Photo documentation of FROG KING’s performance Time Frog (2015) during the opening night of “Frog King: Recent Works” at 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong, 2015. Courtesy 10 Chancery Lane Gallery. 

Frog King: Recent Works

10 Chancery Lane Gallery
Hong Kong

Installation view of “Frog King: Recent Works” at 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong, 2015. (Right) Frog’s Nest, 2011, and (left) Leap Frog, 2014, and Forward, 2015. Courtesy 10 Chancery Lane Gallery.

Installation view of “Frog King: Recent Works” at 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong, 2015. Courtesy 10 Chancery Lane Gallery. 

Kwok Mang-Ho, also known as Frog King, has certainly made himself memorable in the Hong Kong art scene for his flamboyant, frog-inspired getup. Over the course of his four-decade career, the local icon has produced highly experimental work defying art historical, regional and material categorization despite, or perhaps thanks to, a strong training in traditional Chinese painting under master Lui Shou-kwan, the founder of Hong Kong’s New Ink Movement of the 1950s. The complex and often contrasting relationship between what is accepted as experimental and traditional commonly takes different forms within various art histories. Nonetheless, it was certainly brave of Frog King, who dedicated himself to exploring new modes of expression and visual languages in 1970s Hong Kong, and in New York City where he resided during the 1980s. He continues to pursue this line of inquiry today, as demonstrated by the conceptual and performance artist’s latest solo exhibition, “Frog King: Recent Works,” at 10 Chancery Lane Gallery in Hong Kong. The concurrent showing of this exhibit and the artist’s reinterpretation of some earlier 1970s works—most notably Plastic Bag (1979), which marked him as China’s first performance artist—in an immersive site-specific installation at Connecting Space in North Point, as part of the “Mobile M+: Live Art” program, was probably not a coincidence.

The interactivity of his opening-night performance, Time Frog (2015), which took place just outside the gallery, consciously blurred the boundaries between life and art, artist and audience—drawing from the late Allan Kaprow’s “happenings,” the chance-based sound practice of John Cage (also shown during “Mobile M+: Live Art”) and the ‘’art is life’’ philosophy of the Fluxus movement. As Frog King encouraged people to “paint time” with black and white paint, completely cover various clock surfaces and to also contribute sound using wooden percussions, it provided a refreshing mediation on time that transcended the contemporary moment.

FROG KING, Frog Fun Life Painting 3, 2015, ink on paper, 14.2 × 19.6 cm. Courtesy the artist and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong. 

The dynamism of the show, set by Frog King’s performance, can be experienced inside the gallery through a diverse array of work, including ink on paper in various dimensions and life-size mixed-media screens. Spatially divided into two areas, the exhibition is full of visual stimuli. Frog’s Nest (2011– ), which was first shown at the 2011 Venice Biennale, immediately greets viewers upon entering the space. The large-scale installation is composed of found and recycled, organic and inorganic everyday materials such as plants, textiles, an orange-colored bag, paper adorned with “froggy glasses” designs (a recurring motif within the exhibition) and more. Some hang on a wooden skeleton, while others are placed on shelves. Reminiscent of a shrine or a monument, Frog’s Nest reminds one of the artist’s shamanic persona and alter ego. Other noteworthy works are Leap Frog (2014) and Forward (2015)—mid-size paper works with swathes of black ink that appears to jump off the surface, echoing the bold painterly marks by American abstract expressionism painter Franz Kline. Elsewhere, two vertically hung mixed-media canvases titled Frog Kindness and Frog Action (both 2015) stand out out for their multilayered and detailed compositions, with distinctive red frog signs and voluminous black brush strokes.


The ambience in the low-ceilinged space toward the back of the gallery is intimate. The wall dividing the two areas is covered by an expanded black-and-white photograph shot by Margaux Helleu capturing Frog King at work, while on an opposing wall, a larger composition of the artist’s smaller ink works from his “Frog Fun Life Painting” series (2015) is hung meticulously. Spontaneously painted at different times of the day—either at his home, studio or during outings—these paintings reveal unique narratives ranging from mountainous landscapes to that of a lonely fish. In some instances, the work’s burnt-yellow paper surface can be regarded as the artist’s foray into material experimentation. Seeing Frog King’s personal yet politically-inclined works that bring together various abstract, expressive and figurative elements may incite visitors to grab a brush and participate in his performative actions, while other members of the audience may find a desire to excavate the artist’s personal archeology. In the latter case, a relatively recent project at Asia Art Archive digitizing Frog King’s archive might certainly come in handy.

"Frog King: Recent Works” is on view at 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong, until January 30, 2016.

FROG KINGFrog Fun Life Painting 2, 2015, ink on paper, 19.3 × 14.3 cm. Courtesy the artist and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong.