Art with a smile

Technology | Crystal Wu 11 Dec 2020

Walking into the Repulse Bay Arcade, your eyes may be drawn to a pair of blue and white chinoiserie panda sculptures and a much more colorful smiling reindeer sculpture on the other side.

Artspace K is a newly established gallery and is hosting its inaugural exhibition, Winter Joy, by Taiwanese artist Hung Yi, until February 21.

Not only is this the first exhibition to christen the space, it is also Hung's first solo showcase in Hong Kong.

Founder Chen Kok-choo did not want to postpone her plans for Artspace K despite the pandemic, and she believes that opening in these difficult times is a show of will. "You never know how long you need to wait, so I just went ahead with it," said Chen.

Chen has been in the arts and culture world for some time, and has been involved with the operations of three heritage building museums in Taipei since 2002.

She believes that art is an important part of daily life that we seldom notice. Moreover, with Hong Kong's position of importance and prominence in the international art market, Chen found it strange that art is not something Hong Kong people find in their daily lives.

While Taiwanese are often considered to be more cultured than Hong Kong people, Chen does not believe this is the case. Rather, she believes that people in Taiwan integrate art and culture into their everyday lives.

Her goal and aim for Artspace K, therefore, is "to promote art as more than just objects admired in museums."

"We want art to be seen and appreciated as one of its kind artistic creations that people can add to their home or place of work."

Formosa Sika Deer is one of the first pieces to welcome you as you walk past Artspace K's display window.

As its name suggests, it takes inspiration from the species, which is unique to the island. Much like the smile on its face, the artist hopes to spread joy with its colorful exterior.

Other than the smiling deer, one is instantly cheered up by other vibrant sculptures in the space.

"This is the first winter after a horrible year in Hong Kong," Chen said, adding that she would like to curate a happy exhibition that brings blessing and warmth to visitors. Chen's first choice of collaboration is the artist of these colorful and cheerful sculptures - Hung Yi.

While Hung has always loved art, he did not begin his professional career as an artist. This is because in his youth, art was something that needed to be studied professionally and he was not qualified to do so. Since graduating from high school, the artist has filled his diary with drawings instead of words. To him, "life is art and art is life."

Miracle (Special Chicken) resembles a Kinder Surprise chocolate egg, with its round demeanor, and is a play on words involving the Chinese words for "miracle" and "special chicken" - qi ji.

While the pattern on the chicken invokes childlike innocence, the painted stainless steel sculpture as a whole resembles an intricate Faberge egg.

Much like Miracle (Special Chicken), other works from this exhibition also have names that are plays on homophones, which are common in Chinese culture.

For example, holographic Wealthy Horse ("ma shang fa cai") plays on the Chinese words for "immediately" and its literal meaning of "on a horse," and comprises a stack of Chinese gold ingots placed on the horse's back.

Opulent Dragon looks like a mythical creature with the head of a dragon and the tail of a fish.

It may sound a bit farfetched at first, but in a Chinese context, it makes complete sense and promotes the notions of luck, wealth and prosperity.

To a Chinese audience, the meaning and concept behind each artwork is straightforward and can be easily understood.

This resonates with Chen's ethos for Artspace K, where art should be accessible and enjoyed by everyone.

"You don't need to know about art, but you can still enjoy it," she said.

Echoing Chen's sentiment, Hung said: "Art does not need language: It is symbols, it is colors, it is feelings."

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