Artist Alex Ma's duplicitous tale of two cities

Alex Ma blends his birthplace Hong Kong and his home Sydney in a celebration of universality

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 January, 2013, 2:26pm

Photographer Alex Ma, 61, is a cheat, and he wants you to know it.

"I'm cheating your eyes," said the Hong Kong-born, Australia-based artist, who is back this week for a solo show in the design gallery at Polytechnic University in Hung Hom.

His trick is to take a photo of a street scene in Hong Kong and then find a similar situation in Sydney. He joins the two images together to create a single image. It is difficult to tell where one city stops and the other begins, which is one of Ma's goals - to show the dual identities of Sydney and Hong Kong through the deception of technology.

"It's to reflect the lifestyle of the two cities, which have a similar history, size of population and weather," he said. "And we both have a very nice harbour."

Both cities were home to large migrant populations, which created a multicultural landscape, Ma said.

"Ninety per cent of my photos are of people, and even though they are different places, the photos create an illusion they live in one place, one world."

Ma moved to Sydney in 1985 to work as an art director, and last year the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Sydney asked him to create an artwork for the 15th anniversary of the handover.

He created an image merging the skylines of Hong Kong Island with the Sydney Harbour Bridge, starting a more comprehensive series of doctored cityscapes.

One particularly arresting image shows protesters taking to the streets to voice their anger about a particular issue. The left side shows Hongkongers marching along Hennessy Road protesting against Article 23 legislation, while the right side shows an anti-racism march down Pitt Street, a main artery of Sydney's CBD. "They are both international cities, both are growing, both have people from all over the world," Ma said.

He is completing a doctorate at Sydney University on how propaganda art during the Chinese cultural revolution affected contemporary Chinese art.