Aura: A Visual Journal
Aura: A Visual Journal - William Lim
Fujimage Gallery, Hong Kong Arts Centre until August 28; Grotto Fine Art, September 14-October 1
Reviewed: August 14
From the art photography of Henry Peach Robinson to the 19th-century pictorialists and Aaron Siskind, painting and 'painterly' photography have always had a co-dependent relationship. Although this clash subsided in the last century, many artists still pursue hybrids of the two media.
William Lim, a Hong Kong architect, has turned his hand to photography with many painterly qualities. His work includes large-scale images on canvas, forms blurred by focus or movement, broad swathes of colour and so on. Ambitious and impressive, the work presents buildings and broader cityscapes shot straight on or in fragments, revealing a moody, atmospheric Hong Kong. Lim's primary concern is light, colour and architectural form, which, when combined with the print size and canvas base, creates a painting-like feel.
It's hard not to be sceptical of photography that borrows so much from another medium, especially when it's as formal and urban as Lim's. Because they're photos and not paintings they lack the power of the brush- stroke, appearing more cold and detached than exploratory. They attempt to be expressionistic and formal, but, with their heavily structured compositions, they seem to be missing passion and experimentation with process.
In the end, there's something superficial about the work that no amount of blur, ink or canvas can overcome. Because Lim doesn't quite take advantage of the power of either media, the images tend to fall into that noncommittal gap.
More significantly, they aestheticise Hong Kong's architecture in an attractive fashion, but are uninterested in the complexity of the city or its people - and scratching the surface for more will only expose a blank canvas.