Occupy Central

Ivy Ma gives portraits of Occupy protesters historical context

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 January, 2015, 10:04pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 January, 2015, 10:34pm

Gallery Exit


Ivy Ma's latest exhibition is a detour for the artist. Titled "Last Year", the works are photographs taken during the recent Occupy protests in the city.

"This series is important, because it is the first time that I have taken current events as my subject," says the 41-year-old.

"My work has always had history as its subject, and I am specifically interested in the dynamic relationship between people and the movement of history. How people maintain their own sense of self in the midst of so many events beyond their control is a question I am continually addressing in my work."

Shot with a smartphone then printed in black and white, Ma worked the images by hand, sanding away much of the detail before applying layers of colours and patterns. "I like to add something and take away something. It's about the process," she says. The end result is 40 individual portraits.

"I am trying to see how a present moment will very soon be a past moment and understand what this means. These hopeful and energetic young people who I am representing are both present and already past. They are speaking out, but will their voices be remembered?

"I am not speaking for them, or trying to memorialise them. Rather, I am interested in recording how a present moment is transformed into what we call 'history'," she says.

For much of her work, which combines photography and drawing, Ma takes historical photographs — film stills, family snapshots, images of objects in museums — and manipulates them. "I disrupt them by erasing, sanding, and overlaying random patterns to bring the images back to the present. By making them obscure we are forced to look again."

Ma's previous works have also followed a careful and caring format, touching on difficult history such as the aftermath of the atomic explosion in Hiroshima, to pieces of clothing found in Cambodia's Killing Fields, and the empty barracks of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

"I'm always fascinated by the distance between the present and the past, as well as how history is archived and presented to us in the now," she says.


Gallery Exit, 3/F, 25 Hing Wo Street, Tin Wan, Aberdeen, Tuesday-Saturday, 11am-6pm. Ends February 28. Inquiries: 25411299