These Shores

Date: 7 December 2013 - 4 Janurary 2014
Artists: Gavin Au 區家耀, Homan Ho, South Ho 何兆南, Vivian Ho 何博欣, Nicole Wong 王思遨
Venue: Rossi & Rossi HK, 3C Yally Industrial Building, Wong Chuk Hang, Hong Kong

installation view

curatorial statement

Like many great cities - London, New York, Shanghai – the origin of Hong Kong is as a seaport. Initially a small trading harbour, the resulting wealth from the growth in commerce caused it to grow vastly in size but also saw the inhabitants lives become more urban, disconnected from the surrounding environment. These Shores aims to show a re-connection between the land and its inhabitants through the eyes of five artists.

The featured artists were all born in Hong Kong during the 1980s, an era overshadowed by the approaching handover of the colony to China in 1997. In response to the perceived and threatened changes that might result a movement towards reinforcing the identity of Hong Kong was pursued by many of the inhabitants. A shift in policy by the UK government in handing over its power to the local people enabled the movement to grow and as a result, unlike earlier generations, those born in Hong Kong began to view it as their homeland and no longer as a temporary place, lacking permanence.

This sentiment, to a greater or lesser degree, seeps into the work of all the artists included in the exhibition, which tends to the intimate and personal. One reason for this is that for much of the 20th century Hong Kong artists were isolated from the wider context and history of contemporary art, and compared to many of the artists in surrounding areas, they have seen no reason to strive to make a place in the history of art. In return, their intimacy is a way of piercing through the greater humanities and human conditions in our society.

Gavin Au’s Still Sitting on the Wall makes reference to the well-known photographic series by Chinese artist Weng Fen from the early 2000s, Sitting on the Wall. However, in Au’s work rather than showing a young girl seated on a wall gazing into a high-rise cityscape, he shows a skeleton figure, precariously balanced. His bleak photographs, drained of life and colour, suggest a dystopian reality: a world where capitalism, like communism, is a false prophecy that has never fulfilled the promise of universal prosperity.

Homan Ho’s Workout is a romantic depiction of a scene the artist saw in Wanchai, a sight which is a common on even the busiest streets of Hong Kong: people in a gym running on treadmills. With gyms often located on the upper floors of glass buildings the people exercising can be seen from the adjacent highways, yet they are separate and held apart from ourselves - the viewers - existing in their own world, running nowhere in a kind of perpetual motion.

In the series Those Shores, South Ho photographs reflections of the high-rise blocks that rise up across the water from where he lives. He sees the reflections as a metaphor for the dream of many of the city’s inhabitants: the chance of owning a home; a dream which seems so close but is really very far away. Property prices are prohibitive and control of the market is in the hands of just a few extremely wealthy developers. For the majority of people living in Hong Kong, the idea of owning a place themselves is as beautiful and yet as insubstantial as the rippling mirages we see here.

In Gutted, a series by Vivian Ho, we see depicted another scene of everyday Hong Kong life: fish-heads in a wet market. Although clearly dead, the severed heads may be described as being full of life, as for the Cantonese they are a pleasurable source of food and nourishment. The blood and flesh are celebrated in the image, but not in a gory or violent way, rather as merely part of the modern food chain.

In the installation by Nicole Wong the artist contemplates the indifference of the modern world, creating objects that one associates with a gallery but using non-traditional materials that disguise themselves within the space. These mundane objects ask the audience to pay attention to them and the physical world in which we all live.

In the Zen Buddhist canon, These Shores, as opposed to Those Shores (Nirvanna), is a state of perpetual ebb and flow. The push-pull of the emotions within artists is one of the driving forces of their artistic endeavours, and this exhibition will stand as a dissection of their current state of mind.