Sunday, 18 September 2011

"Footnote" -

Graduation Exhibition of the
Hong Kong Art School

On the 13th year under the leadership of RMIT University, the art school hosted the BA (Fine Art) graduates’ exhibition in August 2011.  All students’ final works were on show.  The blog has no intention to draw comparison with the CAFA student show (refer to earlier page) in Beijing in April this year.  After all, the CAFA show was an elitist display of selected works from the prominent art schools in China.
For an enjoyable 90 minutes of viewing on a variety of artistic endeavours, it was all the more convincing that there are budding talents around in this city of commerce.  On the whole, the students provided a good mix of media for their works as one would find in contemporary art.  Among all, a small number of works are briefly discussed below.

Transformation of Life 蜕變
by Yeung Ka Wai, Desiree 楊加蕙
Acrylic on MDF boards

Artist Statement:
Every second, a world of miraculous microscopic events take place within the body, making the difference between life and death.

Desiree investigates the transient territory few choose to enter – her personal experience of nestling life within the human body.  The work provokes dialectic thoughts on the realms of the conceiving (self), the conceived (other), corporeality and the mind.  What is admirable is the fact that the group paintings are not one dimensional to glorify the positive aspects of life in simplistic narratives; but they touch on the notions of death and perils of life through moribund dark tones, flimsy visceral connection and cocooned existence.  These characteristics form the facetted realities of life.

Pond  池塘
by Hui Kim Ho, Philip 許劍豪
Oil on canvas

Artist Statement (excerpt):
They desperately search for things that they desire endlessly.  Insiders are always attracted to the water and unable to withdraw themselves from it.  This is a metaphor of people’s desire for materialistic life – they are willing to pay any price, forgetting the relationship between people and their own nature.

Philip’s work is a particularly moving piece which is strong on concept and imbued with local specifics.  As a personal experience after reading the work, the re-awakening is two-folded: the painting is reminiscent of childhood playtimes at nearby running streams; secondly, it makes interesting comparisons with “Hylens and the Nymphs” by J. W. Waterhouse – the Pre-Raphaelite painting hung at Manchester City Art Gallery, where Sundial paid many afternoon visits. 

“Hylens and the Nymphs” by J. W. Waterhouse

One can say this contemporary oil is a through and through classical painting not only in terms of techniques and composition but its allegorical content.

Diary 夜記
by Cheng Ching Yee, Yvonne 鄭靜儀
Bamboo and lighting

Artist Statement:
I enjoy lingering about
on my way home
looking up the clothes
hanging freely on the
bamboo sticks
shooting out from the flats
with the sky as the backdrop
changing along with the weather
moving along with our live

My mind swinging around
In my every stage
poping up – her special glow
hanging firmly on my
bamboo stick
shining through my window
In the open sea as my star
casting light on me
setting fire on me

“Diary” brings home moments of heartfelt memories of faded Hong Kong ways of life.  Just like Yvonne, my mother used bamboo sticks to hang wet clothes dry.  This installation exploits on a local phenomenon, tells a story with personal flashbacks; it is parochial yet easily connected emotionally.  The resulting expression is admirably straightforward and neat.  Yvonne’s conscious effort to hold back frivolities, in my book, saves the work from trappings of sentimentalism.

Bridal Cloth of Girlhood
by Lee Suet Ying, Lee 李雪盈
Mixed media

Artist Statement:
At the age of eighteen, my mother and aunts had already married to someone they met only a few times.  Because of the words of their parents, they were forced to become a woman[sic] in a short period of time.  The ‘braids’ had to be cut off due to the reality, the end of girlhood.
At the age of eighteen, I’m just an ignorant girl, and until now, nothing has changed.

Lee’s examination of the local subject – womanhood amidst the change of times, is very valid but strangely uncommon in contemporary Asian art.  Itself a complex thesis to focus and tackle, it encompasses layers of historical, cultural and social issues that are interrelated with no simple conclusion to be drawn.  Lee should be given credit for braving a very difficult subject.
Having said that, the resulting work with the cursory use of stereotyped imageries, is lethargic and peevishly eerie.  It only reinforces pigeonhole mentality that the older female generations suffered from unspoken family rules and social norms.  Of course, the reality of the subject matter is never simplistic and far from any humdrum horror spoof style of interpretation.

Sit Ling Yung, Eunice 薜領容
Installation with video

Artist statement:
Starting from this point, to explore, to experience, to feel, to share…

MK Trainer Street
by Tan Siew Cheng, Anny 陳秀珍
Video installations, abandoned trainers, white tapes.

Artist statement (excerpt):
Some (her audiences’) responses simply referred to waste, while some thought that the trainers were a product and supported more consumer choices, and that the brand was important.  There were many different and interesting answers…  A pair of trainers is not just a functional product.

Like many artists who are obsessed to test the boundaries of art in their works but do not manage to produce good art, Anny and Eunice’s audience participated acts are typical examples of this phenomenon.  Both artists seek to question stereotyped values, in this context, the former on hidden sexuality (belly button and taboo) and the latter on perceptions of everyday items (trainers as objects for experiment). 

The works are successful challenges on the notion of rooted consensus that have been taken for granted.  Notwithstanding the outcome of some interesting details, the installations are messy and the impacts are barely comparable to the findings of a good TV documentary.  Furthermore, the representations of both works do not elevate themselves to the level of outstanding pieces of art.  These comments might be a bit demanding on the young artists but they are concluded from observations of a prevailing trend.

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