital world informs and transmits into a physical form.
Relating to the theme of transmission, James Clar uses the everyday and familiar LED to attempt distorting or constructing an alternative reality for the audience. Clar’s Blue Star (2014) comprises 36 strips of light seemingly radiating outwards from the curved mirror at the centre. Looking closely into each LED strip, they vary in the distribution of intense blue light spectrum emanating from the end closest to the mirror. They are beautiful and captivating to the eyes, embodying white, light blue, dark blue and slight purple colours. Taking a step back, the result is a vertically and horizontally symmetrical star or the sun emitting blue rays. Clar’s work further evokes a feeling of immersion and reality by curving the mirror at the centre of the work. When the audience naturally locate themselves in the mirror, Blue Star gives rise to the illusion that the audience and their surroundings are inside the piece. By adopting different frequencies of light in the LED strips, Clar presents an alternative reality in which the sun emits only blue rays.
Doreen Chan’s Untitled (Rock) (2017) takes inspiration from her everyday images. Hanged by the window of the gallery, an abstract image is obscured by black roller blinds. The two sets of slashes on the black blinds reveal a disarrayed image behind. Neatly cut across the blinds, the slashes have similar lengths and are horizontally parallel to the blind’s bottom edge, suggesting an active and ordered intent to let the audience peek through at the hidden abstract image. The slashes further accentuate the three-dimensional aspect of this photographic sculpture that originates from Chan’s two-dimensional photo database from her everyday life. Chan touches on the internal impact of her negative experience documented by the image and hints at the current impact of the memory through the titles of this work, Untitled (Rock). She explains to Art Radar the concept behind using these materials in her work:
The piece “Untitled (Rock)” comes from a personal negative experience. Rocks are bulky and heavy. They may give off an impression of a cold chill or perhaps a feeling of obtruding to the environment. Therefore, the work’s title resonates with the image used in this piece. It was taken a while ago and after I was aimlessly and disturbingly pulling off the tiny stiches that made up the towel. This is why the audience sees that there is a part of the towel that looks like it is shaved in this image. However, it was not until I searched through my photo database that I remembered such negative memory. Therefore, in this piece, I want to further intensify that negative internal impact by slashing across the black blinds. These slashes symbolize the venetian blinds. They induce fear and unsettling feelings in my memory as a student as they are so organized that it’s easy to disorder or even destroy them.
By engaging with technology, science or everyday materials, the five artists in “Transmission” prompt the audience to imagine the potential of the intersection between science and arts. It is a thought-provoking exhibition, in its juxtaposition of the familiar everyday with the tech/sci-fi. In this sense, “Transmission” transforms existing knowledge and reality into a fluid state, rendering new creative narratives through technological reworking and experimentation.
“Transmission” by Gordon Cheung, James Clar, Troika, Doreen Chan and Alejandro Guijarro is on view from 22 March to 22 May 2018 at Galerie Huit, Room 205-208, 2/F, 334-336 Kwun Tong Road, Kwun Tong, Kowloon, Hong Kong.
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