As the COVID-19 pandemic and its ongoing consequences dominate events around the globe, cities and their residents continue to encounter unprecedented challenges to everyday life. In Challenged Cities: Then, Now and Beyond, Karin Weber Gallery presents a dialogue between six artists with Asian roots or research interests and their exploration of the notion of 'the city' — historical roots, the present day, and current challenges — across a range of different mediums. 'Challenged Cities' touches on issues such as connectivity, colonisation, trade and globalisation yet retains a confident and optimistic focus on the human interactions and endeavours that render cities dynamic and progressive.
In a city like Hong Kong, where the material and the mundane frequently prevail, gongbi painter Joey Leung Ka-yin (Hong Kong) closely observes the world and city she lives in, referencing popular culture and gender issues in her practice. Her works present the contemporary world as it is – filled with bizarre people, peculiar episodes and sometimes wonderful chaos.
Eric Fok's (Macau) reconstructed, simultaneously reflective images of 'paradises' juxtapose traces from different colonial periods, celebrating the seemingly ridiculous. Contemporary themes such as congestion, urbanisation and landmark architecture from the past and the present are interwoven with mythical figures and historical events, reincarnating a logic formulated by disappearance and repositioning.
Carmen Ng (Hong Kong) captures the urban landscape of her home city Hong Kong with wistful associations about things that may appear trivial. City life can be austere, and Carmen tries to lighten the mood by looking for lightheartedness and patterns in things that are repetitive and mundane.
Emily Allchurch's (UK) photo collage series 'Mirrored Cities' draws parallels between the ancient trading port of Venice, Italy, and historical and contemporary counterpart locations in China, such as Suzhou, Xi'an, Tianjin and Fenghuang, in its exploration of themes such as globalisation, mass tourism and trade.
Core to the works of Daisuke Teshima (Japan) are notions of human encounters and human interactions in complex urban environments. These are, in his mind, what continuously drives and shapes the human experience, regardless of whether individuals connect or disconnect.
New to the gallery lineup for Art Central 2021 is Timothy Hon Hung Lee, an emerging British-Chinese artist based in London, UK, who explores notions of the 'sacred' and our search for meaning in increasingly secular consumer society that is so common in cities today. Lee's works draw on elements of Asian and Western religions, art histories and cultural reference points, all brought together through the most traditional of Chinese art forms, ink painting on rice paper, which is then mounted on wooden panels.
Six artists, six different takes on cities and multi-facetted explorations of their individual trajectories constitute Challenged Cities: Then, Now and Beyond at Karin Weber Gallery; a poignant reminder that we can and must draw on history to imagine a future.