Identity Art Gallery
Those who know Kurt Tong only as a photographer are in for a surprise with his new show at Identity Art Gallery. The Hong Kong-born artist, who lived in the UK for 23 years before moving back here in 2012, worked as a photojournalist before becoming a fine art photographer. The solo exhibition "Echoed Visions", for which he has heavily referenced contemporary art history, arguably marks his full-on debut as an installation artist.
"In this show, I've purposefully appropriated a lot of ideas from very famous artworks. Art is just echoes of what came before us," says Tong.
"My evolution as an artist has led me to this show. Up until I started on this show, my approach for each project was still [only] about photography, but I've kind of really struggled with the idea of using photography as a medium - for 10 years, and it's not just me."
Tong remembers having the same discussion, about the value of photographic prints and the impact of social media on photography, at every photo festival he has attended in recent years. According to the artist, all the works in this show are in response to issues that he's come across in the past two and a half years.
To contemplate the editioning policy of photographic prints, Tong has created three replicas - respectively as a watercolour, an oil painting and a Chinese painting - of the shot that launched his career in Europe. As a reference to American sculptor Carl Andre's floor pieces, and to make his point that "all art is replicable, and thus not precious", Tong is placing the new works on the gallery floor for visitors to walk on.
Apart from appropriating Tracey Emin with a big neon sign of a quote taken from the archives of the photographic museum George Eastman House ("Take a breath, approach the object in a calm and relaxed manner"), Tong has referenced British artist, Damien Hirst, to tackle copyright issues in the internet era. He does that with a piece consisting of a cured pig's head in a block of resin, which visitors are advised to take and share photos of via their smartphones.
"It all stems from the days when I was a photojournalist, when I used to think I'm getting to the reality but, looking back, it was actually just scratching the surface," says Tong on his new practice in mixed-media conceptual art. "I prefer to make works that pose questions instead of giving answers. And I think with where I'm going, I'm doing that."
Identity Art Gallery, 53 Tung Street, Sheung Wan, Tuesday-Saturday, 11am-7pm. Ends March 29. Inquiries: 2540 5353