Transparent truths

Weekend Glitz | Katie Hung 13 Oct 2017

Sculptures are in every corner of cities such as Melbourne, London and New York as public art in a space open for everyone. But we rarely see one in Hong Kong.

Designer Eric Schuldenfrei interprets public art in a broader sense.

"Any art that is exhibited in public space that aspires to engage the public could be considered as public art," he said.

The co-founder of architecture studio ESKYIU finds that public art has a unique ability to speak about society - especially artwork with a short period of exhibition time. "Because it's about how you build it, the mind-set created at the times that you find yourself present. The elements combine for a unique reading of the city at that time."

Other than livening up a city, he says art is collecting a representation of the place's past history. It owns a strong connection between the location and minds of people at that time.

"I hope Hong Kong's art collection encompasses a very different mind-set about who makes the art," he added.

Rather than having something imported, he believes Hong Kong could include more elements that represent its past history for a stronger connection to the place itself.

His team's latest work, in collaboration with Fashion Walk and located at Paterson and Cleveland Streets in Causeway Bay, are three sculptures representing life in Hong Kong.

Although these pieces are not literally public art as they sit on private land, they are accessible to everyone. "The role of art within the city is also [about] understanding the area that you're in. Through the art, you can also understand society around you."

Each sculpture has a theme aimed at inspiring thoughts. Morning Addiction depicts a person choosing between coffee and a cocktail, showing the dilemma of Hongkongers keeping pace with modern life and work. Beating One's Personal Best seeks an opportunity for betterment while The Perfect Shopper reminds us true consumption is more than material attainment.

Composed of more than 400 metal plates and over 1,600 rod elements, the metal is reflective on one side but with colors on the hidden side. One of the advantages of using metal is that its surface can reflect the environment.

Schuldenfrei said there is no perfect point from which to see these sculptures. The viewing experience depends on time, angle and weather. "Anything that looks simple is complicated," he said.

Hang Lung Properties general manager Katherine Lo said there is no time limit on the exhibition of the sculptures yet. What inspired her and her team to put the art pieces outside were the characteristics of Fashion Walk - mainly composed of different streets.

"Actually, we're part of the street," she said. "Instead of putting it in a mall, we would like the art to be appreciated by more people, not only shoppers, but those who work or live around, even those who pass by."

Schuldenfrei also holds different thoughts about art placed outside. Instead of showing it in the central square of a city, he believes putting it in some underused space where people normally will not walk is a good idea.

He said places like back alleys are excellent locations and that is what makes art special.

"The most important part of art should actually permeate throughout the city," he said. "Creativity should become a natural part of life for everyone."

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