Is greed good? For artist couple Clara Cheung Ka-lai and Gum Cheng Yee-man, the desire for more has helped them double the size of C&G Artpartment - their independent art space cum studio in Prince Edward - which they set up less than 18 months ago. As well as teaching, the duo now run their duplex gallery, curate their own shows and create art.
'It might be because of greediness that we finally got here,' says Cheng at their new exhibition, Greedy?, which opened yesterday. 'I admit I'm a greedy man. You are bound to be greedy if you are really into something ... you indulge your passion.'
With the global financial crisis in full swing, the two want to explore the many aspects of greed. They roped in four other young artists - Movana Chen Li-yun, Jaspar Lau Kin-wah, Jeff Leung Chin-fung and Michael Lee Hong Hwee - to help them with their investigation.
The show will feature seven artworks including painting, installation, sculpture, video and photo-print.
None of the group are full-time artists, which, according to Cheng, demonstrates the 'typical kind of greedy artists who want to have it all at once'.
The artists' brief is to give their interpretation on what it means to be greedy. Artist-curator Chen is known for her clothes made out of shredded paper strips. For Body Container, she collected investment brochures from different banks, tore out pages and shredded them into strips to make her pieces.
Cheung says the works are a humorous commentary on how desperate some financial institution are in trying to solicit business through giving out handbills, which under the current economic climate nobody wants. So Chen collects piles of them to make into outfits.
Cheung, too, has taken a light-hearted and playful approach to an otherwise serious topic in her work Self Portrait - In Search of a Sense of Security, featuring an old-fashioned toy in the shape of a human that is surrounded by bubbles. The piece plays on the irony that people rely on something they do not know about to gain security.
'I often feel insecure, like someone surrounded by bubbles. While it feels nice to be cushioned, these bubbles are fragile and can burst easily at any time,' she says.
The works by locally based Singaporean artist Lee, art critic Lau and artist-curator Leung are more conceptual.
Lee's A Loser's Respite comes from his project The Consolation of Museology. In this three-part piece, which includes a pop-up book installation, he looks at the so-called 'multi-disciplinary artist' phenomenon, citing himself as an example.
'I responded to this theme by looking back into my portfolio,' he says.
'Rather than [delving into] the notion of greed in social terms or in relation to what's happening in the financial sector, I am exploring the notion of multi-hyphenate artists, artists who do this and that, the so-called greedy artists, using autobiographical and self depreciative humour. That behind this multi-hyphenate [artist] is a very messy studio and, basically, a messy life,' Lee says.
Cheung says Lau's contribution has been shrouded in secrecy but his Greedy? Projects will not only explore the social implications of the financial meltdown but also respond to the other artists' works. In addition he will look at the idea of ownership and question whether it is someone's right or greed for possession.
Probably the most intriguing of all is Leung's Sale of the Artist's Interpretation (2002), which is not an artwork at all but a 'legal agreement' to buy the right to interpret his work for a limited period of time: HK$1,000 for a year and HK$500 for a month.
'During the agreed period, the buyer has the right to give an interpretation to the works I create during that time,' the artist says, adding that once that period expires, so does the interpretation.
'This concept is relevant to the financial crisis in that, just like some of the dubious investment products, I am selling something that appears to be there but, in fact, doesn't really exist,' says Leung.
His other work ART Supports ART features several collection boxes on a table which Leung uses to accumulate money for his future artworks. This 'work' plays on the term 'accumulator', which is a form of investment products offered by financial institutions.
While admitting he may be a 'greedy artist', Cheng says that most of the time local artists are left with no choice but to take on many jobs to survive.
'For me, if I have the choice not to deal with the business and administration side of arts, I'd much prefer to be an artist focusing on my creative work,' he says. 'But working in Hong Kong, I don't have other options.'
'Hong Kong's arts scene is not very healthy, almost everybody knows that,' says Cheung. 'Under these circumstances, many artists are trying their best to make a change, but the sad thing is their hard work doesn't seem to pay off.'
Additional reporting by Kevin Kwong
Greedy?, Thu-Mon, 2pm-7.30pm, 3/F, 222 Sai Yeung Choi St South, Prince Edward, Kowloon. Inquiries: 2390 9332. Ends Jan 23