MINDSCAPE: From paintings to mind-reading

“A painting on exhibition is like a printed book seeing the day, a play performed on the stage – anyone has the right to judge it.” – Art critic La Font, 1747

This statement, originally quoted by Habermas, may unfold a new layer of meaning in the case of AO Vertical art space. Artworks, mostly photographs, in AO Vertical’s exhibitions would indeed be a printed photo book seeing a sound business strategy that hits three birds – printing, publishing and retail – with one stone!

Since its launch in 2012, several photography exhibitions were mounted along the well-lit, air-conditioned staircase. This time, AO Vertical debuts an exhibition of a different medium by local artist Koon Wai-bong. Being part of the bundle, a publication of the same title “Mindscape” is put out of which a few earlier works are also featured. I have to admit Reworking the Classics in 2008 is my all-time favourite, and probably Koon’s too because “reworking the classics” has become his artistic concept since then and offers him a lot of local and international recognitions as a contemporary artist in Chinese painting.

Whispering Woods, 2013

Whispering Woods, 2013

In Mindscape, as the title suggested, Koon depicts landscapes of illusory scenes. If the work of art is a reflection of the creator’s temperament, Koon should have a complex (or multiplex) mind recently. Some paintings are of multiple panels like Standing à Deux and Peking Up in the Mist; both are polyptychs of sixteen and twenty-four panels respectively. They demonstrate familiar brushwork and subject matter seen in Koon’s oeuvres. However, unlike his previous works of well-balanced composition, foliage has over-grown, frames block imagination, vision is fragmented. Koon claimed monochromatism “essentially isolates my landscapes from any real scene.” I would counterclaim that these framed landscapes vividly associate with obstructed views, high-rise buildings and a dense population all too real to us.

Best of all, the most intriguing piece is yet to come. Four, a tetrapytch dated 2005, is the finale between seventh and eighth floors. Disproportionate patch of ink dominates yet appropriately devolves the centre of attention onto the cliff, the inverting trees and the movement of the breeze. It is a true reflection of the daring artist reworking the classics in contemporary approach.

All exhibits and a couple of teaching sketches occupy six out of ten floors across the vertical space yet the last few floors are some photography works and a projector hanger from the last exhibition. It looks somewhat random. Our viewing experience would be more cohesive and complete if they would have cleared as if leaving white space in Chinese painting.

Around the time of writing, Koon was also represented in Fine Art Asia by A. lift gallery. Apart from Mindscape and one more held in UK earlier this year, there are another solo exhibition at Grotto Fine Art and a group show at YY9 before he closes a fruitful year. The seal signifying Koon’s creation has become an assurance for an exchange of the dot indicating “sold”. No wonder the artist is in a complex state of mind; my mind-reading is somewhat accurate!

Visited Mindscape at AO Vertical on 8 Oct, 2013.

The edited article was also published in a.m post, Nov 2013 edition.

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