On July 22, an exciting new art exhibition located in Central, Hong Kong, held its opening night reception. Titled Assembling, the exhibition showcases the works of four unique artists all currently based in Shenzhen.
The driving concept behind the exhibition is one of both difference and commonality. Each of the artists specializes in a particular medium: glass, ceramics, multimedia, and painting. They come from various countries, ranging from South Africa to the UK, the US and China. And yet they’ve found themselves working in the same city, linked through sometimes serendipitous connections.
The exhibition was mostly organized by Hong Kong gallerist Sin Sin Man and participating artist Bronwen Shelwell. Both reached out to the other artists in the exhibition, organizing a meeting where everyone discussed what they could achieve together.
During the exhibition's opening night, the fruits of their labor were finally put on display. One work was inspired directly by the artists' first meeting: multimedia artist Marco Flagg recorded the exchange and used it as a starting point for a colorful work of video art.
The piece, he explained, is less about preserving the content of the initial conversation than conveying its general feelings of “communicating,” “growth,” and “change.” His goal was to “visualize” the energy and ideas of that first encounter in a different form.
Bronwen’s original contribution to the exhibit also draws on that beginning conversation. Besides her striking glass “shard-paintings,” which to her symbolize people’s continuous process of “falling apart” and “building themselves back up,” she also created an installation in the gallery space.
The metal balls in her work resemble those in 'Newton’s cradle' toys found on office desks around the world. However, instead of constantly bouncing against each other, these spheres hang in suspended animation, arranged in straight, symmetrical lines.
Bronwen explained that just as each artist explored his or her own creative variation on the theme "assembling," in her work one central line expands into a whole array of possibilities.
Just past her installation on the ceiling, viewers come across another work of art that seems to be embedded in the floor. Created by ceramics artist Tom Hayes, this piece incorporates living mung bean plants sprouting out of a piece of hardened, ink-blackened clay.
To Tom, Assembling brings with it connotations of what it means “to be a foreigner,” and the “things we’ve encountered” over years of living and working in China. For him, one of those things is a healthy appreciation for local spiritual traditions such as Buddhism and Taoism, and the philosophy of nature and life they imply.
His clay piece is meant to engage the viewer, bringing them back down to earth in both a literal and metaphorical sense. By making use of basic motifs such as circles and staple crops (his painting, nearby, has imprints of rice grains), he opens his work up to far-ranging interpretations.
Zhang Kaiqin, the representative Chinese artist of the group, also used mixed media in her work. Although much of her previous experience has been in sculpture, she branched out and did a painting for the exhibit.
Her work creatively combines different, and sometimes unusual materials. For the canvas, rice paper and melted beeswax; for the colors, a mixture of Chinese paints and regular watercolors.
The process of creation was “like a game,” she said, where she experimented with different methods before coming up with a final product. Although the work was “very challenging,” she appreciated the way all the artists kept in touch and gave each other suggestions as they prepared for the exhibition.
Gallery owner Sin Sin is also happy with how the works turned out. A well-seasoned international traveler, she was curious at first about what foreigners and artists in the mainland would produce.
She was instrumental in curating and presenting all of the works. In organizing the exhibit, she said, she opted for a theme that would match the “young and fresh” artists themselves. She “[wants] to encourage them” with this, their first Hong Kong exhibit, and looks forward to see them continue to grow and develop in the future.
The exhibition, located at Sin Sin Fine Art, will be open to visitors until August 21.