Ian Abell and Alex Welch, A Grain of Rice, 2015, Bronze
Commemorating its 150th anniversary, HSBC commissioned twin sculptures – one installed in Hong Kong (above) and the other in London.
The humble grain of rice, transformed in size and materiality, stands with high confidence amid the bank’s legendary history and the imminent rise of China.
The 10.36 metres tall installation might represent a trophy of present success, an obelisk of past glory or a beacon for future. It is found on the southern side of the bank’s HQ.
The official statement of collective effort in the past to achieve present success is duly noted. But like potato and other common staples, exemplified among many languages, the sign of rice also has the obvious derogatory undertone of peasantry engrained within. The conflicting identities, wittingly or otherwise, are encrypted in the simply shaped curvature; and incidentally, a grain is seldom portrayed in isolation.
The dull patina of bronze on the outside is met with luscious shades of gold inside. Just like the word – dough in English, “rice” also embodies the notion of money in the Chinese language.
This solitude reminds one of the status quo of the bank – a multi-national “orphan” that cannot count Britain, China or any other countries its sovereign host. Correlate the series of foul plays the bank was penalized in different countries without the cover of any government, one might find traces of hint to such thought.
The fugue exposition of signs, generating recollections of achievements, prophetic statements and perhaps the self-realization of a limbo existence, are what make this installation laden with aftertastes.