Hong Kong show for Japanese artists who play with the familiar

Winter Garden exhibition explores 'the micro-pop imagination in contemporary Japanese art'.

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 August, 2015, 10:59pm
UPDATED : Monday, 17 August, 2015, 10:59pm

Last week, there was great publicity in Hong Kong for the Japanese performance group Chim Pom attending the launch of a former textile manufacturer’s new museum space in Kwai Chung. They also appear in new group exhibition "Winter Garden" at the Hong Kong Arts Centre with a video that literally plays with fire.

That video,  Feelin’ like the guys make me hot 01, captures the six-member  collective jumping around like children in rapidly changing scenes depicting objects being set on fire, including a bicycle and a fence, forming words and messages.  

Fire can be  mesmerising, until tragedy hits. But even the recent devastating Tianjin chemical explosion, or the trauma of a forest fire, relate to  Chim Pom’s “modest” antics, as curator Midori Matsui reflects that the “power and warmth of fire reinstates the human connection to one of the primal forces of nature, through a modest breach of decorum in everyday life”.

The subtext for  “Winter Garden” explores “the micro-pop imagination in contemporary Japanese art”. The exhibition’s  13 participating artists and one art group generally use, or depict, and then reconfigure familiar daily objects in their art.

It is a surprisingly relevant  show, as many young Hong Kong artists have a similar approach to material in their own work. Particularly strong are the mildly humorous videos, all  in an easy-to-watch length.

Koki Tanaka’s videos are simple. The first,  Light My Fire, shows a lighted fuse, at times sparking and exploding, running along a landscape of dirt and rock in a continuous,  three-minute loop. His Turning the Lights On is similarly banal: just a series of clips of lights being turned on and rooms lighted. The simplicity of such repeated daily actions makes for seductive watching and takes on greater significance by building a visual depiction of “the interdependence between objects and the human mind”.

Painting is also well represented in the exhibition.  Hiroshi Sugito uses subtle geometrical patterning in his naïve-looking paintings.  Keisuke Yamamoto takes a similarly dreamy approach to depict water and earth inhabited by plants and insects within a plane of colour built by beautiful layering  oil paint and pencil.

Winter Garden, Hong Kong Arts Centre, 2 Harbour Road, Wan Chai. Until August 30. Inquiries: 2582 0200