Source: SCMP (9/5/19)
Out of time: artists return to darkroom, make coin collages to remind Hong Kong of what has gone
Anita Mui, Queen’s Pier, and former Legco building among icons of Hong Kong artist Giraffe Leung depicts using specially treated 20-cent coins. Multiple exposures of city streets in China, Singapore, Japan and South Korea, printed in a darkroom without digital manipulation, make up Simon Wan’s show
By Snow Xia
Coins and darkroom photography may be falling out of use, but they have been given new life in an exhibition that explores and evokes Hongkongers’ collective memory.
Showing at La Galerie Paris 1839, Hollywood Road, Central, “Coins – Memories of Hong Kong” by Giraffe Leung Lok-hei and “City Glow” by Simon Wan Chi-chung look at how rapid urbanisation has changed the city.
“As e-payments and virtual money have replaced traditional money globally, I want to use money to remind us of the role … people and things play in our lives [and their value],” explains Leung, whose show re-examines unremarkable objects that became or are becoming obsolete.
The artist uses 20-cent coins to create images of well-known Hong Kong scenes and people, mainly because of their shape. The small, wavy-edged coins were designed and first issued during the British colonial era in 1975 and, like other coins minted before the territory’s return to Chinese sovereignty, represent part of the city’s identity and culture.
On the opening night, 26-year old Leung, who quit his job as an interior designer to be a full-time artist four years ago, showed how he creates artworks with coins. He wet his gloves with two chemical solutions (one blue and one transparent) before rubbing the surface of a collage of coins, making them appear rusted. Within minutes, they are formed into Hong Kong’s century-old former Legislative Council building.
Also on show are coin collages of Queen’s Pier, a historical landmark on the city’s Central harbourfront that made way for reclamation in 2007, and of Anita Mui Yim-fong, a Canto-pop diva and actress who died of cancer in 2003.
Just as coins are losing relevance in the digital economy, new technology has made darkroom photography a technique of the past.
Wan’s “City Glow” exhibition comprises a series of multiple-exposure photos taken on the bustling streets of Singapore and in big cities in China, South Korea, and Japan, and developed in the darkroom. The photos capture the sharp contrast between concrete buildings and neon signs and give a sense of both fantasy and reality, reflecting the way globalisation and consumerism have affected cities such as Hong Kong.
“The more I looked into a city, the more I didn’t like it,” says Wan. “It looks as if these cities are doing so well, but it is no more than shops, ads, and signs here and there, telling you what to do or what is a so-called ideal life.”
Wan, 44, graduated with a degree in documentary photography from the University of Wales in the UK in 2000 and has held exhibitions around the world. His works are in the collections of local and international cultural institutions.
In an era in which digital technology is prevalent, Wan chooses not to use digital manipulation. “I always strive to look into everyday life, and transform them into new perspectives,” says the artist.
Marie-Florence Gros, French art collector and founder of La Galerie Paris 1839, chose to show the work of the two artists because of their uniqueness.
“What defines an artist is strong individuality. So what we are looking for is what makes you different,” she says.
Many art collectors are interested in an artist’s identity, Wan says.
He says that sometimes Hong Kong artists who want to get their works displayed have to be “more Chinese”, because the subtle differences between Hong Kong and mainland Chinese people may not be understood by art collectors in the West.
Wan says Hong Kong artists’ identities are caught “in the middle” between China and the West – they know both cultures but don’t belong to either one.
“How can we make use of our unique identity and to make our works speak for it? That’s really hard,” he says.
Dual Solo Exhibition Giraffe Leung and Simon Wan, La Galerie Paris 1839, 74 Hollywood Road, Central. Until September 29.