After words – Inside Looking Out exhibition catalogue, Osage Kwun Tong 2007

I have an unforgettable memory from the last Venice Biennale...
I have an unforgettable memory from the last Venice Biennale when one of the artists I met asked me the question “Are there any Hong Kong Artists?” For me, this sounded like, does your city have dreamers? Where is your art and culture? I paused, I was shocked and I felt naked. I want to fight back. But how?
 
This project was initiated last summer when I was in London. Before moving to London, I had started my art profession with a group of friends in a studio located in Fotan. The experience of setting up the studio and sometimes discussing art or whatever, has always been the most precious moment of our early 20s. So, why not start a project with the artists and friends I am familiar with? I think history brings us together. There is continuity of passion, commitment to art and a desire for developing the art profession among us all, which I think are the core elements for forming a good exhibition.
 
This year marks the 10th Anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China. There has been a lot of questions/crisis/discussion about identity in the past 10 years, not only in the field of contemporary art, but also in economic and social issues. I am not trying to top-up the question, but would like to share what I have found among us, even though it can’t be said to represent Hong Kong, but more as a kind of reference.
 
Undergraduate study at Chinese University is focused on both Chinese and Western art practice as well as both art histories. The influence of the American-European avant-garde and the variety of these art forms and presentations has long been an important reference for local artists and art students. With the help of language, media, publications and political power, its culture spread all over the world. Hong Kong has had its doors open to the West for over a hundred years; one of the mainstreams in Hong Kong contemporary art is engagement with the American-European avant-garde. The Chinese ink movement is another mainstream. Duchamp opened up the possibility of using ready-mades and playing with the context of art in different situations, Rauschenberg’s and Kiefer’s paintings constructed using materials rather than pigments and brushes, Gerhard Richter’s photo-based painting technique, Agnes Martin’s minimal paintings recalling the spirituality of human endeavour – all of these had an influence. The development of the art market also raises questions about the relationship between art and money, and the conflicts between individual and society, private and public.
 
However, the various art forms among us were not tied to American-European society, but rooted in our own Chinese traditional spirit and values. One of the most important spirits in Chinese Art is the direct correlation between the artist’s accomplishment and his natural endowment, scholarship, moral character, personality and ideological state of mind. The emphasis on artistic aptitude is linked to practical experience of life. This means a reading of the artwork cannot be isolated from the artist himself. The personality and ideology of one’s self always relies on one’s own daily life or personal emotions. The artists always keep themselves at a distance from society in order to achieve their distinctive artistic/moral quality.
 
I am not sure if there is there any link between the idea of the reclusive Chinese literati (artist) and the studio space in a highly commercial capital city like Hong Kong.  Among the works present in this exhibition, there are various styles and art forms but the spirit of the works behind is always personal, poetic and sensitive. The subjects of the art are found by personal feelings on daily life rather than social movements or global issues.
 
If we see all these artists in a group, even though they are working on their individual themes, there will be interesting questions like: Why didn’t they find a full time job like other graduating students? What they are fighting for if there is no art market for Hong Kong contemporary art? What values do they hold? What is their dream living in a city like Hong Kong?
 
There is plenty of room for discussing all of these art works from many different perspectives. I hope these works and the exhibition itself could open up a new discussion on the young generation artists and give inspiration for us to understand the art and the life we possess (in, but not only in Hong Kong).
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