EASON TSANG KA WAI, New Landmark No.1, 2014, digital inkjet print, 73.5 × 81.3 cm. Courtesy the artist and Blindspot Gallery, Hong Kong. 


Blindspot Gallery, Hong Kong
Hong Kong

“The light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more,” an excerpt from Samuel Beckett’s 1953 absurdist play Waiting for Godot, perfectly encapsulates the themes of relative permanence and temporal transcendence that are common to all of the works in Hong Kong artist Eason Tsang Ka Wai’s first solo exhibition, “Powerless” at Blindspot Gallery in Hong Kong. The literal meaning of the title is evident in the bright orange wires running exposed across the gallery floor, representing the necessity of electricity for many of the pieces, as well as in the daily lives of humans today. The exhibition title is also a wordplay, as viewers find themselves rendered helpless to the visual and mental deceptions featured in all of the works. Born in Hong Kong and educated at the School of Creative Media of City University Hong Kong, Tsang is known for his paradoxical and cunning pieces that serve to deceive the human mind.

Peculiar landscapes, seen in the photograph New Landmark No. 1 (2014), for example, feature seemingly mysterious objects that evoke feelings of indiscernible familiarity. Upon first glance of New Landmark No. 1, one sees wooden poles mounted on a strange pink terrain with randomly scattered metal racks and pieces of the red-, white- and blue-checkered tarp that is a staple of Hong Kong. Tsang’s perspective is not an uncommon one; however, instead of looking straight on, one needs to look up, along the side of the many buildings in Hong Kong where bamboo poles and metal clothing racks are used to dry laundry. A truly mundane scene, Tsang photographs well-known spaces and creates entirely new “landscapes” that disorient and bewilder viewers, compelling them to more closely scrutinize what lies before them.

EASON TSANG KA WAI, 52.404705 , -1.497604, 2016, video: 6 min 55 sec. Courtesy the artist and Blindspot Gallery, Hong Kong. 

Following the same notion of a familiar yet unreal reality, Tsang’s video installation 52.404705,  -1.497604 (2016) has an ethereal, transcendent quality that seems to bring time to a standstill. The 6-minute 55-second video of wandering clouds is projected on a gauzy, loose white cloth, which flutters languidly a few feet in front of a wall. The resulting effect is as though the viewer is peering out of a window facing a deep blue sky, curtain fluttering gently behind. Tsang once again deceives his viewers, opening their eyes to the ease with which one’s perspective and situation can be controlled and manipulated. He does this using an idyllic piece of imagery to surreptitiously blur the lines between fantasy and reality whilst immersing the viewer in a state of temporality.

Arguably, Tsang’s most manipulative piece, in terms of the real and unreal, is his 2016 series “Internal Structure.” Aptly named, these light-box pieces illuminate photographic slides that each displays an image of the inner workings of a light box. The images show a different configuration of neon lights and colors that create a hyper-realistic fluorescent glow, resulting in an illusionary play between what is and isn’t physically present. While the neon bars of light differ in orientation, quantity and color amongst the various works, their repetition serves as a constant reminder of the malleability and manipulation of one’s perceptions. The light boxes also share an underlying appreciation of tangibility and hidden functions.

EASON TSANG KA WAI, Internal Structure No.4, 2016, wooden light box, slide and fluorescent light, 109 × 84.4 × 18 cm. Courtesy the artist and Blindspot Gallery, Hong Kong.
EASON TSANG KA WAI, Internal Structure No.4, 2016, wooden light box, slide and fluorescent light, 109 × 84.4 × 18 cm. Courtesy the artist and Blindspot Gallery, Hong Kong.

Boring 30 Seconds 
(2016) is a satirical video installation that comments on the hopelessness of the everyday viewer in resisting societal influences. Recreating the stereotypical activity of aimlessly surfing television channels in a state of ennui, 30 channels are meaninglessly flicked through as Tsang puts this robotic motion on repeat. Accompanied by fragmented sounds of static and voices, this piece mocks reality while denoting the passing of time and the all-encompassing influence of technology and social mechanisms on an individual.

EASON TSANG KA WAI, Boring 30 Seconds, 2016, video: 30 sec. Courtesy the artist and Blindspot Gallery, Hong Kong. 

“Powerless” is truly successful in its ability to render its viewers helpless, as they have no choice but to succumb to the illusion and manipulation of Tsang’s pieces. Faced with paradoxes and contrasts, viewers are presented with opposites: the illusory and the tangible, reality and fantasy, functional and materialistic. Each dichotomy challenges the viewer, as Tsang successfully transports them into a realm of constant questioning and contemplation, whilst time is forgotten.

“Powerless” is on view at Blindspot Gallery, Hong Kong, until August 27, 2016.