Installation view of JONAS WOOD and SHIO KUSAKA’s “Blackwelder” at Gagosian Gallery, Hong Kong, 2015. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.

Feb 13 2015

Hong Kong Gallery Roundup

by Amani Vassiliou

In Hong Kong, the fresh spirit of the new year, combined with anticipation for the upcoming Art Basel in Hong Kong (March 15–17), has ignited the enthusiasm of the local arts scene. In an effort to make a memorable start for 2015, Hong Kong’s leading contemporary art galleries have put forth an array of enthralling shows, many of which are on view through to the end of February.

Two is Better than One: Power Couples

At the Gagosian Gallery, artist couple Jonas Wood and Shio Kusaka present their first joint exhibition in Hong Kong, “Blackwelder” (1/15–2/28), which draws inspiration from their shared existence. Named after the street of the couple’s studio, the exhibition invites viewers into the pair’s private world, where a redefinition of creative collaboration is under way. A cross-pollination of ideas and shared visual vocabulary is evident, as themes transfer from Kusaka’s porcelain vessels into Wood’s colorful still-life paintings and drawings. For example, their daughter’s fascination with dinosaurs manifests as a motif both in Kusaka’s (dinosaur 22) (2014) and Wood’s intricate Still Life with Two Owls (2014). Through such lighthearted themes, the exhibit appeals to the inner child within us all.

If the Gagosian exhibit examines the converging influences and imagery of Wood’s and Kusaka’s practices, EC Gallery presents a different type/o8 of pairing in “Half Day with Cloud” (1/29–3/8). Sunday Lai and Yu Shuk Pui Bobby represent a new kind of female contemporary artist. In their respective works, they each explore relationships that get fostered, yet go unnoticed, amid the hustle and bustle of city life. Notably, Yu displays her ongoing video project “Pillow Talk,” in which she invites strangers into a bed—a haven usually reserved for private intimacy—and then visually documents their engagement and interactions. The work urges us to contemplate how we would react if placed in the same situation and questions our notions of what is private and public.

YU SHUK PUI BOBBY, Pillow Talk, 2015, video still. Courtesy EC Gallery, Hong Kong. 

MAP OFFICEPRD Colonies From Hong Kong to Shenzhen (Working Island), 2014, mixed media, 40 × 40 × 60 cm. Courtesy Hanart TZ Gallery, Hong Kong. 

Material Experimentation

If you had ever doubted the artistic potential of oyster shells then MAP Office’s mixed-media work on display at Hanart TZ Gallery will quell your speculation. PRD Colonies: From Hong Kong to Shenzhen (Working Island) and (Golfing Island) (both 2014) are mesmerizing sculptures comprising stacked oyster shells draped in white wax and dotted with miniature palm trees and human figurines. Part of the exhibition “Grids and Stones” (1/28–2/28), they are displayed alongside works by Peter Nelson, Hsu Yu-Jen and Leung Kui-Ting.

The use of eclectic materials—such as toys, diamonds, chocolates, sugar, dust, industrial garbage, magazine shreds and dry pigment—is also seen in Vik Muniz’s practice, which is currently featured in a solo exhibition at Ben Brown Fine Arts (1/16–3/4). Muniz utilizes collage to recreate iconic imagery in his series “Postcards from Nowhere,” and rouses nostalgia in the monochromatic prints that comprise “Album” (both 2014)In the former series, the Brazilian artist and photographer recreates the Hong Kong skyline in a piece entitled Hong Kong Postcard (2014), capturing the city’s lively and never-ending energy.

VIK MUNIZ, Hong Kong Postcard, 2014, from his series “Postcards from Nowhere,” digital C-print, 180.3 × 260.4 cm. Courtesy Ben Brown Fine Arts, Hong Kong. 

Installation view of DAWEI DONG’s “A Singular Point” at Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong, 2015. Photo by Gary Leung. Courtesy Galerie Perrotin. 

In “A Singular Point” (1/16–3/4) at Galerie Perrotin, curator Fu Xiaodong captures the highly personal language of Chinese artist Dawei Dong, who experiments with marker pen and chalk on paper. A soft layer of chalk that lies below Dong’s colorful canvases tempts viewers to engage with the works’ gritty texture, while also commenting on the industrialization of the art-making process and, moreover, the unpredictability of such art materials. “As my practice goes further, there remains many variables and situations that I do not comprehend [or] can’t control,” says Dong of his work. “To that end, it will continue to remain a process of experimentation, of discovery.”

Meanwhile, 10 Chancery Lane Gallery’s showing of Wang Keping (2/5–28), as well as Sin Sin Fine Art’s group exhibition “Kiwami” (1/22–2/19), showcasing the works of Keita Matsunaga, Kenji Omori and Taka, represent artists who utilize traditional sculpture in ways that defy the medium’s classical definition.

Landscapes, Mindscapes and Escapes

The traditional landscape painting gets a reboot in the following three galleries that take decidedly different and nuanced approaches to the theme.

Classical and abstract representations of landscape are featured in Lehmann Maupin’s group show “Horizon” (1/15–3/7). Though not connected aesthetically, various subjective and personal representations of the horizon line unite the works on display. Most referential to the exhibition title, and perhaps the most intriguing, is Teresita Fernandez’s installation Horizon (Halo) (2011). Hand-drawn graphite marks stretch across the gallery wall, just below eye level, evoking the horizon. Works by Billy Childish, Tracey Emin, Angel Otero and Juergen Teller are also included in the exhibition.

In a different approach to the theme of landscape, Contemporary by Angela Li presents the first Hong Kong solo exhibition of self-taught American artist Eugene Lemay. A Michigan native, Lemay was born to a French-Canadian father and Lebanese-Syrian mother. A series of large-scale landscape inkjet prints, infused with Lemay’s meditations on life, love and war, is the backbone of his “Faded Memories” exhibition (1/20–2/28).

TERESITA FERNÁNDEZ, Horizon (Halo) (detail), 2011, graphite and magnets, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York/Hong Kong.

Installation view of JEF VERHEYEN’s exhibition at Axel Vervoordt Gallery, Hong Kong, 2015. Courtesy Axel Vervoordt Gallery. 

In another solo exhibition, held at Puerta Roja gallery, Argentinian artist Martha Zuik’s highly imaginative, colorful and abstract works are put under the spotlight (1/22–4/4). A menagerie of drawings, paintings, graphic works and sculpture distinguish themselves with their enchanting use of wild colors and technique. Landscapes seen in works such as Flamingos (1997) and Water Tickles (2013) seem to portray those that one might encounter in imaginary worlds, staying true to the artist’s aesthetic focus.

An exhibition at Axel Vervoordt Gallery highlights the late Belgian artist Jef Verheyen, who utilized color as a key aesthetic in delivering a new kind of landscape in his works (1/16–3/7). Verheyen is recognized as an influential figure of the ZERO art movement, and the six paintings on display at Axel Vervoordt are testament to his mesmerizing practice. Studying his indistinguishable yet precise application of paint, in works such as Lichtboog (1970) and Untitled (1983), allow for us to unlock our unrealized perceptions of nature.

Installation view of “In Conversation With 100 Local Artists” at YY9 Gallery, Hong Kong, 2015. Courtesy YY9 Gallery. 

Back to the Roots: History and Culture

History and culture are prominent thematical strands in the following group of shows.

At Gallery Exit, Ivy’s Ma “Last Year” (1/6–2/28) unlocks Hong Kong’s past. Forty manipulated snapshot portraits, capturing individuals in Hong Kong areas that have played host to turbulent events in the city’s history, are merged with her drawings. Candid in their nature, the penetrating gaze of the photos’ subjects overpowers notions of distance, time and differences, and in instead exudes a sense of commonality and empathy.

If Ma’s work seeks to reinvent the past, then a similar mission is being undertaken at AM Space. Catharsis plays host to Hung Keung’s inquisition of art’s ability to heal, cleanse and transform. The exhibition, “Catharsis: Real But Not True” (1/28–3/3), poses meditative questions on art itself, which has been recognized and used in cultural healing practices throughout history.

If there is anything that we as humans can all relate to, as well as talk about and simply delight upon, it is most certainly food. That is a fact that Oi! Gallery understands and explores in their latest exhibit, “Sparkle! I Wanna Eat Yummy Yummy” (1/30–5/31), which probes the ideological axis between food and art and reflects the undeniable importance of eating, particularly within Hong Kong culture.

Perhaps the spirit of the arts scene in early 2015 is best captured by YY9 Gallery’s tenth anniversary exhibition, “In Conversations With 100 Local Artists” (1/23–3/31), which reinforces the gallery’s powerful unifying presence within the Hong Kong art community. Displayed alongside individual works by the gallery’s artists is an installation that was collaboratively made by all of the exhibiting practitioners, featuring 100 small pieces that each measure 25 by 25 centimeters.

If these are the shows already on display, then 2015 is destined to be a bountiful year that galleries, artists, collectors and art enthusiasts won’t want to miss.