“Amplified (I)” is the first module of the two-part exhibition revealing the experimentation and amplification of works by two artists, Juri Markkula and Cindy Ng Sio-Ieng.

Galerie Ora-Ora presents a two-part exhibition, “Amplified”, showcasing the works of artists Juri Markkula and Cindy Ng Sio-Ieng in Hong Kong. Art Radar takes a look at the first module, “Amplified (I)”.

Cindy Ng Sio-Ieng, 'Vast0354', 2017, giclee print on glass, 120 cm in diameter.

Cindy Ng Sio-Ieng, ‘Vast 0354’, 2017, giclee print on glass, 120 cm in diameter.

While many exhibitions showcase works from one artist or a group of artists with works shared by a similar theme, Galerie Ora-Ora presents something novel this summer: a two-part exhibition – “Amplified” – that brings together works by Sweden-based, Finnish artist Juri Markkula and Beijing-based, Macau artist Cindy Ng Sio-Ieng. The series started with the first module, “Amplified (I)”, focusing on the works by Markkula and presenting Ng’s works as a supportive narrative to amplify the visual conversation between the two. In the second module, “Amplified (II)”, the roles of the two artists’ works are then switched, introducing a different and interesting perspective for the audience to experience the works by each artist. Art Radar took a look at the first module of the exhibition and learned about the works by the artist Juri Markkula.

Before attending The Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm to pursue a Master Programme in Fine Arts from 1997 to 2002, Juri Markkula grew up in Finland and moved to Sweden for a year of preparatory art school. Markkula’s earliest artistic inspirations came from comic books, which he created on his own at the age of 13. At university, being exposed to 3D printing technology and the technique and process of the workings of the machine, Markkula quickly identified his interests in technology as well. He once noted: “I’m interested in computers, electronics, and engineering… I find the computer screen inspiring.” The traces of technology and fine arts started merging in his works, which are enabled by technology but hand-finished by himself.

Juri Markkula, 'PG7 18 Grass', 2016, pigmented polyvinyl, polyurethane, 50 cm x 50 cm.

Juri Markkula, ‘PG7 18 Grass’, 2016, pigmented polyvinyl, polyurethane, 50 cm x 50 cm.

Markkula’s previous projects include the infinite glass tiled mosaics for Stockholm’s MTR. It is a large-scale project that becomes an enticing draw to the Stockholm City Train Station. The artist made the initial sketches in 2012 and finished painting the last pieces in 2017. The walls reflect a beautiful spectrum of light that reminds the audience of nature and them being part of it inside the station. Not only was the project monumental to Markkula, but it was also a symbol of the artist’s industrious attitude and rigorous precision in the works he created.

This time, in Hong Kong, Markkula’s technology-blended and highly precise works could be viewed at Galerie Ora-Ora’s exhibition, “Amplified”. Upon entrance to the gallery and the exhibition “Amplified (I)”, the “RGB” series by Markkula immediately caught the eyes of the audience. In fact, it was almost impossible to ignore the six pieces of three-dimensional and sculptural works hanged on the white walls. Their highly vibrant colour screamed their presence and yet, emitted a sense of stillness. As the title of series hints, the sculptural works present a ground covered with leaves or grass that are in one of the three colours, carmine red, azure blue or fern green. The theme of nature speaks to the artist’s inspiration from his native Scandinavian forests near his studio in Finland.

"Amplified (I)", 18 July - 4 August 2018, installation view at Galerie Ora-Ora, Hong Kong.

“Amplified (I)”, 18 July – 4 August 2018, installation view at Galerie Ora-Ora, Hong Kong.

On closer inspection, there is a sense of technology as well as human touch to Markkula’s sculptural pigmented polyvinyl polyurethane. From the side-angle, the cleanly-cut lines and nude colours of the “RGB” series clearly tell the audience that the artist did not paint over real leaves and grasses. From the frontal perspective, the leaves may seem a bit larger than usual and the works seem flatter than they actually are, producing an almost photographic-like impression. On close examination, rather than thin layers of leaves piling on top of each other, the leaves on the surface take on the thickness of the works, therefore extending to the back. These are the results of the artist’s interest in technology and usage of lab-quality 3D scanners and custom-built 3D reductive printers. Art Radar interviewed Markkula to learn more about his encounter with technology in his creative process:

When I started to use technology, all these 3D printings were quite new. It was in the 90s. I was still at school and I was painting quite traditionally. (However,) I was pretty curious about that (the 3D printing technology) and I started to look into it more and more. I thought it was kind of weird and then I made some projects with 3D printers. After a while, I got couple ideas and talked to some staff at the school about them. They told me that I could actually create that and construct the machine by myself so I made couple machines and couple art works from the computer controlled system. That’s how it all first started. Now, it’s quite natural to me and I have all of these instruments in my workshop.

Juri Markkula, 'Carmin Ground', 2018, pigmented polyvinyl polyurethane, 50 cm x 50cm.

Juri Markkula, ‘Carmin Ground’, 2018, pigmented polyvinyl polyurethane, 50 cm x 50 cm.

In fact, the “RGB” series is a result of an extremely precise and intimate collaboration between the artist Markkula and the tools he utilised. The process entailed the positioning of multiple cameras to first scan the ground with leaves and grasses. This step required high accuracy and if the leaves were slightly moved by the wind, the artist would need to start over again. Markkula then worked on the computer, coding to generate a 3D model and then translating the scanned format into one with a point of view or perspective. Then, Markkula continued to code in order to instruct the 3D printer to carve out the materials into the 3D model with his specified scale and perspective, producing a sculptural piece. It was then spray painted by Markkula using two different shades of the same colour to produce light and shadow effect. The end result is a sculptural three-dimensional piece with a two-dimensional visual experience for the audience. Markkula shared with Art Radar more about his process of finding the desired binary colours for his works:

RGB stands for the red, green, and blue, the three color that I use. When we mix any color on the computer screen, we use those three colors. (Yet,) it doesn’t work like that when you work with physical color. If you mix green and red and blue, you will get white on the computer screen but in the physical world, you actually get black. It’s quite the opposite. In my mind, my works are the back-and-forth between the digital reality and the physical reality. The series is called RGB because most of the times, I sat in front of the computer screen to make it work in the digital world Regarding the colors, I started with the blue one. It’s kind of an accident. However, all of these (the works showcased) are mixed with two colors. For example, it’s the darkest shade of the green for the shadow and the lightest shade of green for the highlight. That’s why they look like they are enlightened. When I found the combination of blues, It‘s kind of accidental and that’s how the series started. I tested with the green pigment after that and then made some test strips with yellow pigment again although it didn’t work out. After that, I tested the cut-outs and compositions which go deeper and deeper. It was experimentation on form and composition.

Juri Markkula, 'IKB Ground', 2015, pigmented polyvinyl polyurethane, 50 cm x 50 cm.

Juri Markkula, ‘IKB Ground’, 2015, pigmented polyvinyl polyurethane, 50 cm x 50 cm.

Because of this rigorous process of colour searching, even without spotlights lighting the works and only relying on natural lights to view the “RGB” series, their shadow and light were still very apparent. While Markkula has greatly enjoyed making the industrial and the technological beautiful, the rigorous and industrious process is perhaps why art critic and philosophy lecturer Lars-Erik Hjertström Lappalainen noted that “Juri Markkula’s art has no relationship whatsoever to fun”. Regardless, Markkula’s works speak to the unique and highly skilled process of turning technology and chemistry into arts.

An artist with likewise relentless searching and precise creative process, Beijing-based Macau artist Cindy Ng Sio-leng resonates with the ups and downs of Markkula’s creative process. Raised with the culture of both Macau and Hong Kong, Ng was drawn to the natural state of things from very early on in the midst of the busy metropolitan lifestyle. Particularly, Ng plays with the medium of ink to explore its fluidity, strength and chemistry with different materials in her multimedia works. In “Amplified (I)”, Ng presented digital video imageries of colourful forms in motions, symbolic of her interests in the fluidity and spirit of Chinese ink. The soothing music in the video was a spontaneous creation of the musician while watching Ng’s video imageries. The combined visual and audio effects created a meditating space that reminded the audience of being immersed into nature.

"Amplified (I)", 18 July - 4 August 2018, installation view at Galerie Ora-Ora, Hong Kong.

“Amplified (I)”, 18 July – 4 August 2018, installation view at Galerie Ora-Ora, Hong Kong.

Putting Ng’s and Markkula’s works in proximity, yet in separate spaces within the gallery, the exhibition provided a glimpse at the two artists’ similar work ethics and process-driven creativity that draws inspiration from nature, while allowing the audience to fully engage with their works in their own space. Henrietta Tsui-Leung, Co-Founder and Director of Galerie Ora-Ora, comments on how she spent a month in Sweden last year to research and meet with various artists and how the idea of a two-part exhibition was born:

I love the precision he (Juri Markkula) looks for and also how well-crafted his works are. We have known Cindy for a while. When I was in Sweden, what was interesting was when I kept talking with Juri, I kept thinking about Cindy. I saw the connection of these two artists, one from the far North and the other from East. They are different but somehow, they pursue such observant and meticulous experimentation so I connected them on a chat group and introduced them to each other, seeing what might come out of their interactions. They kept chatting while I just observed. As they were talking about the invention of their works (the creative process), I jumped in and asked, “Do you think you two would like to do a show together?” At that point, they both understood where I came form and how I saw the similarities and differences between them. That’s why we ultimately have this show…

In the first module of the exhibition, Juri’sworks are the focus with Cindy’s works playing a supportive role. Juri’s works (are) mono-chromic but with a point. He’s not exaggerating and the works are not overwhelming but still, they are sharp and precise. We wanted to call this show “Second Nature” in the beginning as we wanted to re-discuss what nature means to contemporary people in the city but then, we decided otherwise. Still, if you think about second nature and their works, it makes sense. Even the inspiration is from nature, every bits of the works are touched by him (Markkula) and the final works transformed the subject of nature into almost a second kind of nature for the audience.

Cindy Ng Sio-Ieng, 'Wave 54908', 2016, giclee print on glass, 100 x 150 cm.

Cindy Ng Sio-Ieng, ‘Wave 54908’, 2016, giclee print on glass, 100 x 150 cm.

When asked about the process of putting the show together and any particular challenges encountered, Henrietta Tsui-Leung further highlighted:

Both of them (the artists) are absolutely professional. No temper and they will not have any surprises. The challenge was whether Juri could actually take the stress of producing the number of works within such short period of time. As he mentioned, he created the machine by himself and he only has one machine. Also, he comes from far North and the lifestyle speed there is slower. Just these few pieces (in the exhibition) took him days and nights to create. The bigger piece took one month to complete and the smaller piece took two weeks. Yet, we don’t want the Hong Kong audience to wait. Therefore, we put in the effort to make sure he (the artist) is not over-stressed. Now, seeing the exhibition, the result is wonderful.

Gabrielle Cheng


The first module of “Amplified” by Juri Markkula and Cindy Ng Sio-Ieng was on show from 26 June to 14 July 2018; the second module is on show until 18 August 2018 at Galerie Ora-Ora, 17/F, H Queen’s, 80 Queen’s Road Central, Central, Hong Kong.

Related topics: Chinese artists, installation, painting, gallery shows, interviews, events in Hong Kong

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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