梁展峰 (Jeff Leung)
Hong Kong’s limited space with her huge population has not only created a unique living culture of exorbitant rental rates, but also directly affected the development of the Hong Kong art scene. Some believe that the preciousness and thus scarcity of space led to a decline of sculptures and the flourishing of installation art in the 90s, whereas the years around the millennium saw the recession of the real estate economy and the migration of local industries to the mainland, allowing more artists to rent industrial spaces as studios experimenting larger scale works. Conversely, we may also infer that many of the local creations express the artists’ sensitivity towards living space.
Take painting as an example. Ever since installation art prospered in Hong Kong in the 90s, when some artists have endeavoured to reflect upon the relationship between a work of art and its surrounding exhibition space through painting installations, till the recent years when the “Me Generation” artists who attempt to express personal living details and sentiments, both groups tend to turn to the vessel that symbolizes “inner space” (such as the living space, the soul, the dream) as the background for their body of works. Comparing the works by the local “Me Generation”, while the Fine Arts Department of the Chinese University of Hong Kong has established a system of surrealist and pictorial “spiritual landscaping”, I personally find that the practice of abstracting or idealizing physical spaces has become popular among the “Me Generation” artists from the Hong Kong Art School (HKAC).
In this exhibition, both Damon Tong and Stephanie Sin are graduates of the HKAC, and have both spent their early youth and school years in UK before return to Hong Kong for admission into HKAC. Perhaps their English times have prepared them with early exposure to the western art and appreciate more towards purely aesthetic forms, which distinguishes them from the currently celebrated “art reflects times”. Through the hard work by the epitome Luis Chan of the last century, the modern ink painting of the 60-70s, and the overseas returned and local art students of the late 80s, this pursuit of purely aesthetic creations has become a prized minority group within the Hong Kong Contemporary Art, and more of them have exposed from the commercial galleries instead of Art Spaces.
The two artists, focusing upon a single subject, a table, a window, through repeated paintings and reflections, achieve elevation of aesthetic forms, and their pursuit of ecstasy and breakthrough in painting, strongly conveys modern artists’ concern for painting. Damon Tong draws the same table leg and corner through different perspectives, almost like Giorgio Morandi’s obsessive compositions of bottles, using the most economical compositions and constructions, he recreates a corner of a space to be represented upon the space of the canvas. The completed small paintings are displayed horizontally on a layered steel rack, almost as an installation, bringing the spectators closer to the perspective of the artist when he paints, restoring the truth of the painting process. This on one hand reveals the artist’s reflection upon painting and the disciplinary rationality involved in the painting process, on the other, is also the unconscious manifestation of the artist trapped within his tiny studio. Stephanie Sin creates like an impressionist artist. She repeatedly paints the elevator and corridor spaces she frequents, including window frames and the views beyond, giving them different colour schemes. The obscure images are like the inconstant and varying visual truths of the retina depicted by impressionist artists, and Stephanie strives to record her memory or the repeated journeys of the spaces in her unconscious (e.g. the campus, corridors, and escalators). These depictions of obscure spaces gradually develop from soft to vivid and unnatural colours, reflecting the artist’s inner mood for repetition and animation. Her recent works of window frames turned abstract originate from her childhood history, when she used to move house a lot and gaze at views from windows of the new homes, fallen in a trance. But these images always fell inside the obscure yet concrete window frames, forever forming a perspective from the outside to the beautiful interior of the prison cell, exposing the limitations of space.
These paintings that are transformed from daily personal experience, showing the new generation of artists, living in a crowded city, besides the important social issues, are also sensitive towards their most intimate spaces, details and phenomena, and from that extend their personal aesthetic pursuits, which is also the creative foundation for the “Me Generation” artists.
Chinese text by Jeff Leung
Translated by Sin Sin Fine Art