Hutchison Whampoa

Requiem for Matter

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 November, 2007, 12:00am

Hong Kong Arts Centre

Dec 4-17, daily, 10am-8pm

Jiao Xingtao's sculptures are larger than life. His biggest work is a 6.5-metre-tall, blue shopping bag installed in his native city, Chongqing. Now his monumental work is coming to Hong Kong, in Requiem for Matter, which gathers 30-odd sculptures by the 37-year old that explore consumerism, from a blue Watsons bag and an orange Hermes box to a Wrigley's gum wrapper.

Jiao questions people's appetite for acquiring ever greater quantities of material goods. 'Carrying a shopping bag is a daily activity, but by blowing it up to a monumental scale I can evoke a different feeling,' says Jiao, an associate professor at the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute's sculpture department. 'My art isn't about going shopping, it's about contemplating one's existence and looking at yourself.'

His sculptures are made of materials such as fibreglass, bronze, stainless steel, wood and white marble. The largest work shown in the exhibition is a box that stands 2.5 metres tall and weighs nearly 800kg; the smallest sculpture is a 40cm piece of bubblegum.

'I wanted to display big sculptures in a limited space,' Jiao says. 'They show the tension of being in an enclosed, stressful environment such as Hong Kong.'

His work has been shown at the National Art Museum of China in Beijing, the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul, the Hermes Museum in Paris, and in Germany and Japan.

He creates his gigantic sculptures in a traditional fashion, meticulously carving out clay to make large moulds. In Watsons, a one-metre-tall, crumpled, teal-blue replica of the retail chain's ubiquitous plastic bag, Jiao has carved each crease, fold, wrinkle and groove in fibreglass.

Although the works closely resemble original objects, Jiao says he subtly alters each piece. Green Diary (left), a Wrigley's chewing gum wrapper crumpled into a large ball, alludes to Jiao's attempts to quit his 19-year smoking habit. 'I chewed gum for two to three months, trying to subdue my need for nicotine. And I came to realise that gum [and its wrapper] was a beautiful object of art,' he says.

In Orange, a Hermes box is folded and torn out of shape to replicate the brand's horse and carriage logo. In his book, Matter Morphosis, he says: 'The first time I saw this box, I found it so bright and glaring that I practically had to squint to look at it. So I threw it onto the ground and gave it a good trampling.'

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