Xenia Hausner portrays cage homes at her Hong Kong Arts Centre exhibition

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 June, 2014, 10:49pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 June, 2014, 11:10pm

Hong Kong Arts Centre


Xenia Hausner goes to great heights in the name of art. For Cage People, one of the paintings in her latest exhibition "Look Left — Look Right", her first solo show in Hong Kong, the Austrian artist, attached to a safety belt, hovered three metres above her subjects for up to eight hours a day.

"I would stay on the platform and paint for as long as the subjects below could stand being squeezed into the box. The colourful paint would drip down on them — it was an interesting experience for all involved," she says of the piece that references people in Hong Kong who live in cramped and filthy metal cage dwellings, some just 1.8 metres by 0.75 metres.

Hausner creates her brightly coloured, large-scale pieces with real models — mostly women.

"I recreated a cage in my Vienna studio, much like you would on a stage, but using a cardboard box and furnishing it with items found in the city. The girls — an art student and a music student — had to squeeze into it. The only difference is that my cage is occupied by a Western woman and a Chinese woman."

Themes of loneliness, injury and love shine through the show. But the most obvious message is that of East meeting West.

"The dialogue of East and West — left and right — inspires me. While in Hong Kong, I loved looking at all the traffic signage in Chinese and English, and how it reflects the diverse and contrasting lives of people here, and the different social and ethnic groups," says Hausner, who calls Vienna and Berlin home.

Taking elements from various environments and turning them into a new, fragmented reality is what Hausner does best. In one painting, three Western women stand in front of a North Korean propaganda poster; in another, an Asian and a European schoolgirl sit before a Coca-Cola sign.

With a theatre background (she designed sets for more than 100 productions, including at Vienna's Burgtheater and London's Covent Garden), it's no surprise that her works have a dramatic quality.

Hausner also plans to take the exhibition to Beijing.


Pao Galleries, Hong Kong Arts Centre, 2 Harbour Road, Wan Chai, daily 10am-8pm. Ends June 29. Inquiries: 2582 0200