Upclose: David Jasper Wong
David Jasper Wong has taken a step away from his established, abstract style to revisit a pop-art inspired aesthetic in “Victoria Crime,” a chilling joint exhibition at Artify Gallery featuring works that reinterpret the inner lives of four high-profile Hong Kong murderers. Speaking to Evelyn Lok, Wong sheds light on Hong Kong’s first serial killer, the “Jars Murderer” Lam Kor-wan.
HK Magazine: “Victoria Crime” opened last week, on the first day of “Ghost Month.” The topic of murderers is more taboo than ever, especially in Hong Kong: Did you feel comfortable exploring this theme?
David Jasper Wong: I’ve wanted to explore the theme of murder [in my work] for a long time, even while I was studying. Two pieces by Andy Warhol also resonated with me very strongly: “Electric Chair” and “Thirteen Most Wanted Men,” but 20 years ago too many people were doing pop art, so I stayed away from it. With this chance to do it in Hong Kong, I never hesitated.
HK: What interested you about the “Jars Murderer” Lam Kor-wan in particular?
DJW: Around the time the case happened, I was around 11 or 12 years old. It was constantly on the news. He was the first serial killer in Hong Kong: a Hong Kong legend. And the acts committed were terrifying. He killed four victims over the span of just more than a year. During my research, I found that there weren’t a lot of images available. I decided on using the killer’s portrait, because his face is already terrifying enough. It speaks for itself.
HK: Anything interesting you discovered during the research process?
DJW: Some murderers do it for a sense of excitement, but Lam Kor-wan was a collector. He collected womens’ sexual organs [in jars]. It wasn’t because of revenge, it was a mixture of being abused by his father as a child, being alienated, and having an early curiosity about sex. He probably already had a violent fantasy already, but just needed a trigger. I found that the court judge did not believe that he was mentally ill, and sentenced him to death row, but it was commuted to life imprisonment instead. [Lam Kor-wan is still serving his sentence today at Shek Pik.] It’s curious, whether this man was truly mentally ill or not. Everyone has a lot of subconscious thoughts, but he was actually brave enough to cross that line and act on his twisted imagination.
HK: What’s the concept behind the final product?
DJW: This was a chance to try the method of ink printing mixed with silkscreen. In this show, my four works outline the sequence of Lam Kor-wan’s crimes, labelled “Sex,” “Kill”, “Video” and “Film.” Each viewer may find that one of these resonates with something subconscious. The texture of the pieces are also full of noise, which adds to an illusory effect. It also represents the fact that it was raining during each of Lam’s crimes. I always find it’s best to make things blurrier: Things don’t have to be so clear, don’t have to be made perfect. I then mounted them on curved 3D boards—a little like in a house of mirrors. It’s a metaphor for people as well: You may appear to be a simple man, but looking at your reflection in the distorted mirror, you will see another version of yourself. I hope viewers will ask themselves: “Who are you?”
HK: What implications do you hope your work will have?
DJW: Hong Kong is not very open when it comes to sex. It’s considered taboo to talk about it, so perhaps that’s why this serial killer repressed a lot of his thoughts. I hope this exhibition can have an impact, so that [in the Hong Kong art scene] this topic, or other themes, can be explored as well. Artists can explore different aspects of humanity. It doesn’t always need to be about love, or pretty pictures.
Check out “Victoria Crime” through Sep 30. Artify Gallery, 10/F, Block A, Ming Pao Industrial Centre, 18 Ka Yip St., Chai Wan, 3543-1260.