Cover Chrono Cross IV by Angela Yuen; plastic toys, motor, perspex, resin, LED lights (Photo: Courtesy of Contemporary by Angela Li)

Seven local artists’ unconventional materials show that art isn’t only about paints and brushes – but also plants, sand, candies, and imagination.

1. Angela Yuen and vintage toys

Angela Yuen’s latest exhibition The Lost Time Travel Machine seemingly showcases still frames from old Hong Kong movies. But look closer, her pieces are made with a collection of old-fashioned plastic objects: rubber ducks, toy soldiers, capsule toys, tea party sets, floral beads, hair curlers, rulers, and stencils. Tarnished and apparently valueless they may be, but all are treasures from the 70s and 80s, the golden era when plastic and toy manufacturing dominated the postwar industrial sector of Hong Kong. “The material is imbued with symbolic meaning associated with the spirit, sweat and hardship of the local labour, and plastic manufactured objects serve as an iconic representation of Hong Kong’s manufacturing boom that shapes the early stages of the city’s modernisation,” says Yuen. These materials cast colourful shadows on her sculptures and installations, reminding viewers of Hong Kong’ magnificent skylines and street scenes. Her artistic inspiration? None other than her father, who used to watch classic Hong Kong movies with the prodigy.

Yuen’s exhibition lasts until 31 March 2020 at Contemporary by Angela Li. More about her work can be found here.

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2. Louis To, the Sugarman

Also preserving a piece of old Hong Kong with his craft is Louis To, a candy artist who moulds molten sugar into animal and magical creature figurines. Candy moulding has been a traditional Chinese craft for around 600 years. Candy artists knead, blow into, twist, cut and shape molten maltose into colourful dragons, flowers and farm animals, and sell the delicate confessionary as street snacks to the masses. But as there are more and more street snacks and sweets imported overseas, candy moulding is now a dying craft. To is one of the last “candy men” in Hong Kong. Coming from a humble family, he didn’t have any toys when he was small. But the young child was undeterred. He observed candy artists and learnt to make his own candy toys, and he has been honing his skills since then. Now he has a small shop with a little red cart in Cheung Chau, where he still sculpts away, and brings joy to curious tourists, small children and nostalgic locals yearning for a taste of the past.

More about To’s work can be found here.

3. Hoi Chiu, the Sandman

Hoi Chiu’s art isn’t edible, but it doesn’t last either. The sand artist, previously a jack-of-all-trades, couldn’t let go of his childhood passions for drawing and storytelling, and decided to work with sand. Who would have thought that what started as online research and experimentation at the beach as a hobby would lead to a profession in sand painting and live painting performances? Hoi has collaborated with other artists, including local singer Eason Chan, and performed alongside French pianist twosome Duo Jatekok in The Butterfly Lovers at Le French May 2018. He loves the fragility of the finished piece, and the light and shadow that sand creates. Yet unlike Sugarman who revels in his candies being eaten by smiling customers, Hoi likes preserving his unique sand paintings and live performances in animations.
More about Chiu's work can be found here.

4. Inkgo Lam and Ginkgo leaves

Inkgo Lam also works with a natural element – leaves. The leaf artist names herself after the plant Ginkgo, a tree believed will lead people to a blessed life. In 2013, the CUHK Fine Art major chanced upon a Ginkgo tree. She was drawn to a fallen leaf’s colours and variation. Since then, she has been collecting leaves from various cities to include in her works, which have been featured in China and Ukraine. This year, Lam has been invited to exhibit her latest work in Metropolis Museum, a new museum focusing on classic masterpieces opened in Wong Chuk Hang in March. Imagining and reconstructing the impressions of classical art, she responds to Impressionist icon Claude Monet’s paintings in the museum’s inaugural exhibition.
Lam’s exhibition is held from 23 March to 5 September 2020. More about her work can be found here.

See also: The Tatler Guide To Art Galleries In Wong Chuk Hang & Aberdeen

5. 葉家偉 Alexis Ip, the Fotomo inventor

葉家偉 Alexis Ip’s art isn’t photos, but it isn’t models either—it’s Fotomo (“photo” and “model”). It’s a technique influenced by Dadaists’ photomontages. Yip handcrafts each of his pieces by cutting, layering and piecing together a collage of photographs, a medium usually perceived flat. The result is a three-dimensional photo-model. The local arts teacher loves capturing old neighbourhoods, traditional industries and festivals. Many of his pieces are like pop-up storybook pages that envelope the metropolis’ humble quotidian scenes and stories, such as a fruit stall or Stanley’s Hop Yick Stall. In 2009, his Fotomo work Hong Kong Image, Fa Yuen Street won the Hong Kong Contemporary Arts Award.
Yip’s work is featured in Blue Lotus Gallery.

See also: The Factory: How 6 Hong Kong Artists Transformed Industrial Buildings Into A Buzzing Creative Community

6. Polo Bourieau, father of the Mirror Man

Have you ever walked around Central and ran into a man who’s constantly in reflection? This man, in a deep-thinking pose, reflects. Literally. The life-size sculpture is made of mirror polished stainless steel by French-born sculptor Polo Bourieau, who loves Hong Kong egg tarts and now travels between his Italian workshop and Hong Kong studio in Kennedy Town. Bourieau studied Art at the Accademie of Nantes before joining “Compagnons du Tour de France”, the renowned French stone masons guild. When he moved to Hong Kong in 2003, he was fascinated by the multicultural city’s identity crisis. He made a series of mirror humanoids, all blending in with the environment they were placed in: a bamboo theatre, noodle shop, tram roads and etc. While passersby look at the Reflecting Man, which still stands in Central as if waiting for a taxi on the Arbuthnot Road slope, are they looking at just another “passerby”, an artwork, or themselves?
More about Bourieau's work can be found here.

7. Trevor Yeung and his Botanic Garden

Trevor Yeung’s workshop is more like a greenhouse than a studio, where he has collected as many as 200 plants. All this greenery isn’t decoration, however, it’s art. Yeung is fascinated with botanic ecology, horticulture and photography. For a decade, he has been using plants and animals in his installations and sculptures – an aquarium of live fish for instance. His work projects emotional and intellectual scenarios on biological substitutes to explore human relationship and his limitations in sociability. “Intimacy is important in my artworks, and not only intimacy between the audience and the artworks, but also between myself and the material.” He says in a Tatler interview last year. Despite his self-alleged shyness, the HKBU Visual Arts graduate has had his works displayed in both solo and group exhibitions around Asia, Europe and America since 2008. He is about to finish his artist-in-residence programme in Singapore, and will return to Hong Kong for a new group show, where his wild imagination continues to brew – inspired by nineteenth-century occultists this time, apparently.

Anonymous Society for Magick will be shown at Blindspot Gallery from 11 April to 23 May 2020. More about Yeung's work can be found here.

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