Ben Brown Fine Arts
The world is your oyster
Exhibition Period: 9 August – 21 September 2022
Curator: Juliana Chan
Artists: Lau Hong Lam, Lo Lai Lai Natalie, Mindy Lui, Amy Tong, Gavin Yip
As part of the Hong Kong Art Gallery Association’s (HKAGA) Summer Programme, the exhibition is organised by Hong Kong-based curator Juliana Chan with the aim of highlighting local artistic talents and fostering the Hong Kong arts community. The exhibition features works by LAU Hong Lam, LO Lai Lai Natalie, Mindy LUI, Amy TONG and Gavin YIP. The artists, hailing from various disciplinary backgrounds, will be exhibiting together for the first time in this group exhibition.
The exhibition’s title, The World Is Your Oyster, is a congratulatory wish to these five Hong Kong artists at the dawn of their careers. Stripped of its metaphorical meaning, the famous idiom is borrowed to describe how the food we eat (the oyster) is a product and reflection of the complex modern food system (the world). The contrasting difference between an oyster and the whole world also alludes to the huge gap between our food consumption and its industrial production.
As we sit at the dining table today, the distance between our plates and the origins of our food is tremendous. Spatially, the food we eat often travels thousands of miles before it lands on the shelves of supermarkets; physiognomically it appears processed and packaged, reminding us very little of its creaturely origins. While the commodification of food intensifies, alienation becomes the defining character of the human-food relationship. Not only are we physically distant from the origins of what we eat, the abundance of luscious food imagery on social media and in advertising betrays our psychological disconnection with food. Roland Barthes described in Mythologies (1957) that the exaggerated photographs in culinary magazines were meant ‘for the eye alone, since sight is a genteel sense’. The phenomena which Barthes commented on is essentially what we today call ‘food pornography’ – a display of food so sensationally and artificially idealized that is detached from both reality and nature. It is a self-perpetuating cycle of desire and commodification that ultimately creates a disconnect between our natural world and the food industry.
It is against this conceptual background that The World Is Your Oyster calls on five Hong Kong artists to reflect on individual and collective relationships with food. Each artist employs a different strategy that propels us to examine what and how we eat. For instance, paintings of dogs engaging in playful mouthing and sound performance with bioacoustics by Gavin Yip speak to the relationship between the eater and the eaten. Amy Tong’s abstracted renditions of scenes from wedding banquets is an examination of the role of food in our traditions and, to certain extent, a commentary on the absurdity of such traditions. By way of classical composition and realistic depiction, Lau Hong Lam’s series of prints draw symbols and references from Greek mythology to examine the tension between desire and guilt around comfort food. In contrast, Mindy Lui and Lo Lai Lai Natalie turned their investigative lens to nature, human labour and farming. Lui’s pencil frottage meticulously reproduces the image of a single grain of rice repeatedly until it covers the entire surface of the drawing. Its repetitive and unostentatious aesthetic reminds us of the exhausting and monotonous life of a farmer. Equally concerned with agriculture, Lo Lai Lai Natalie’s film Cold Fire amalgamates footage of vegetables in fermentation with clips of a plane crash. They are two seemingly unrelated narratives, but when presented together they talk about the unpredictability of nature and life. Concurrent with the gallery exhibition, the artists will conduct public programs and workshops to help audiences form a deeper and more personal understanding of food-related topics.
Curator – Juliana Chan
Juliana Chan is a curator, currently working and living in Hong Kong. She is the co-founder of Per.Platform, a Hong Kong-based not-for-profit art organisation dedicated to raising awareness and fostering development of live art. Chan’s recent research focuses on performance art and the contemporary food system. Chan received her Bachelor’s degree in the History of Art from the University of Florence, Italy, followed by a Master’s degree in Contemporary Art Criticism from the University of Edinburgh, UK.
Lau Hong Lam
Lau Hong Lam studied at the Academia di Belle Arti di Bologna, Italy, and received a Bachelor’s degree in Visual Arts from Hong Kong Baptist University in 2019. Lau’s practice focuses on intaglio and the classical technique of mezzotint printmaking. He has exhibited internationally, including in South Korea and the United Kingdom. Lau has participated in various exhibitions in Hong Kong, at venues including Hanart TZ Gallery, Hong Kong Art Centre, and Hong Kong Open Printshop.
Lo Lai Lai Natalie
Lo Lai Lai Natalie lives and works in Hong Kong. Lo received her Bachelor of Art and Master of Fine Arts from The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Lo is interested in the development and construction of natural spaces, and is involved in the collective organic farm Sangwoodgoon, Hong Kong, where she seeks alternatives and autonomy as an artist and Hong Konger. She has had solo exhibitions at PTT Space Taipei (You’d Better Turn Down the Volume, 2021-2022); WMA Space Hong Kong (The Days Before the Silent Spring, 2020-2021); Tomorrow Maybe, Hong Kong (Give no words but mum, 2020); Bonacon Gallery, Guangzhou, China (Down into the Abyss, 2018); Floating Projects, Hong Kong ( Slow-So TV – Ann Eilathan’s Gaze, 2016) and Observation Society, Guangzhou (Souvenir and Gift, 2014) . Lo received the WMA Commission Grant on the theme of ‘Opportunity’ in Hong Kong and her works were presented in San Francisco, Paris, Berlin, Dresden, Basel, Johannesburg, Yogyakarta, Taiwan, Beijing and Shanghai. Lo Lai Lai Natalie received the Award for Young Artist, Visual Arts Category, at the 16th Arts Development Awards, Hong Kong, in 2022. She received the Gold Award in the Media Arts category at the 26th ifva Festival, Hong Kong, in 2021.
Mindy Lui graduated from Hong Kong Baptist University in 2020 with a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts. Lui works in painting, drawing and video installation. Her works have been exhibited in Hong Kong at venues including Contemporary by Angela Li Gallery, De Sarthe Gallery, Wure Area, and AVA Baptist University Hong Kong. Lui has exhibited internationally, at Kino Roland, Zurich, Switzerland and Providence University Art Centre Taichung, Taiwan.
Amy Tong is a Hong Kong-based artist whose practice focuses on abstract experimentations of imagined scenarios. Tong received her Bachelor’s degree in Illustration from Arts University Bournemouth, England, in 2015. Tong has exhibited at various spaces in Hong Kong, including HART Haus, Square Street Gallery, RNH Space and Mine Project, and at Embassy Tea Gallery in London.
Gavin Yip earned a Bachelor’s degree in Visual Arts from Hong Kong Baptist University in 2013. Yip’s practice focuses on oil painting, with a particular interest in portraiture. Yip has participated in various exhibitions in Hong Kong, at Gallery Exit, Wure Area, and the Pier 2 Art Centre. Yip is also one of the founding members of alternative art space Ejar in Chai Wan, Hong Kong.