In/visible 現

Dive into the deep blue, Hao Lap-yan Benjamin (photo courtesy of the gallery and the artist)

《潛進深藍之中》Dive into the deep blue, Hao Lap-yan Benjamin (photo courtesy of the gallery and the artist)

(下見中文)To read between the lines of a literary text, we try to understand the underlying meaning. In this exhibition, reading between the visible and invisible lines is more than cracking the untold code. Beyond colours, forms, or even spaces between the Chinese characters in the painting, there is something about the artists. “In/visible” is a joint exhibition of Hao Lap-yan Benjamin and Chan Sai-lok at the A.lift Gallery.

Three years after graduating from Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology co-presented by Hong Kong Art School, Benjamin Hao has his works presented at art fairs and participated a few exhibitions. However, his tanned skin and floral printed shorts suggest that he is not satisfied only to stay in his studio.  Hao enjoys hiking and observing the nature not like a scientist but an adventurer. What influenced him was a residency program in Iceland two years ago when he decided to emerge in the wild for two weeks. He fished for his supper and it went out surprisingly smoothly. He caught one every five minutes which reminded him not to take more than he needed.

Some take nature as a place for relaxation, while Hao takes it as a sampling field. He documents all sorts of living organisms and sceneries by rubbing a piece of paper on a rock and taking pictures of a dragonfly. As he gets closer to the soil, he bonds closer with his homeland. In his previous paintings, Hao depicted ferns, branches, insects and rocks commonly found in Hong Kong to express his sense of belongings. Hao says, “Pattern in totems taken from nature and natural colourings represent culture. I found that Hong Kongers tend to separate local culture from the nature of the city. Roads and cement have disguised the natural colour of our earth and thus blocked our connection with the soil.” That is why Hao has an ongoing project of making papers with local plants to demonstrate the Hong-Kongness in a sheet of A4 paper.

In “In/visible”, there are portrayals of nature from his own experience. Dive into the deep blue is an aerial view of the rocks at the seaside offering a cooling effect in hot summer. Hao admits, “I pick common objects that viewers can associate with. They can relate their own experience to mine. When I search for a place for my painting, I go back and forth frequently. Sometimes, other hikers would ask what I was doing, and I would take this opportunity to tell them my ideas and learn from them about local plants and things.”

Calming colours and organic forms dominate Hao’s paintings. On the other side of the exhibition space, the unemotional squarish Chinese characters in Chan Sai-lok’s works juxtapose a nice contrast. What brings them together is the blurred boundaries between visible and invisible. “Benjamin and I share a common practice that our works look implicit and quiet,” explains Chan. “Hao’s works are a representation of nature while mine are a representation of text.”

Criss-crossing between literature and visual art, Chan is also an art critic and educator. Hence, it is not surprising to know that he has several “creation lines” at the moment. “One focuses on material and form – I explore materials like silk and transparent film as well as forms like irregular shaped dots in regular pattern. To me, this approach provides a certain assurance of the outcome.” says Chan. In his work My City (Black, White, Red), three sentences from a 70s novel echoing the identities of nowadays Hong Kong were correspondingly painted and framed in black, red and white. Squares of the same colour tone were painted in an orderly fashion between the lines. The incomplete Chinese characters etched on the acrylic board are meant to be recognised only by those who have read the novel. He feels that viewers have an active role in the process of art interpretation and appreciation.

Chan’s more preferred creation line is the mixing of painting with Chinese characters as demonstrated in City/ Village. When asked if he poses himself a mission to emphasise literature through his paintings, Chan simply denies, “I like literature and this is how I perceive the world. My works represent what I read. ” At the same time, he shares his aspiration to showcase novels or prose in visual art exhibition. Perhaps the artist has a vision to integrate both art forms, instead of promoting either.

On the visible side, Hao is interested in local landscape while Chan breathes with local literature. Both artists coincidentally use “no rush” to describe their aesthetic practices: Hao cannot rush when he intensively observes nature and paints layer upon layer of acrylic; Chan does not want to rush despite his packed teaching schedule. It indeed takes time to make art. Beyond the depiction on the paintings lies their patience and precipitation of thoughts about Hong Kong’s identity.

對於文本,字裏行間可隱藏意義。郝立仁與阿三於提畫廊的聯展「現」中,在視覺藝術作品「見與不見」之間也可發掘不被畫面宣揚的意思,從顏色、形狀或甚至中文字的空間認識藝術家的創作理念。

郝立仁於澳洲皇家墨爾本理工大學修讀繪畫,畢業後三年間其作品已多次於藝術展出現,亦參與數個聯展個展,但從黝黑膚色和印花短褲看出,他應該不常躲在工作室。確然他喜歡行山,郊遊時實地觀察大自然,甚至於前年冰島駐住交流期間化身冒險王,深入野外整整兩星期。他垂釣求生,卻竟然每五分鐘便釣上一尾魚,更使他體會不應多取於自己所需。

大部分人走到大自然放輕鬆,郝氏則從中採集創作材料,以記錄方式蒐集構成自然風景的各種動植物,他會為石紋拓印、將鏡頭對準蜻蜓拍下很多照片。他愈是接近泥土,對家愈產生歸屬感,故此他曾描繪本地常見的蕨類、樹枝、昆蟲、石頭,把香港的郊野納入創作。郝氏表示:「圖騰的圖案是大自然的符號,染料是當地的自然顏色,都極具文化性;我卻覺得香港人會把這地的特質與本土文化分割。正如道路遮蓋了泥土,瀝青隱藏了泥土本身的顏色,也好像隔絕了人和土地的關係。」郝氏另一個持續創作項目,正是採集本地的花草做紙,為一頁A4紙注入香港顏色和氣味。

在「現」展覽中,郝氏的作品展示了從實地體驗以至內心投射得來的自然觀景,如《潛進深藍之中》以俯瞰角度繪畫海邊岩石,為炎夏帶來涼快感覺。郝氏坦言:「作品主體通常是一般常見的物件,觀眾總可找到與我類似的經驗,與作品更親近。一旦找到創作的合適地方,我會頻頻出入該地,有行山者問我在做甚麼,我會解釋創作理念,並趁機向他們請教本土植物和有關的事情。」

郝氏的畫面顏色舒坦、呈有機線條,與同場並置的作品呈現對比——阿三的作品載着無情感、中文方塊字,排列筆直卻隱約帶點變化。回應展覽主題,以可見與不見之間的含糊界線把兩者連繫,阿三解釋:「我想我們的創作意念、氣質都很近,是較平靜和含蓄的。如果說他的作品是表現大自然,我的作品在於表現文本。」

阿三身兼藝評與教育工作者,慣於遊走文學、視覺藝術之間;多棲藝術家坦言現正實踐幾條「創作線」,他說:「首先是物料和形式的探索——例如我開始取絹本和透明膠片作重叠,又會嘗試以不規則形狀的點整齊排列。對我而言,這種方式較能掌握出來的效果。」作品《我城》選取了七十年代同名小說的三句,分別放於黑、白、紅的框和絹面上,句子意思正好回應今時今日香港的身分問題,而行與行之間繪有同色系的正方形,在亞加力膠片刻上不完整的文字是藝術家的用意,他只想與讀過此文本的觀眾產生共鳴,又或是期望觀眾應該主動解讀和欣賞作品。

第二條創作線是阿三較為喜歡的——繪畫配合文字,就如作品《城╱鄉》。當他被問及是否使命感使然,欲透過視覺推廣文學,他斬釘截鐵否認:「我喜歡文學,這是我理解事物的方式,我的作品旨在表達我所閱讀的文本。」另一邊廂,阿三則構思以視覺藝術形式展示小說文本,可能他着眼糅合兩種藝術只屬個人意念,而非在於推廣任何一方。

從畫面上看,郝氏喜歡探索本土風景,阿三則熟悉本土文學。談到創作過程,二人卻異口同聲說「急不了」,一個走入大自然觀察和等候塑膠彩一層層風乾,一個身兼多職揚言「不想急」;說穿了,似乎在畫面背後看不見的是耐性,藉時間讓他們對香港身分的反思沉澱。

《城╱鄉》 City  Village by Chan Sai-lok

《城╱鄉》 City Village, Chan Sai-lok (photo courtesy of the gallery and the artist)

 The edited article was published in a.m. post August edition.

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