Skip to Content

Reviews & Articles

Celia Ko: That Moment Now
Valerie C DORAN
at 6:30pm on 31st March 2009

Exhibited in the unlikely venue of the entrance hall of a university library, Celia Ko’s mixed-media show "That Moment Now" weaves an unusual and intensely personal presence within a static space. Comprising large-scale paintings and small, intricately fashioned objects, the exhibition traces a narrative process that finds Ko (currently artist-in-residence at Lingnan) moving backwards and forwards in time and, like the weft in a weaver’s loom, shuttling threads of the past into the irrevocably changed fabric of the present.

The core of the exhibition is a pair of startling, black-and-white portraits of Ko’s maternal grandparents, based on tiny formal photographs taken of them in the 1920s. In transposing these photographs into large-scale paintings, Ko cropped the frames to bring their facial features, and in particular the expression in their eyes, into tight focus. The painting surfaces are built through layers of careful, flat brushwork, creating contours of light and shadow which have a muted harshness, as though they had been cast by a barely softened electric light. The effect can be described as a kind of post-modern ancestor portrait, but with the added observation that there is neither irony nor satire here, but a careful, even affectionate, attentiveness.

Contrasting with these portraits is the Narrative series, a group of shadowy monochrome paintings executed in acrylic on paper, each of which features an image of a single lacquerware object — a box, a mirror, a rice bowl — of the kind used in daily life in traditional times. Indeed, Ko states that each of these objects figures prominently in her memories of her grandmother. Articulated in dark tones set against an only slightly less opaque background, these objects appear to have undergone a process of entropy: the individual features have been extinguished, leaving behind the tangible imprint of their presence. The final element in the show, displayed in a group of four glass-topped cases like objects in a cabinet of curiosities, is Ko’s ‘wearables’ — the artist’s reinvention of the kind of traditional decorative adornments, like jewelled belts and embellished collars, that served the functions of both fashion and ritual. Comprised of bits of jade, crystal, and beading interposed with hand-made pieces by the artist — small photographs of her as a child embedded in plastic like insects in amber, intricate drawings, brooches juxtaposing delicate tracery with unlikely readymades such as digital batteries — these wearables are shown decorating a high-necked reinvention of a collar or dangling from a swatch of silk fabric intended as a belt. They are clever and, at the same time, unexpectedly moving. And more than worth a trip to the university library.

Exhibition: 《Celia Ko: That Moment Now》
Date: 22.2 – 31.3.2009
Venue: 1/F, Library, Lingnan University, Tuen Mun
Enquiries: 852 2616 8586

Search by Writer: