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Whimsical world of symbolism: Choi Jeong Hwa exhibition

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 November, 2012, 11:18am

Choi Jeong Hwa might not yet be a household name in Hong Kong, though many will have seen the Korean artist's giant red lotus at ArtHK last May. His first solo exhibition here opened yesterday, at K11 Art Mall in Tsim Sha Tsui.

Inspired by everyday life, Choi makes oversized objects from moulded plastics, including inflatable sculptures. "I don't make art for museums or collectors and galleries, I make it for everyone," he says. "I reference common, recognisable, bright objects. Often, I make them oversized, so children find them playful and adults can remember what it felt like to be a child."

The exhibition, titled "Love. Sweet. Life" sees three of his pieces scattered around the mall. Some beg for audience inclusion, such as Life, Life, which will be visible through a glass window to those walking through the MTR walkway. Choi will inflate and hang a series of balloons. Then, the public can choose to add theirs to the installation. Over time the balloons will deflate and fall to the ground. The artwork changes over time, without the artist's control.

Outside the mall, passers-by can see Love Me, a large inflatable pig with moving wings, who bows in greeting.

"The pig can't fly," he says. "It is stuck bowing at us. In Korea, like here, pigs symbolise wealth, fortune and luck."

The work references another of his from 1995 called About Being Irritated. "It was an inflatable robot that kept falling down, representing frustration at life, work, modern society, and our pressures."

The installation, Sweet Sweet is a tree made from silicon copies of Korean sweets. "The piece is really about temptation, because sweets are made to look attractive, but all that sugar is actually bad for you. I want the audiences to decide, is it sweet and lovely or is it a dangerous treat?"

Despite their fun appearance, Choi's works question the cycle of life, daily pressures and our own ability to affect things. "I'm questioning the value of art. Something seemingly worthless can be art, and vice versa."

There's an element of chaos to his ideas, and he loves bustling local markets, which he sites as a main source of inspiration.

"The market is busy and chaotic, complicated and unorganised. Likewise, a giant pig in a mall makes no sense, but it's there," he says. "Recognisable objects make my work approachable. I try to break down the boundaries that often deter audiences."

A room in the boutique Windsor Hotel in Nice, France named after Choi, has an installation of his titled Cosmos. On Shodo island in Japan, he plans to create an installation visible to passing ships, and in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, he will turn the loot from a beach clean-up with schoolchildren into art. There will be another collaboration in Nice in 2014, at the Marc Chagall Museum. "Public art is my future because I want my art to live among the people," he says.

Choi's works are at K11 Art Mall, 18 Hanoi Road, Tsim Sha Tsui until January 25

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