Hanart TZ Gallery is pleased to announce the opening of Ho Sin Tung's solo exhibition Swampland, taking place on 9 January 2020. The exhibition will run through 29 February.
On the Exhibition
Swamps are not the most scenic of places. In fact, they have long unsettled the human imagination as mysterious terrains lurking with ecological, or even supernatural, dangers. From the swamp of Lerna that lives the nine-headed Hydra in Greek mythology, to the marsh that swallowed Marion Crane's dead body in Psycho, there is a wealth of literature and films that reveals the spectrum of our swamp horrors. Neither entirely land nor water, fecund but untamed, swamps are unpredictable. Our fear of swamps is the fear of the unknown. Humans create systems and structures, invent technologies, appeal to higher powers, and philosophise existential questions all to give the world a sense of order and answers. But as the news would tell us every day, the world is as volatile as ever. Swampland is aptly the evocative title for Ho Sin Tung's exhibition that grapples with life's different uncertainties.
The artist's practice has always favoured meticulous drawings, often executed with a humble pencil, that depict her internal fantasies and intimate emotions. This new body of work, however, features more objects and installations that engage us with greater immediacy and participation. This shift in medium is perhaps due to an expansion in subject matters relating to history, culture, and ideology, that deal more with the state of the world and the human condition, rather than the state of Ho's mind.
Ho Sin Tung sees the world for the swampland that it is, heterogeneous and constantly in flux. And she revels in it. The artist describes her creative process as often like cooking a witch's brew with different odd ingredients simmering an unpredictable potion. As result, her works reflect on the splendour, oddities, and underside of life through a web of allusions.
The allusions in Ho's cauldron of ideas are not always obvious, and sometimes too personal to be meaningful for others. But tracing her inspirations is not necessarily the way to meaning. Unlike many of her drawings in the past, which allow us to peer into her mind, the works in this exhibition encourage us to peer into our own and rethink our relationship with the world around us. The answers could be one, many, or none, but it is ambiguity that makes us human. Perhaps like Thoreau, who considered the swamp his sacred place for spiritual rejuvenation, we can only make sense of life's uncertainties by wading through the swampland, not in fear, but in stride.
Excerpted from Wading Through the Swampland
Joyce Hei-ting Wong, 2019
The swamp is desolate, turgid wilderness; yet there is a whole teeming universe hidden within its layers of mud and sediment. The exhibition Swampland comprises works created in different media that juxtapose and integrate seemingly unconnected particles of this universe, both ancient and modern, living and dead, singular and collective, serious and vulgar, weaving them into scenarios of our inevitable struggles and failures in the pursuit of Utopia.
Dead Skin is constructed from the national flags of former sovereign states such as Manchuria, East Germany, the Soviet Union, and the Kingdom of Hawaii: like a ghost hidden under a bed sheet, it stands there like something both dead and alive. Although these places have all disappeared off the maps, they are still entangled within our world, continuing to affect the state of society today. In Over, portraits of real or fictional last rulers of empires are captured inside of dusty old picture frames, so that while they overlook the world from on high, they can only see it through murky, unclear vision. The sculptural work Same Old Sweet is also comprised of discarded, useless things-a pile of mouldy candies left behind in the aftermath of a broken relationship. I smashed them up, melted them down, and shaped them into a pile of feces, carefully fashioning a new symbol of emotion.
The idea of swallowing repellent substances led me to create 1001 Nights Before and 1001 Nights After, which reference films by Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini. In these works, I copied the decoration and arrangement of carpets used as the settings for two different sex scenes in Pasolini's films Salo and Arabian Nights. The authoritarian cruelty of the former sharply contrasts with the abandoned libertinism of the latter: here the two carpets are separated by 'barrier' line. The work But Something In Him Was Still Homesick For The Ice was inspired by a story in Derek Jarman's film Wittgenstein, describing how the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein spent his entire life trying to construct a pure world. But in the end, no one can survive in a cognitively perfect world; all that is left is a nostalgic longing for the Terra Incognita. Here I extracted blank pages that appear in the writings of several authors discussing Wittgenstein's philosophical theories and texts. These are the silences that emerge when we speak about others. This is the creation of an 'ice field' that we cannot cross.
If we cannot use language to get close to others, our only recourse is through the physical sense organs that inhabit them. What I Saw on Top of the World reproduces in extreme close-up the view that is seen by the blonde woman trapped in the arms of King Kong at the top of the Empire State Building. Your Blood is Green and That's Okay is a group of paintings showing the 'Son of Man' exuding brilliantly coloured blood, like the blood of an alien life form; probing with his fingers, the apostle Thomas finds his doubts change into certainty. Another group of paintings combines pictures with the musical notation from three songs by Sufjan Stevens about mourning and silence: Mystery of Love, Death with Dignity, and Futile Devices. In this way, the works infuse the entire exhibition with a background music that is both silent and ear-rending.
Ho Sin Tung, 2019 (Translation by Valerie C. Doran)
Press release courtesy Hanart TZ Gallery.
Ho Sin Tung's Swampland at Hong Kong's Hanart TZ Gallery 'quietly alludes to the city's concrete-surfaced wetlands amidst references to the boggy political slough that recent social unrest has struggled against', writes Emily Verla Bovino.