As we edge towards the end of the year, the changing winds of November encourage us to look back on our achievements over the past 11 months. This sentiment is also reflected in the must-see exhibitions this month in Hong Kong: From 20-year-retrospectives to surveys of historical photography, exhibitions celebrating several decades of milestones to romantic works looking back at the best of times — these excellent shows help us reflect on and carefully consider past patterns no matter personal or societal, while also pointing out what’s left to do before we celebrate the conclusion of 2018.
This exhibition celebrates the 10-year anniversary of the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre, one of Hong Kong’s most promising platforms for young artists, and also recognised as Hong Kong’s first and only vertical artist village. Throughout the decade it has supported 250 studio artists and organisations, exhibiting creativity to over three million visitors; this exhibition traces the milestones as well as new work by some of the centre’s first generation alums, from calligrapher Montgo Chui to sculptural clothes hanger works by Ban Zhang to sound art pieces by Phoebe Hui. More programmes will be announced in December, including a handicraft fair, an open studio day and a second group exhibition.
Factory-made: JCCAC 10 Year Retrospective
This retrospective spans 20 years of work by the late Taiwanese art pioneer Fong Chung-ray, showcasing 15 pieces from the two decades -- some of which have never been in the public eye. Part of the Fifth Moon Group founded by Liu Kuo-sung, Fong was a trailblazer at the time, incorporating modern western techniques such as abstract expressionism together with traditional Chinese ink painting. Some key pieces shown in this exhibition include his later collages that incorporate Buddhist scripture, Indian Sanskrit and esoteric poetry, written in the style of raw brush strokes of early expressionists that Fong had admired from early on.
Fong Chung-ray: Enlightenment 1998-2018
It’s the 100th year anniversary of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, also known as the former National Beijing Academy of Visual Arts. Celebrating this milestone with the numerous artistic luminaries it has produced and been associated with over the years, this group exhibition of 33 artists puts Xu Beihong, the first president of the CAFA, in the spotlight: The participating artists were all closely related to Xu, whether by being pioneers in the development of Chinese art in the modern age, or being taught or mentored by him. Xu was one of the greatest proponents for realism in Chinese art -- bringing techniques from the west such as oil painting and sketching to China. This exhibition spans 61 valuable pieces by modern masters including Xu, Qi Baishi, Zhang Daqian and Li Keran -- and is not to be missed by Chinese art history buffs.
Photographer Peter Steinhauer’s stunning images of Hong Kong’s scaffolding have amalgamated into a new book; coinciding with its worldwide launch is this solo exhibition at Contemporary By Angela Li. Since becoming fascinated with Hong Kong’s wrapped towers since he arrived in Hong Kong in the late 1990s (he mistook them for a wrapped architecture work by Christo and Jeanne Claude), the photographer has elevated the humble bamboo scaffolding to vibrant monumental beasts, very much deserving of artistic admiration. The artist will give a book signing on 3 November, 12–3pm at the gallery.
Peter Steinhauer: Cocoons
Swiss-French artist Julian Charrière was last in Hong Kong for his collaboration with La Prairie during Art Basel to exhibit his love letter to light -- his video piece “Light Upon an Imaginary Space.” This month, he returns for his first solo exhibition with Ben Brown Fine Arts. Charrière’s work is fueled by expeditions to far-flung corners of the globe to capture environmentally jeopardised areas, drawn to the horrible impact of the destruction of natural resources due to human advancement, and yet, also the beauty that emerges. This exhibition explores his visit to Indonesian volcano Tambora -- which translates to “an invitation to disappear” -- on the 200th anniversary of its epic eruption, which was the largest ever in recorded human history, and has been said to influence the breathtaking sunsets that in turn inspired the paintings of J.M.W. Turner and Caspar David Friedrich.
Julian Charrière: An Invitation to Disappear
It won’t be surprising if Barbra Streisand’s famous rueful tune is brought to mind by the title of this exhibition by Blue Lotus Gallery -- it is a nostalgic step down memory lane after all, and the 70s and 80s heyday in Hong Kong is the dream. Featuring a vivid selection of works by legendary Hong Kong photographer Keith Macgregor, it’s a chance to catch glimpses from a not-so distant, yet unfamiliar past. Particularly noteworthy is Macgregor’s latest series, entitled “Neon Fantasies,” which are photo collages of streets that could have been -- a reverse reality where the city’s neon signs have only become more prolific as time went by.
Keith Macgregor: The Way We Were
A redux of an expansive group exhibition in 2016 (“¿Cómo te voy a olvidar? (How could I forget you?”) at Perrotin Paris featuring 16 contemporary Mexican artists, “Unstable Stillness” brings together the Hong Kong debuts of José León Cerrillo, Jose Dávila, Gabriel Rico and Martin Soto Climent. The four artists have similar interests in architecture, geometry, creating tension and uncommon artistic materials, and it will be an intriguing exhibition to see how each artist expresses each theme through their own different methods.
American artist Tony Lewis straddles the world between words and images in his art, focusing on the Gregg Shorthand method of writing, which represents an efficient, precise and machinelike practice. Lewis acts as stenographer and abstract artist, molding the elliptical curves and bisecting lines of the alphabet into repetitive forms with an equally repeated colour scheme of red, yellow, blue and green. His six new works are at once a spotlight on studio labour, bodily rhythm, and a mechanised, procedural approach to drawing.
Tony Lewis: If Nothing Short Etc.
Awarded the Joan Miró prize in 2017 and exhibited at the Miró Foundation, Algerian artist Kader Attia creates works mainly concerned with bicultural identities -- particularly looking at the relationships between western and non-western cultures. By piecing together found artefacts, he urges the viewer to consider the multiple histories within one piece, and by extension, shows the way he questions the societal disparities around the world. According to him, personal and societal trauma must be visible in order for healing and progression.
Just as an exhibition of French artist Adeline Calosci’s neopop art (“Consume Me”) closes, Hong Kong artist Vivian Ho returns with a new solo exhibition mid-month. Ho is well recognised for her depictions of everyday Hong Kong scenes, juxtaposed with dreamy landscapes and gentle florals that suggest a rosy-tinted, yet at the same time melancholic wistfulness for Hong Kong. Hugely inspired by Hong Kong culture, her sharp observations, anonymous yet relatable characters and romantic drawing style easily touch the hearts and psyches of Hongkongers.