MAGDALEN WONGmmm wow, 2012, color video with sound installation, 2 min 6 sec. Courtesy Osage Gallery, Hong Kong. 

MAGDALEN WONGMilk Splashes (detail), 2012, installation of PVC prints mounted on foamboard. Courtesy Osage Gallery, Hong Kong. 

MAGDALEN WONGFound Landscape, Hong Kong: Milk Chocolate, Coeur de Suisse, 2012, pencil on paper, 23 × 14.5 cm. Courtesy Osage Gallery, Hong Kong. 

A Flight of Fancy

Magdalen Wong

Osage Gallery
Hong Kong

“A Flight of Fancy,” which runs until February 8, is Magdalen Wong’s first solo exhibition with Osage Gallery. Known for her imaginative imagery of the mundane, Wong presents new works that include drawings, photographs, sculptures and video installations. 

Upon entering the space, one is immediately drawn to the video installation mmm wow (2012). Downward facing, propped up televisions are scattered in the center of the gallery, emitting light from the running videos on their screens. The intensity and color of the lights vary from each television set, creating a visual symphony. Not only are the lights reflected off the floor visually alluring, but they also tease one’s curiosity about what is actually playing on the screens as the videos are not directly visible. By taking objects commonly used in everyday life and making them inaccessible, the artist challenges the viewers to find the aesthetic value commonly overlooked in utilitarian forms. 

Wong also arouses a renewed appreciation for the everyday by defamiliarizing signs we see in advertisements or the media. In an adjacent room, the installation Milk Splashes  (2012) continues a motif seen in her 2010 series, “Splash,” for which the artist cut out milk splashes from cereal boxes and then photographed them in various domestic settings. Re-presenting these splashes, commonly seen in stylized ads in a formal art setting, Wong creates an entry point for its new interpretation as an artwork. For this exhibition, photographic images of milk splashes have been magnified and then mounted on pieces of foamboard, which have then been cut out along the contours of the splash. The magnification transforms the image into something unrecognizable and abstract. These free-floating splashes are installed directly on the walls, resembling aggressive brush strokes or growing organic forms. In the center of the room, two pieces of foamboard are propped against one another. Through the three-dimensionality of the construction in addition to its placement upon a pedestal, Wong validates the object by presenting it as a piece of sculpture.

This romanticization of the mundane is also seen in her watercolor paintings. Super Strong and Sensitive, Heavy Duty, and Multi Purpose (all 2012) depict the various types of rubber cleaning gloves on the market, as their titles indicate. The works may be read as criticisms of consumer culture. However, the artist states that this is not her intention. The gloves are depicted in elegant, sensual poses, and the paintings are framed with oval paper reminiscent of the frames used in Victorian-style portraiture. The composition of these works encourages the viewer to reimagine those familiar symbols and form new associations with them.

Wong draws inspiration from the things and places around her such as markets, secondhand stores and toy stores, constantly looking for what is beyond the obvious. This creative process is beautifully articulated in her series “Found Landscape, Hong Kong” (2012) of ghostly landscape drawings that contain spaces mysteriously left blank. Only when reading the title of Found Landscape, Hong Kong: Milk Chocolate, Coeur de Suisse (2012) does it become clear that these scenes have been appropriated from various food packaging labels with the actual logo omitted. For the artist, the process of drawing these picturesque landscapes legitimizes these imaginative landscapes as art. Wong once again brings our attention to everyday imagery and transforms them into things that possess unique qualities in themselves.