The value, social function, and role of art changes with time. With contemporary art, what is at stake moves more distinctly towards life—certainly at odds with 'Art for Art's sake', where art is in and of itself the standard, where there exists conditions of pure aesthetic inquiry. Artistic creation today is one spontaneous, natural reflection in the world, tackling concepts and issues that artists are interested in through artistic means. It is a form through which artists convey life experiences. However that experience might be transformed, art has the power to convey ideas and emotions, yielding a created system of values, and ardently in search of sparking viewers' emotions.
The English title Very Natural Actions is taken from Roland Barthes's structuralist interpretation of Balzac's short story. Barthes believed that 'great structures, serious symbols, grand meanings are built upon an unimpressive foundation of ordinary acts'. Artistic creation is indeed about creating their own worlds through practice, breaking down the persistent focus on the surface of artworks towardsmore profound implications. Very Natural Actions attempts to raise questions in order to encourage viewers not to linger on the surfaces of works but to seek out that gem of a tree within the forest of forms and meanings, one that resonates with one's experiences, allowing the artwork to serve as the bridge between the artist and the audience. What the maker and the viewer focus on may very well be completely different, yet myriads of lines of thoughts may be launched from one single artwork.
This exhibition extends the artists' discussions in A Tree Fell in the Forest, and No One's There last year in Shanghai. That exhibition highlighted their artistic production and practices, cutting across the themes several artists raised with respect to our present society, focusing on the works that congealed and formed after they peered out at the world. Very Natural Actions meanwhile attempts to open up the surfaces of works, offering a cross-section of themes and creative impulses of the various artists.
Oscar Chan Yik Long and Chan Ka Kiu's paintings and installation works reveal their inner states using art as a proxy, establishing psychological connections with viewers. Lin Aojie and Sudhee Liao on the other hand tackle family portraiture and choreography as mediums and bridge the fictional and the real, reconstructing interhuman relations through the specific logic of photography and the moving image. Andrew Luk draws out historical and cultural threads from materials and reconstitutes them into new narratives by merging memory and texts. Remy Siu shifts the paradigm of composition, questioning the invisible costs in hi-tech production at the intersection of electronic games, music, and theatre. Several other artists bring in elements of the city, interrogating the essence of the metropolis in their own various ways. Mark Chung deconstructs images and unveils the darker, gloomier side behind celebratory neon lighting and fireworks; Chi Po-Hao's light transforms the city into sound, magnifying rhythms normally unseen. Nicole Wong abstracts habitats in order to highlight its inhumane aesthetics, while He Yida renders visible living space, showing the tension of physical space; both artists gesture at the inner structures of urban development through different physical mediums. Cheng Tingting's paintings reconstitute scenic segments of Hong Kong as subjective landscapes, while Lau Wai collects and recomposes Hollywood's imagination of Hong Kong as a city to unveil how an Orientalist imagery has lasted and lingered; as artists with images as the basis of their practice, they construct their subjective vision through the reconstruction of symbols.
Through the creative process, artists' perceptions of the world generate a certain order and regularity, morphing into distinctive worlds. The works in front of the eyes of the audience should constitute enough of a trace, offering a dimension ordinarily hidden behind the process of artistic creation, and unfolding greater possibilities in the viewing of artworks.
Curated by André Chan, Jing Chin-yin Chong