Showtime, denial, and home
Mar. 6th, 2014
At the time of this writing, I have officially completed the residency at Estudio Nomada, W Studio in Hong Kong. I can't believe I had doubts of going at first - money really is a funny thing. I would have passed up an amazing opportunity to not only get more in touch with my work, but also the chance to experience a great city that I've looked at as a second, but distant home. The opportunity was ideal, and even though I had no real expectations from the experience, it certainly did not let me down. If anyone reading this is also thinking about doing a residency and is having any shadow of a doubt, just do it. You'll be amazed at what you will experience - good or bad, they will be moments not soon forgotten. I'll try and keep this short and entertain you with photos along the way.
This body of work began about two years ago now, shortly after I began pursuit of my second degree in Canada. It was the first time I had ever stepped outside of what I had considered to be home for a decent period of time. Don't get me wrong, I've traveled before, but never had I gone to pursue something outside of Calgary for any extended period of time. And it's not like Lethbridge was far away either, it was only a two hour and twenty minute drive from door to door, but that's perhaps what made the experience so special for me. How could my own backyard be so different than what I had expected, and how had I never known it all these years? The experience was confusing but wonderful at the same time. The resulting artwork took the form of text, the best possible way I could imagine to present the questions and thoughts running in my mind. Nearly two years later, and Lethbridge is not the same place. Every time I go back, I remember the times I had their and would love to reconnect with old friends, but then reality hits - I hardly know anyone their anymore. It's simply a hub city for students, and once everyone is done they all scatter to the winds...but I'll always have the memories. This really got me thinking about what it means to be home. Is it simply a matter of place, or is it one of memory?
I wanted to explore this idea, and see if it was an answerable question. I felt the need to go on another adventure, but this time make it farther away and in a less familiar place. Before I even began exploring possibilities, I knew I wanted to go to Hong Kong. My Dad is from Hong Kong, and some of his family still remains there. I've been to Hong Kong twice before, but only a week at a time - certainly not enough to get to know a place very well. Hearing stories of his youth has always been a great listening experience, and hearing it contrasted with more current stories of Hong Kong he tells me paints a picture of a place that has seen much change, but also stayed very much the same. From my observations, this turned out to be very true in both physical and cultural ways. But could my Dad's original home really ever be a place that I consider to be home as well?
From getting off the plane to getting back on one, and everything in between, everyday has been an adventure. I won't go through it all (you'll have to look at previous blog posts to get more visuals), but I would like to start here: my Grandma, aka my Dad's Mom. She just turned one hundred years old in December! Here she is showing off one of her many awards she has won for being a good citizen!
She tells me (in Chinese, so through other family to translate) that she only ever did well in Art class in school. She still loves to draw, as you can see. My family points out that any artistic traits in the family started with her. She also tells me that she got married after three days of knowing her to be Husband, and had her second child (My Dad) at the age of twenty four, and that I need to hurry up, get married and have babies.
As it would turn out, much of my Dad's side of the family has taken an interest in the Arts in some way or another. Some have a sheer appreciation for it, others are painters, musicians, and even graphic artists, now all spread between Hong Kong, USA, and Canada.
The solo show: Being in Hong Kong, I thought it would be great to have some special snacks like sea weed and dried mangos for the opening reception.
and cheap wine, picked by the label design! They say that's the worst way to shop... and they're right, but it was fun.
A second exhibition was on the same night, showcasing Wai's work (the student I helped mentor)
View from across the building
For the first time, something broke in the studio other than my artwork
Winston and I (the Creative Director of W Studio/painter/performance artist)
Studio mates Yanki (painter) and her husband Man (performance and film artist)
Thank you to everyone who was able to make it out to the show, and all of you who have helped me along the way (you know who you are).
Additional photo's that didn't go into the show:
As the show came to a close, I knew my time in Hong Kong was quickly fading, with just enough time to say my goodbyes and strike the show. It was time to go home.
During the take down of the show, I came to the realization that the studio was the space that I spent the majority of my time right there. Day and night, rain or shine. And what a incredible space it was. I was really hoping that one day I'd get a thundershower in there, having no roof and all, just to see it. Unfortunately I had no such luck, and instead I just got harsh gusts of wind that broke pieces. But the days that were gloomy were just as incredible in there, and I'll even admit as a Canadian - it got pretty cold with no roof. I'll miss this place.
I'll definitely also miss working with everyone at JCCAC. It's a great mix of local and international artists, with a wide array of mediums and concepts. Working with them helped me analyze the process of my own work but it also exposed a different mindset, which is an invaluable experience. It was also interesting to see how artists on the other side of the world go about making a living, and what living really meant to them. I'm not going to say it was different from artists in Calgary, but it sure was an eye opening, great community.
I should also mention that as an added benefit of going to Hong Kong, I had the opportunity to apply for my Hong Kong citizenship, and hold both a Canadian and Hong Kong ID/passport. The rumor mill suggested that since my Dad was born in Hong Kong, his sons/daughters were eligible for the citizenship. I began the application process as soon as possible after I had landed. It was a lot of running around and searching for documents, to which many questioned it's worth. I had my doubts along the way, and in the end they were warranted, but not for the right reasons. On my second to last day in Hong Kong, I received this letter from the government offices.
I can't say that I wasn't disappointed in the notification. As I mentioned before, I had my doubts it would work out, but something was just unsettling about it. Perhaps it was the timing, having received the letter right before I left. But I suppose it only reiterated the point that despite having family roots in Hong Kong, it doesn't mean you belong there. And that's not a bad thing. The title of my show, 'I am Not Lost', I chose for a few different reasons. The main reason being that I do not consider myself someone who is confused as to who they are, or where they belong. I'm comfortable with who I am, and this residency period was not in the name of discovering identity, but rather discovering how one could define home. Upon completion, I realize that my stay has not answered any questions I may have had, but rather asked more. And that's not a bad thing either.
I'd like to finish off here. This is a handmade, ceramic house given to me as a going away present from one of my studio mates. She said, 'maybe this is what home looks like in Canada'. The ceramic home is just a bit larger than playing dice.
A sincere thank you for following along.