Installation view of “Recollections” at Mur Nomade, Hong Kong, 2015. Courtesy Mur Nomade. 


Mur Nomade
Hong Kong Iran

War brings unimaginable consequences to those in the crossfire between oppositions motivated by greed, power or wealth. The current exhibition at Hong Kong’s Mur Nomade showcases 11 works that look beyond the sorrow and grief that result from conflict, to center on the more gentle and subtle messages found in post-war periods. Three artists, Ana González, Ivy Ma and Nastaran Shahbazi, are messengers of the strength and devotion that arise in the aftermath of trauma. Upon first entering the gallery—which is dimly-lit, with an ambient soundtrack playing softly in the background—viewers encounter the weighty themes of history, memory and loss. Each work is dramatically spotlighted, enhancing the visual and emotional experience for the viewers.

When it comes to relocating from the countryside to the city, people can often experience difficulties adjusting to their new lives. Reflecting on the loss of tradition and sense of nostalgia that accompany such situations, Ana González’s craftmanship in Ungaro (2010), a piece of silk on which the artist embroidered floral patterns, pays tribute to handmade crafts and techniques. In another intimate work, Pass I Flora (2013), González has formed a miniature sculptural dress from white porcelain embellished with graphite-sketched lilies—a metaphor for rebirth and new beginnings. Contextualized by her native Colombia, González’s works touches upon a nation whose growth has been stunted by its ongoing civil war, which began in 1964. Innocent yet melancholy, the dress triggers questions about the state of the country and its future path.

ANA GONZÁLEZ, Ungaro, 2013, thread embroidered on silk, 48.3 × 38.5 cm. Courtesy the artist and Mur Nomade, Hong Kong. 

IVY MA, Last Gaze | Blood of the Beast | Georges Franju, 2015, pastel, pencil, graphite, ink, gold leaf on printed canvas, 102 × 71 cm. Courtesy the artist. 

The allusion to youth and innocence is also seen in Hands 005 (2014), an ink drawing of a photograph that Hong Kong artist Ivy Ma encountered during a visit to a war museum. In her interpretation, Ma depicts only a detail of the image, which features a group of girls holding hands. Emphasizing human interconnectivity, and its existence even amidst atrocious acts of war and violence, Ma draws upon history to highlight the enduring effects of social connection. Another reference to history is seen in a series of printed canvas works, including Last Gaze | Blood of the Beasts | Georges Franju (1) (2015), in which Ma extracts stills from Georges Franju’s 1949 French documentary film Blood of the Beasts, where tranquil scenes of suburban Paris are contrasted with scenes from a slaughterhouse. Ma enlarges the black-and-white film stills and applies golden specks over them, layering tension between images of beauty and death. 

Nearby, the equally monochromatic works of Iranian artist Nastaran Shahbazi enhances the feelings of loss and despair resulting from war and oppression. In an etching entitled It Seemed Like an Eternity (2013), what once was a sturdy tree is now left as a stump, representing destructions in life that will take years to mend and heal. Such ominous aggression is further seen in Quicksand (2013), an image inspired by a screen-capture of an old documentary about the Russian Revolution (1917). Shahbazi’s magnified blurry prints show military forces marching toward the foreground of the composition, with their identities obscured. An ambiguous work. As the men neither have their origin nor destination in clear view, there is an impression of despair and fear when looking into the glowing white eyes of the soldiers.

Bringing together numerous poignant works, “Recollections” responds to the aftermath of tragedy, appropriating past traumas as a way to both remember and move forward. History and the spectrum of emotions that are triggered, come together to form new links and perspectives into human resilience.  

NASTARAN SHAHBAZI, Quicksand, 2013, photo etching, dry point and graphite pencil, 20 × 25 cm. Courtesy the artist and Mur Nomade, Hong Kong. 

“Recollections” is on view at Mur Nomade, Hong Kong, until December 24, 2015.