Embark! Beyond the Horizon

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 June, 2013, 9:34am

Oi! (Oil Street Art Space) Oi! - the Leisure and Cultural Services Department's first dedicated space for contemporary art - has opened in the newly renovated original buildings of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, built in 1908.

Officially known as the Oil Street Art Space, it will inevitably be compared to the adjacent, now demolished, Oil Street Government Supplies buildings that briefly housed Hong Kong's first arts cluster in the late 1990s.

The atmosphere of the new space is unfortunate; it should lighten the security and add tables and chairs in its courtyard.

This inaugural group exhibition, "Embark!", draws on the location's association with water. With good curatorial support, the four participating artists explore the topic through different approaches. In Cédric Maridet's darkened room are four spot-lit turntables, their mechanical components exposed, showing the operations that constantly turn long-playing records. Shadows cast onto the walls are static, but successfully counterpoint the low ebbing bass.

If Maridet surrounds his space with sound, then Yuan Gong's mist and fog installation, Together (left), is the water equivalent. Soft blasts of water vapour are gratifying, but the installation is too literal, merely using the building's facade as the background. These whirls of mist lack substance and are just a momentary, albeit pleasant, respite from the summer heat.

Tang Kwok-hin's Before Rain After is a series of simultaneous videos depicting plastic containers placed outside to catch rain and the artist incongruously sitting cross-legged boiling a kettle of water. Tang links the struggle for those lacking clean running water alongside the fact that water evaporates when boiled. This cycle is endless, and water is always unevenly distributed.

Tsang Kin-wah's videos of rain, rising water, flooding and destruction could be one of Hong Kong's past devastating typhoons. But the relentless, terrifying surge of water is footage of the tsunami after Japan's Tohoku earthquake in 2011. Tsang depicts the horror precisely: the fearful birds flying across a scene of increasing carnage with the screaming wind as the denouement.

John Batten

Until August 18