Record Light: Solo by Kingsley Ng
Welcoming visitors to this exhibition with moon.gate is bold poetry. The minimalistic piece, an in-situ rendering of projected shadows that might as well be taken as naturally cast through the door frame, is known to be a work that is frequently overlooked. To the attentive viewer, however, this moment of illumination is accompanied by an ambience. Tuning in, there is a correspondence between the rustling sounds and moving light – a tree indeed, swaying as the wind carries to the room broadcast content, from one radio station to another, about lives across this continent.
Subtle evocation is characteristic of the art of Kingsley Ng. The interdisciplinary artist, who has at his disposal a lexicon of audio-visual technologies, is after all a poet. He is never into technocracy but uses his science as a means to create aesthetic experiences for sensing what is essentially human. At the centre of in this exhibition, Record: Light +22°16’ 17” +114°8’ 59”and Solitary Light await the audience to reflect on silent sparks and flashes, captured from cityscapes in Hong Kong. The taciturn lights state nothing, but being there, one seems to hear at each flicker a story from the wanjia denghuo, a Chinese synecdoche for what dwells in ten thousand lit houses.
Ever since his professional debut at Le Fresnoy – National Studio of Contemporary Arts in Tourcoing, France, the introverted artist has always been outward-looking in his subject matter. From reaching out to the lives of local through prints on baguette paper, to bringing back to life a waning heritage by modifying a piece of antique, and subsequently years of site- and context-inspired creation, Ng’s art, as noted by himself, citing the Śūraṅgama Sūtra, is “a finger pointing to the moon.”
Such a referential quality is intrinsic to The Sun over the Placid World, originally presented at the 2nd Land Art Biennial in Mongolia. It pays tribute to the eponymous traditional long song, which echoes the immediate connection between man and that vast land. From dawn to dusk, the sun serves as a light source, visually manifesting the undulating tune as it beams across a melodic rock form, like an elemental media player. Also addressing our relationship with nature, Spring: Homage to Liang Qian is grounded in a very different source. Besides saluting the senior painter, it was triggered by a plethora of bottled water in a supermarket, whose politics of consumption and extraction is abstractly encapsulated in a globalized sundial radiating from an ordinary glass of water.
Alain Fleischer, internationally renowned artist and founding director of Le Fresnoy, describes Ng’s art as “transformation, metamorphosis and interface.” [i] As he uses the sun as a followspot and a glass to augment a screen in the aforementioned works, in Galaxy Express, the artist experiments methodologically with expanded cinema. The 10-channel video installation, combining monitors and projections, sets in motion a fictional train, morphed into a wall and its adjacent floor. The analogy of a train is not random. “The locomotion of framed scenery,” observes the artist, “reminds me of a filmstrip on a reel.”[ii]
Over the past few years, Ng has further expanded his practice into a variety of real-life settings. From immersive multisensory installations in historical buildings, to convivial participatory events in a park and a zoo, and cinematic rides on a tram turned into a mobile camera obscura, these ventures exemplify a search of relevance and what it means by new media. Ng is, of course, not alone in this quest. He is informed and inspired by the work of predecessors who see engagement as a priority, the concept of coexistence in eastern philosophy, theories of relational aesthetics and even social innovation. “These principles are driven not by a self-indulgent romance of art, but a belief that art can be socially relevant.”[iii]
Because of their context-specific nature, these recent projects are not included in this exhibition. A sense of this side of Ng’s practice can nonetheless be felt if one leaves through the printed compilation of Etudes for the Everyday, a project that has brought together over one hundred Hong Kong cultural and art practitioners. Each of them contributed a small étude, a daily practice for “art” in the quotidian. The collection was then shared publicly in the forms of exhibitions, workshops, a website and this publication. In and for a city clouded by all sorts of discontents, the project aspires to spark off a different kind of energy through art and connectedness.
As if writing an étude, Ng once came up with this haiku-like practice:
on the palm
Technically, it requires a hand that is capable of holding a filled cup with perfect stillness, so that a reflection of the moon stays afloat. Perhaps this is a practice for this exhibition.
[i] Alain Fleisher, “A Poetic Interface,” in Notes, Selected Works, 2005-2016 by Kingsley Ng (Hong Kong: 2016), pp.
[ii] Kingsley Ng on Galaxy Express, in Notes, Selected Works, 2005-2016, op. cit., pp.
[iii] Kingsley Ng, Artist Statement, accessed August 13, 2016: https://www.kingsleyng.com/wp/about-2/