Creative Forces - Adrian Wong
約翰百德 (John BATTEN)
at 12:56pm on 17th December 2012
1. Adrian Wong, Exhibition Installation View.
2. Adrian Wong, Two to the East, One to the West, 2012, Latex on plywood, 116x154cm.
3. Adrian Wong, Solitary Confinement, 2012, Steel, body paint, latex, plywood, and stain, 144 x 73 x 73 cm.
4. Adrian Wong, Gilbert's Downward Gaze, 2012, Oak, laminate, artificial plants, artificial leather, vinyl, and foam, Dimensions variable (96 x 242 cm as installed).
5. Adrian Wong, The Ballad of Claude and Mary-Ellen, 2012, Steel, latex, balsa, artificial grass, fluorescent lamp, 143 x 93 x 78 cm.
All images courtesy of Saamlung, Hong Kong.
Soon after arriving in Hong Kong after graduating with a Master of Fine Arts degree in 2005, American artist Adrian Wong rented a large studio, reputedly haunted and therefore cheap, amongst other artists’ studios in Fotan. His entrée into Hong Kong’s art scene was rapid due to his gregarious personality and a sculptural practice that drew ideas and practical help from Fotan’s engineering workshops and the assistance of nearby artists.
Wong arrived at a fortuitous moment in Hong Kong’s art development with rising government support, sponsored opportunities for artists and new galleries searching to represent smart, young, confident artists - Wong perfectly fitted in.
His progressively ambitious exhibitions began with A Fear is This at 1aspace in 2007 and sculptural, animatronic installations in the high-profile A Passion for Creation at the Hong Kong Museum of Art in 2009. He recently installed two rooms in the Phantoms of Asia exhibition at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco: one room based on ‘correct’ fung shui principles while another was its ‘incorrect’ opposite. Wong’s sharp eye for society’s details results in art of uniquely accessible conceptual quirkiness often dealing with cultural taboos that draws on his own American upbringing and as the son of Hong Kong-born parents.
A collaborative suite of photographs, Affective Portraits, with photographer David Boyce, exhibited earlier this year revealed Wong’s depth of psychological enquiry. These confronting images depict a range of extreme emotions - despair, anger, sadness - everything, but happiness. Wong’s interest in psychology, emanating from undergraduate studies, has led to an interest in the emotional behaviour of animals, of which some ideas are artistically depicted in his current exhibition.
This latest ‘collaborative’ project, Rodentia in Absentia, at Saamlung acknowledges the artist’s “sincere gratitude to: Michael, Claude, Mary-Ellen, Belinda, Charles, Colette, Gilbert, Maxine, and Sheldon for their participation.” The exhibition includes the involvement of Michael the rabbit, a pair of hamsters and thirteen rats. Each animal contributes their instincts, gnawing teeth and latent artistic flair in each of Wong’s exhibited artwork.
The exhibition consists of a series of self and assistant-made objects that are elaborate rat enclosures and rabbit hatches, actually lived in by Wong’s furry collaborators. Their design is based on traditional Chinese patterning and particularly the ubiquitous floor and wall tile patterns and decorative wooden detailing seen in Hong Kong’s cha chan teng.
The animals were encouraged to add their own unique elements to these objects by Wong encouraging certain actions through painting and gnawing by placing honey and cheese for his collaborators to eat. The resulting artistic input includes squiggly abstract lines painted by rats’ feet and exposed raw wood eaten by hamsters. Michael’s carrot eating over a ten-day period is memorialised in an elaborately constructed rabbit hatch decorated with replica carrots moulded into the shapes of the remnants of Michael’s daily carrot meals.
Rodentia in Absentia does not elicit a dismissive “even my dog could do it” school of art deprecation as Wong intelligently uses his animal collaborators to extend the conceptual possibilities of his own art making.
Exhibition: Adrian Wong - Rodentia in Absentia
Date: 23.11.2012 – 2.2.2013
A version of this review was published in the South China Morning Post on 16 December 2012.