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16 May, 2016
Colourless Extended Until 4 June 2016

 A solo exhibition of Raymond Lam

Koru Contemporary Art is delighted to present the inaugural solo exhibition of Hong Kong artist Raymond (Hiu Kwong)  LAM– Colourless.  LAM’s series of work is triggered by a changed in his personal circumstances in 2014 and the polarized political situation in Hong Kong. Growing up in the British colony of Hong Kong and experiencing first hand the transition of Hong Kong back to China as a Special Administrative Region, LAM is deeply troubled by the changes he sees. The exhibition includes a series of artwork created with raw emotions by the artist, featuring the intriguing use of “special” objects – flies, to search for an answer for “What is the ultimate truth in life and in society?” 

* LAM obtained his Bachelor of Fine Art (BFA) from the University of New South Wales in 2008 


Artist Statement:

The theme of this exhibit is “Colorless”, which comes from a line in the Buddhist classic the Hearth Sutra, “that which is form is emptiness.” (Note: the character translated as “form” in English also means color.) This is, of course, not to say that all form and color is empty. I have simply borrowed its surface level meaning to some extent. What I would like to express is simply that everything we see must include a layer of false color, and to understand its true nature, we must wipe this color from its surface.

Roughly in August of 2014, I suddenly received the answer to a question I had been pondering for a long time. At that time I was going through a major change in my life, and questions like “what is truth?” were always appearing in my mind, but I could never come up with the answer. What is the ultimate truth in life and in society? Is there an answer?

August is summer in Hong Kong and despite the city’s impeccable sanitation, flies are far from a rarity. I wondered if I painted ugly creatures like these a different color, made them look nice, perhaps people’s impression of them would change. Could this be possible? At that moment I felt I had found the answer - isn’t that exactly how the world we live in works? In this world obsessed with appearances, ordinary things are placed in beautiful settings, dirty things are handled with pretty tricks, and splendid words are used to articulate a con man’s lies. When these things are spoken plainly, everyone seems to understand, but regrettably we still happily go on living every day in this world where nothing is real.

My reason for choosing flies as the medium in this case was very simple and had no deeper meaning. I chose them simply because of their appearance and because they are very common. In using them, I simply wanted to bring out a sense of ugliness and filthiness.

Roughly speaking, there are over three thousand different varieties of flies, and I chose one of the most common, the blowflies. What makes these flies special is their love of the scent of decay, for this reason we often see signs of them around rotting food and animal refuse. In the ugly side of human nature we find similar predilections for all kinds of drugs, money, power, carnal pleasures - aren’t these just our rotting flesh? Without meaning to, I ended up engaged in theorizing and moral criticism. In choosing flies as the subjects of this work, I just wanted to know what effect ugly and dirty things have when packaged.

In our present reality, is the truth no longer important?

As far as I can see, these things have become unclear, with boundaries fading from view. What we value here is the external packaging, not what’s really inside; we only see the beautiful exterior, the true nature of things, deep inside, has become unimportant. We despise this kind of hypocrisy and pretense, but we have no choice but to go on living surrounded by it. Once people give up on trying to judge what is true, they end up just like flies, dancing and whirling around rotting food.


The primary theme of the works in this exhibit is the Hong Kong I grew up in.

Having witnessed the intense changes in Hong Kong society over the past few years, it is very difficult not to find oneself pondering deeply the state of Hong Kong today. In the process of facing all the various changes happening now, especially the ever increasing contradictions between China and Hong Kong, I notice all the tiny cracks in Hong Kong society. Hong Kongers have never had much interest in politics, but at this moment their attitude to Hong Kong politics has done a complete 180.

Surrounded by this kind of atmosphere, I take a look back at the Hong Kong of the past. In 1842 the Qing Empire and Britain signed the Treaty of Nanking, formally separating Hong Kong Island and gave it to Britain. From then on, Hong Kong would officially be a British colony. This continued until the first of July, 1997, when the British government transferred sovereignty over Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China, opening the first page in Hong Kong’s post-colonial history.

In a few of the protest marches that have taken place over the last few years, a strange phenomenon appeared. I saw a few protesters waving the flag of Hong Kong from the British colonial period. Those protesters must have been yearning for happier times gone by. To me that seems like a sad and futile struggle. For a while after 1997, people in Hong Kong were incredibly optimistic about their future, and highly trusting of the central government. Later, influenced by a range of different events, their trust in the central government steadily lessened, and their opinion of the mainland got steadily worse. Do Hong Kongers have the authority to decide their own future? That British Hong Kong flag may have given us the answer. On the surface we have returned to the motherland, but in reality Hong Kong is still a colony. All that has changed is now China is in charge.

In this work, Hong Kong Barcode, I used flies to make the shape of a barcode and numbers. Barcodes are generally used in the exchange of goods, and at that moment Hong Kong looked just like a product being traded between two countries. Since the people of Hong Kong cannot choose their own future, they have gradually formed the fractured Hong Kong society of today. As citizens of Hong Kong, we may have room to discuss our future, but the final decision does not rest in our hands.

Powerless to alter the present situation, the only feeling Hong Kongers can have about the future is confusion. Returning from 1997 to the present day, there are still about 31 years left until 2047, but our initial optimism and enthusiasm has been replaced with frustration and anxiety. As we look back at the scenes from times gone by, with the chimes counting down, is Hong Konger a word with meaning, or will we be swept away with the tide of history?

In the piece, 50, there is a flag of colonial Hong Kong and behind the Hong Kong flag are the years, from 1997 to 2047. This is the period of 50 years after Hong Kong’s return to China during which the central government has promised to maintain Hong Kong’s political independence. Sadly, in reality policy change is gradually becoming a kind of slogan. And that flag represents an irrepressible memory of the British colonial period in the hearts of Hong Kongers. I did not use flies to fill in the very bottom of this piece. I left a blank margin, but I still cannot see where that margin is.

Facing all the various changes that are happening, before the people of Hong Kong get a clear understanding of the direction ahead of them, in this moment the only scene left that I can see is the cracks before my eyes. Shuttling back and forth between fragmented memories and reality, breathing peacefully between chaos and silence, sighing between the changes of today and the imagination of tomorrow, perhaps all Hong Kongers have left is to struggle between the cracks.

For the series Split I created eight works in total, two to a pair, making up Split one through four. I selected four different patterns to represent the changes and divisions in Hong Kong since the return. I created a counter-relief effect, representing the past with depressions. I attached flies to the canvas around the pattern of the design to create it, turning the whole design into a depressed space. In the designs representing the post-return period I used an additive technique, directly adhering the flies to the canvas to create the pattern. The works are surrounded by frosted acrylic, like the predicament surrounding Hong Kong.

The symbolism appears through conflict, pairing the use of rises and depressions to express the colonial period moving farther away and the things that have come into Hong Kong since 97. Symbols once familiar to Hong Kong may now be gradually leaving us, gradually becoming just a memory floating in our minds. We see new symbols slowly beginning to surround us, and cover up the old history.

Split 1.1: the design used is that of the dragon and lion in the old pre-return flag of Hong Kong, while Split 1.2 uses the pattern inside the Hong Kong orchid on the post-return flag of the SAR.

Split 2.1: uses a design based on the British Queen’s image, while Split 2.2 uses the emblem of the Communist Party.

Split 3.1: uses the crown symbol that appeared on post boxes in Hong Kong during the colonial period, while Split 3.2 uses the crown symbol from a colonial period post box painted in a new color.

Split 4.1: uses the letters HK, the English abbreviation for Hong Kong, while Split 4.2 uses XG, the first letter of each syllable in the Mandarin name for Hong Kong.

In this time permeated with change and conflict, we see the old familiar atmosphere slowly leave us. In our hearts we cannot help but feel a sighing that we cannot express. One can hardly avoid asking “Is it all over for Hong Kong, or is new hope waiting for us just around the corner?” These works express my view in the form of contrasts. In the time from the return until today, society has become increasingly polarized. Everywhere you look there are scenes of conflict. I wonder as I watch the familiar Hong Kong getting farther and farther away, will there be a day when we are no longer “Hong Kong”, just a Chinese city called “Xiang Gang.”

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