Art for thought displayed at the Hong Kong House’s Dialogue with Nature exhibition
- The “Hong Kong House” features artworks created in a collaboration between residents in Tsunan, Japan, Hong Kong and artist anothermountainman.
- Authentic and introspective, the artworks inspire the viewers to rethink human relationship with nature and savour every mindful moment in life.
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Under the theme Dialogue with Nature, two groups of artworks, Painting by God and A Bowl of Life, are displayed at the Hong Kong House, at the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale 2022. The driving force of this exhibition, renowned artist anothermountainman (Stanley Wong), was selected through an open call of proposal by the joint adjudication panel of Hong Kong and Japan in 2020.
Painting by God is a multi-faceted ongoing art project featuring installations, workshops, photography and sharing, while the A Bowl of Life project engages strangers from different locations in a ‘dialogue’ and stimulates them to contemplate life by symbolically featuring rice bowls as the planters for various floras.
“I chose these two projects because I wanted to take one step further beyond art exhibition and exchange. I wanted to bring out the views of nature from the Tsunan residents as well as those from the Hongkongers,” said anothermountainman. “With the projects as the starting point, coupled with the participation of residents of the two locations, I wanted to make the multimedia exhibition more three-dimensional and representative of multiple perspectives.”
Not only being an artist, anothermountainman also played an active role of curating: he led workshops with participating residents in Tsunan via live-streaming; photographed the plants grown in Hong Kong and selected the images for display; and engaged in conversations with the participants and shared his thoughts throughout the creative process both via live-streaming and by writing passages. All the thoughts and responses (trilingual in Japanese, Chinese and English) shared by the participants and anothermountainman are displayed in various forms, including exhibits’ labels, the exhibition pamphlet and dedicated digital catalogues accessed through QR codes in the pamphlet.
“I’ve engaged with the participants to convey the themes, live for the moment and mindfulness as well as the idea of giving and receiving, and the feeling of co-existence,” he added.
The exhibited items are only half the story in Dialogue with Nature. “I appreciate and cherish the participants’ sharing of their innermost thoughts and feelings in the creative process, expressed in writing. Viewers in Hong Kong and visitors to the Hong Kong House in Tsunan will get the most out of the show by taking their time and immersing themselves into the texts,” he said.
The Hong Kong House in Tsunan, Niigata Prefecture, Japan is presented by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and organised by the Art Promotion Office, in collaboration with the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale Executive Committee. The exhibition is open until November 13, 2022.
Painting by God
anothermountainman had drawn on his experience in leading over 20 Painting by God workshops in different cities previously. For the Hong Kong House, he led two Painting by God workshops for 24 participating Tsunan villagers in April and May via live-streaming. Wandering around the village with their white boards and cameras, the villagers interacted with the artist and captured shadows of objects cast by the sun at different times of the day. On display in the exhibition include images of reflection of melting snow, shadows of children sitting side by side, and fallen petals and broken branches of cherry blossom. Accompanying the images include messages of villagers’ childhood memories, explanation of why an image was captured, and how a participant’s daughter arranged petals on a board, as well as the feedback from anothermountainman.
The point was to uncover the often neglected beauty of objects in familiar surroundings through mindfulness. “The workshops inspired the participants not to take things for granted,” anothermountainman said. “Tsunan villagers and urban dwellers in Hong Kong share some similarities. In their hectic daily existence, they mill around busily to make a living and are oblivious to the beauty around them.”
Perhaps the artist’s sentiment over the creative process can be summed up in his comment after one workshop. “This is unconventional travel exploring the unknown. Every day is a journey: the villagers walk past the corner stores and I just go around the corner from where I live,” he noted. “For the workshop, you used the white boards to capture shadows. Based on this experience, use your minds to visualise these objects and happenings in the future.”
A Bowl of Life
In this project, 20 Hongkongers and 20 in Tsunan were recruited. Each donated a bowl from home, accompanied with a note on the background story of the bowl and its owner, and exchanged it with an individual from the other location. The bowl selection was a revelation. “For instance, Patricia Li, of Art Basel Hong Kong, offered a Muji bowl purchased in London. Her thought was that a bowl of Japanese origin should be passed to a Japanese person. A Tsunan villager gave the bowl handcrafted by his son at a young age. I also included a bowl damaged during shipment. I displayed it in its damaged form for authenticity and I will keep it with love.”
The bowls, most originally used to serve hot meals, were transformed into planters in which the lives of floras flourished. The project has brought into focus the cultural contrast. “Hongkongers’ typical starting point focuses on aesthetics and concept. For example, an architect couple picked wilted and growing plants to inspire the rethink on life under COVID-19 pandemic,” he noted. “The villagers had practical considerations, like if the plants would grow properly and if regular tending was needed at the exhibition.” The thought-provoking dialogue between the participants is in writing for viewers to contemplate.
For the background music played at the exhibition and videos, anothermountainman specially commissioned composer Fung Lam to reinterpret the Chinese folk song Jasmine Flowers and the Japanese children folk song Yuyake Koyake (a sunset glow, a small glow).
Suggested by the artist, audiences are encouraged to read the sharing by the participants of Painting by God workshops and A Bowl of Life project through the digital catalogues and exhibition videos. “We can see into people’s lives through their art, as observed by the Japanese documentary director,” said anothermountainman. “We totally share the same thought.”
Dialogue with Nature by anothermountainman
Date: From now until November 13, 2022 (Open on weekends and holidays)
Venue: Hong Kong House
Address: 29 – 4 Miyanohara, Kamigo, Tsunan-machi, Nakauonuma-gun, Niigata Prefecture, Japan
Opening Hours: 10am-5pm