Friday, July 2, 2010

Missing Static

(Hong Kong Gallery Guide May 2010)

Gallery EXIT
April 9 to May 22

Among the young and emerging artists in Hong Kong, Kong Chun Hei makes his mark with his minimalist style and insistence on drawing as a form of contemplation—one that defies the passage of time and intrusion of the external world. His first solo show Gleaning at Gallery EXIT illuminates his conviction in the relationship between drawing and the monuments of life.

The selection of Kong’s ink drawings strikes a deep chord of solitude. Beyond their apparent stillness the images spell a desire for movement. ‘Suitcase’ is a mockery of such desire: the image is a realistic depiction of the lonesome suitcase that stands within the frame, and the viewers cannot decide whether it points to travel or stagnation or even abandonment. Larger scale works such as ‘Black Rain’ carry an inkling of the outside world. Yet the sense of confinement remains when the audience returns to the fine touches of Kong’s dedication: the creation of these drawings embodies silence and labor through solitary hours.

Nostalgia is another underlying theme of Gleaning, whose title is an apt opening note for recollections of a distant past. The two drawings of old blank albums may seem like an obvious statement, though details of the objects—intact in parts, broken in others—instill a wonderful ambiguity in the images. Did the past exist and fade away, or does it lie in wait for one to create and manipulate? The same question goes for ‘Photo I’ and ‘Photo II’, phantoms of the Queen of England on TV screens. Are the images recreation of history, or are they Kong’s conception of bygone days imbued with new meanings?

‘Snow’, a series of twenty drawings, could have been a conceptual bridge between the rest of the works in Gleaning if not for the presence of an old TV set showing static as a part of the set up. The drawings are perfectly intriguing artworks on their own: the minute traces of symbolic snow hint at an almost obsessive attention, one that takes the audience on a trip to the artist’s mental landscape. The addition of the TV set not only demystifies the images; it disrupts the artist’s imagination that runs through the exhibition. Such intrusion strikes one as counter-intuitive to the detachment from reality Kong aims for in his contemplation. For the audience the gleaning of traces needs no entry point from a real-life object—they only need to see the artist’s mind.

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