Hundreds unite to draw on artist Song Dong's memories

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 January, 2013, 4:09am

More than 400 people aged eight to 80 gathered in Quarry Bay last night to rewrite history.

They were handed a paint box and brushes and asked to make their own mark on drawings that mainland artist Song Dong has created for his first Hong Kong solo exhibition, 36 Calendars, at ArtisTree in TaiKoo Place.

There are a total of 432 drawings for the 36 calendars, along with some written memoirs. From historic events and politics to pop culture and his own personal life, each drawing captures a moment that has had an impact on Song every month over 36 years, right into 2013.

But rather than an historic record, says the Beijing-born artist, "this is my story".

"It is my story, but my story cannot be detached from the society. I hope [this project] can renew the understanding of history," Song added.

The exhibition is a result of his residency at Hong Kong-based non-profit organisation Asia Art Archive, which is co-presenting the show along with West Kowloon Cultural District's visual culture museum M+.

Song's story begins at the start of 1978, the year he turned 12 and when China began its first reforms towards a market-oriented economy. His artistic career and family are recorded, but there are also drawings depicting a student protest in May 1989; the iconic image of a man standing in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square in June 1989; the "disappearance" of Ai Weiwei in April 2011.

There is also a sketch of an empty chair in December 2010 - the month when jailed activist Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace prize.

Hong Kong's "four heavenly kings" - Andy Lau Tak-wah, Jacky Cheung Hok-yau, Aaron Kwok Fu-shing and Leon Lai Ming - also made an impact on Song, back in July 1992.

Hong Kong artists Pak Sheung-chuen, Stanley Wong and the Museum of Art's chief curator Eve Tam were spotted among the 400 participants.

Pak, a conceptual artist, said he admired Song's works, which strike a chord with his own creations. "He adopts a human angle to look at this world, and he gives viewers space to admire his works," said Pak.

Song said he had high hopes for M+, even though its permanent home is yet to be built. The museum's acquisition of Swiss collector Uli Sigg's contemporary Chinese art collection last year also took up one of the drawings.

Hong Kong wasn't just one small city, added Song, but an international platform that played a part in the global force of change.

"Hong Kong is still a free city. Freedom is one of the greatest values here," said Song, winner of the Grand Award at the 2006 Gwanju Biennale in South Korea.

"No one should be punished for what they have said. And a society should be governed by the rule of law, not by sending out internal memos," he added.

The exhibition runs until February 8 and will then continue online.