Walking into Celine Setiadi’s exhibition is an electrifying experience, the bright white walls of Artspace 1999 in Wan Chai the perfect backdrop for the artist’s eye- and mind-popping works. Densely populated Hong Kong is also the ideal city for her show, “Negotiations”, which explores the role of space and the struggles and compromises that two bodies must make to coexist within it. It is also somewhat of a homecoming. “I’m very happy that my first solo show is at home in Hong Kong,” says Setiadi, who lived in the city for most of her life before her career moved her abroad. “I never run out of creative energy here and there are even sentiments in this show that might be missed if you are not familiar with the dense, intense pace of Hong Kong life.” Artspace 1999 also aligns with Setiadi’s philosophy of supporting independent creatives. “The Foo Tak Building is truly one of the city’s hidden gems,” she says of the unpretentious creative spaces that occupy the tenement block on Hennessy Road. “I’m so thankful that spaces like these exist for new and varied voices in the arts.” It’s the sort of feedback Artspace 1999 founder Chino Ng thrives on. As an artist himself, he understands how important it is to provide a space that meshes. “There are many commercial galleries in Hong Kong but for me, that is a kind of ‘commercial selection’. I’m not saying that is not good but it seems a little bit too unitary,” says Ng. Ng says Setiadi’s work would be even more powerful if shown on a larger scale, a fitting comment for a show shaped around the theme of space and compromise, “but you know, space is always a concern in Hong Kong, no matter if it’s for living or creativity”. The exhibition includes a series called “Cocoon”, comprising black-and-white woodblock prints that Setiadi completed during lockdown, the bendy subject – a circus contortionist friend – the perfect metaphor for crammed, locked-in living. In Red Tape (2022), Setiadi employs her brush to highlight the struggles faced by migrant workers. “Many migrant workers found themselves in a state of limbo at the height of the pandemic, neither able to return to employment or to their home countries, stranded in the in-between with lots of red tape barring them from access to support,” she says. “Being Indonesian, I have always carried complicated feelings about migrant welfare in Hong Kong […] “I felt especially frustrated at situations that could have been prevented had we had better protections in place for vulnerable groups.” For Setiadi, whose work has been shown in Milan, Scotland and Chicago, art also plays a cathartic role. “In the middle of preparing for the show, I had a relapse into my autoimmune disorder, which slowed me down a bit,” she says. “I used to get really bummed when I had to put life on hold to manage health stuff but I’ve been fortunate to work with an expressive arts therapist who helped me learn to leverage my art practice as an anchor to get through difficult seasons. “It redefined my relationship to my work: I’m much more forgiving of myself.” As to where Setiadi sees herself in five years, the young artist pictures somewhere with paint – and maybe some fur. “Whatever I’m doing, I hope I’m still painting, and I hope I’m painting bigger paintings. I also hope I have pets.” “Negotiations” is showing at Artspace 1999, 10/F, Foo Tak Building, 365 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai, until March 26.