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Winter Garden
at 10:05am on 20th August 2015


1. Chim Pong: Feelin' like the guys make me hot 01, video still, 2008.

2. Keisuke Yamamoto, Untitled, oil and colour pencil on paper, 50x65cm, 2006.

3.-4. Student drawing and study area with various related reading material at Hong Kong Arts Centre.

5. Koki Tanaka, Light My Fire, still from video, 3mins3seconds, 2002.

All photographs: John Batten


Last week, there was great publicity about the Japanese art collective Chim ­Pong attending the launch of a former textile manufacturer’s new gallery - The Mills Gallery - in Tsuen Wan. They also appear in this new group exhibition at the Hong Kong Arts Centre with a video that literally plays with fire. Feelin’ like the guys make me hot 01 sees the 6-member group jumping around like children in quickly changing scenes setting fire to objects, including a bicycle and a fence, forming words and the outline of an entire football field (see image) by sprinkling petrol and then igniting it.

Fire can be mesmerizing, until tragedy hits. But even the recent devastating Tianjin chemical explosion or the trauma of a forest fire relate to Chim Pong’s “modest” antics, as curator Midori Matsui reflects that the “power and warmth of fire, reinstates the human connection to one of the primal forces of nature, through a modest breach of decorum in everyday life.”

Chim Pong: Feelin' like the guys make me hot 01, video still, 2008

The sub-text for this exhibition explores “the micropop imagination in contemporary Japanese art.” The exhibition’s thirteen participating artists and one art group generally use or depict and then reconfigure familiar daily objects in their art.  It is a surprisingly relevant exhibition as many young Hong Kong artists have a similar approach to material in their own work. Particularly strong are the mildly humorous videos, all of an easy-to-watch length.

Koki Tanaka’s videos are simple. The first, Light My Fire, shows a lighted fuse, at times sparking and exploding, running along a dirt and rocky landscape in a continuous 3-minute loop. His Turning the Lights On is similarly banal: just a series of clips of lights being turned on and rooms lighted. The simplicity of such repeated daily actions is seductive watching and takes on greater significance by building a visual depiction of “the interdependence between objects and the human mind.”

Painting is well represented in the exhibition and is peaceful and calming. Hiroshi Sugito uses subtle geometrical patterning in his naïve looking paintings. Keisuke Yamamoto takes a similar dreamy approach to depict water and earth inhabited by plants and insects within a plane of colour, built by a beautiful layering of oil paint and pencils.

'Winter Garden' @ Hong Kong Arts Centre

A version of this review was published in the South China Morning Post, 18 August 2015


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