Home > Culture > Phantasmagoria: Kary Kwok’s intimate and powerful self-portraits
Phantasmagoria: Kary Kwok’s intimate and powerful self-portraits

Hong Kong artist Kary Kwok, whose work was displayed at Art Central earlier this year, is back at it again with an upcoming solo exhibition. Starting from June 15th, you can visit Phantasmagoria at Square Street Gallery in Sheung Wan, an exhibit which will feature a range of grayscale self-portraits of the artist photographed in 1993.

The exhibition, Kwok’s first solo venture at a commercial gallery after more than twenty years, takes inspiration from American artist Czanara’s artwork The Hermaphrodite-Angel of Peladan (c. 1950s). The drawing, spiritual in nature, alludes to a French Occult Revivalist who found radicality in the androgyne.

In his portraits, the artist decorates his features with makeup and dons expressive costumes, meeting the viewer’s gaze with an unflinching eye. Like Czanara’s art piece, Kwok’s portraiture attempts to challenge the boundaries of gender identity.

Kary Kwok’s work, well-known in the underground fashion and design scene across the globe, frequently touches on the themes of queerness and gender expression. Born in Hong Kong, the artist has honed his craft by living and creating new experiences in other major cities such as Tokyo and London.

In an interview with Francesca Marcaccio Hitzeman, Kwok emphasised his belief in the power of the “‘in-between: in between art and fashion, in between man and woman, in between light and dark, in between photography and image-making”. 

A previous exhibition by the Hong Kong artist, which also took place during Pride Month in 2022, confronted preconceived notions surrounding the queer Asian community. 

Entitled “Rice Queen,” often used as a derogatory term towards gay Asian men, the exhibition at Eaton Hong Kong aimed to subvert the deferential stereotypes attached to them.

On the topic of his work, Kwok says, “The self-portraits adopt the formal traditions of portraiture for a certain privileged group: white, upper class, straight and turn them on their heads: coloured, middle and lower class, gay. Anyone can represent oneself; any wish can materialise.”

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