Hong Kong: Polluta Residents Portraits
Updated: Aug 28, 2022
The exhibition “Welcome to Polluta!” highlights the international cultural exchange in a global art ecology. The hosting Quarantine Film Festival and the Hong Kong team invited Hong Kong, European, and other international artists and filmmakers to “join Polluta” as artist residents, asking them to fill out an entry form and express their opinions on an artist’s role during social conflicts and art’s impact on gentrification. These two questions are timely reflections of the local history of the Quarantine Film Festival in Bulgaria. The body of 22 “Polluta Residents’ Portraits” features 22 artists’ portraits as animals, reflecting the subject’s own artistic practice. ✵✶✺ For each portrait, I conducted extensive research into the artist or filmmaker’s practice, involving reading every single word on their website or all the materials on the internet. For filmmakers, I always watch every available film, often reaching out for more. I worked on more than one portrait at a time, overlapping research and painting. That means, sometimes I finished no portraits in months and had several portraits in progress. On average, each portrait took about a month. ✵✶✺
Polluta Resident’s Portrait: Oscar Chan Yik Long Japanese pigments, Chinese ink and pen on rice paper 12×18”/ 30x45cm 2020 I have been a long-time admirer of Oscar Chan Yik Long’s works, especially his mythical monochromatic Chinese ink mural incorporating mythical demon-like figures. With the same style, I recreated a demon with a gaping mouth in the Polluta portrait background. I had also always thought his works were influenced by Japanese manga artist Jungji Ito (although I later got confirmed that the assumption was wrong) and based his portrait on Jungji Ito’s famour manga series “Uzamaki” (Spiral.) Oscar also always stands out with his flamboyant floral shirts, and it would be a crime not to highlight his unforgettable fashion sense.
Polluta Resident’s Portrait: Henry Steiner Japanese pigments and Chinese Ink on rice paper 12×18”/ 30x45cm 2022 Hailed as the "Father of Hong Kong graphical design", Henry Steiner has designed numerous iconic logos such as HSBC, alongside the Hong Kong banknote for the Standard Chartered Bank between 1975 and 2016. Before I’d even invited Henry to participate in this project, I’d already known his animal. In 2013, I invited Henry as a guest speaker for my course at HKU Space. He shared many valuable personal stories and insights, including this one on cultural understanding using dragons: Western dragons are totally different creatures from Chinese “Long” dragons, even though they are both “dragons.” They have different connotations and legends and hidden meanings. His fluid and nuanced cross-cultural understanding attributed to his successful designs and an illustrious career. Henry appears as both a Western and Chinese dragon in the portrait. Embedded in his Polluta portrait are some of my favourite Henry Steiner logos, such as Hongkong Land and Ssangyong Korea. **I’d painted Henry’s first Polluta portrait back in 2020, but wasn’t quite happy with it. With the extra time due to COVID postponement, I repainted his portrait from scratch in 2022.
Polluta Resident’s Portrait: Tobe Kan Colour pencils and Chinese Ink on rice paper 12×18”/ 30x45cm 2020 Black is synonymous with Tobe Kan. She only wears black. Everything she uses is also black. She also only made black paintings. (Now she also makes blue paintings.) Her Polluta portraits feature vibrant saturated colours that reflects Tobe’s own colour palette in her black paintings.
Polluta Resident’s Portrait: Lonely Lau Siu Chung Japanese pigments and pen on rice paper 12×18”/ 30x45cm
2020 Lonely Lau Siu Chung was a painter, an art installer and a brand new father. While he is still a painter, he no longer installs exhibitions to carve out more time for his painting and family. While he is still a father, he is no longer a brand new one. His daughter has grown in size, and so has his family. Lonely’s works are inspired by the Hong Kong cityscapes around him together with his experiences in life; and are often represented by strong brush strokes with intense use of color. His Polluta portrait borrows from his own paintings’ colour palette which has a sophisticated signature use of the difficult colour purple.
Polluta Resident’s Portrait: Luke Ching Chin Wai Japanese Pigments on rice paper 12×18”/ 30x45cm 2020 Veteran labour activist and conceptual artist Luke Ching Chin Wai uses art as an intervention to fight for workers’ rights. As a student, I was first introduced to his seminal work “Undercover Worker” in which he worked as a security guard. Since 2007 in his ongoing project undercover worker, he has worked in different low paid jobs in Hong Kong to experience their working environments and make first-hand observations of working conditions.* Luke recently finished a stint as a contract janitor for MTR, the most popular public transport network, a majority government-owned public transport operator and property developer in Hong Kong. He has just started working as a salesperson for Don Don Donki, a popular Japanese discount store that recently took Hong Kong by storm. He has used the cockroach motif for many years. “I am very afraid of cockroaches. I started using double-sided tape to make cockroaches around 20 years ago, when I was in school. Because of my fear, I never considered the anatomy or physiology of the cockroaches, let alone studying and drawing them from life. Their details are thus completely fabricated by me, borne out of my imagination of that which I fear, with some characteristics amplified, some non-existent, all in all a distant association with the object of fear. If compared to real cockroaches, they are not mimetic copies, but rather an analogue of our daily sensation of fear.” — Luke Ching Chin Wai * Award 2019 – Shortlisted Undercover worker – Luke Ching". Visible Project. Retrieved 2020-02-24.
Polluta Resident’s Portrait: Beatrice Wong Japanese Pigments and pen on rice paper 12×18”/ 30x45cm 2020 Beatrice Wong is a brave woman who used to be a man. She is also a DJ by the name Misty Penguin. She presents her raw and emotional struggle in a fleshy womb-like room in her self portrait series “No Opportunities (for Beatrice)”. “I created this self-portrait series to celebrate my entry into the battlefield against depression and anxiety. During a very low point in my life, when my body was filled with drugs, alcohol and powder, I randomly came across Francis Bacon’s Wikipedia page, and I started brainstorming.” In her Polluta portrait, Beatrice’s reflection in the mirror parallels the duality of her own gender identity. The penguin toy is her favourite childhood toy and makes a cameo appearance in her own works.
Polluta Resident’s Portrait: Clara Cheung Japanese Pigments and pen on rice paper 12×18”/ 30x45cm 2020
In 2007, Social activist artist Clara Cheung and her partner Gum Cheung founded a grassroot art space C&G Artpartment in an “tong-lau” (old walk-up building) apartment in Hong Kong. She has curated and co-curated more than 50 exhibitions, events, cultural exchange trips. These exhibitions often critically responded to local social and cultural issues, including problems in the local art ecology. She was a member of Hong Kong’s Wan Chai District Council in 2020 and 2021 and is currently based in the UK as a HongKonger in exile. The window is based on the real window of C&G Artpartment, whereas the circular motifs came from a community mural day, , one of the many creative and innovative community activities Clara hosted as the Wan Chai District Council member. (She is tall.)
Polluta Resident’s Portrait: Percy So Paper cut 12×18”/ 30x45cm 2021 Percy So is a bookbinder and papercut artist based in Hong Kong. She seems like such a gentle soul that a bunny came straight into my mind. The portrait is a mini folio with done with paper cut and hand-stitched with bookbinding techniques.
Polluta Resident’s Portrait: Vivian Fung Japanese Pigments, Chinese Ink and pens on rice paper 12×18”/ 30x45cm 2020 Vivian Fung was a classmate during my graduate studies at Hong Kong Baptist University and has worked as a curator beyond graduation. When I chatted with her over the phone about her Polluta project, I was surprised to learn that she was spending time in Arizona for personal reasons. I was quite touched by her courage to pursue happiness. ✵✶✺
See all the Polluta Residents’ Portraits in flesh. “Welcome to Polluta” 7-27 August 2022 Curated by Musthavekeys Solo exhibition at Varna City Art Gallery "Boris Georgiev", Varna, Bulgaria Invited Guest Artist of The Quarantine Film Festival Supported by Hong Kong Arts Development Council Special Thanks Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation Pure Art Foundation ✵✶✺
This is the second edition of Polluta Residents’ Portraits. The first edition (19 in total) was exhibited at solo exhibition “Polluta, Floating Artist Colony in the Sky” at Firstdraft Gallery, the oldest artist-run gallery in Australia in 2019.
All 33 Polluta artist residents will make cameo appearances in Polluta, an animated short (2018 - ) to be finished in 2023. Follow the progress of the film on Instagram or Facebook.