INTERVIEW  WITh

TH KWONG CHARLIE

Gallery Lane Cove, September 17th  2020

Please introduce yourself to our (mostly Australian) readers!

Hello, this is Charlie KWONG, a British Overseas artist educator based in Hong Kong. I’m currently doing my final year of the studies at the Education University of Hong Kong (EdUHK), majoring in community art education and arts administration management. For my art creation, I like to explore different mediums but with some specific topics, such as philosophy, political issues, Buddhism, cultural identity, digital culture. My works were exhibited and featured in the United Kingdom. South Korea and Hong Kong.

Left: Un-Change, Conceptual Dance Performance, 2018

Right: Chinese Language- Story Making Class, 2019

Image Courtesy of the artist.

What or who are your artistic influences or inspirations?

As mentioned above, I touch on various topics. In fact, these topics are quite “Home Kong” because Hongkongers are hybrids, a mix of Asian and Western cultures and values. The language we speak is not completely Cantonese but mixed with English words, but the phonological changes make the Cantonese conversion to be unique. We also have many religions in Hong Kong, like Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and Judaism, which made us embrace cultural diversity. This cultural background also contributed to my creations; they are my muse.

 

Social issues and my local culture are always a good start of my creations. As you might be aware, Hong Kong is facing challenges posed by the pandemic, the trade war between the United States and China as well as ongoing social movement, especially the legislation of National Security Law.

 

I think that it’s an artist's responsibility to have a point of view. Society takes its cue from popular art. People need something to look to, something to provoke them into questioning whether they completely hate something or completely love something.

Madonna Ciccone

 

I think most of the people are now doubting or thinking about what the best possible way is to remain our normal daily life during this critical moment. As an artist educator, you are not just bearing the responsibility of teaching but also to voice out about social issues. If you are an artist who loves your community, then you should contribute your art to the community as a tool, to gather your audience, to inspire the people, and to cheer the people up during the critical moment etc.

Top: Western Market, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong Island, Illustration of Heritages, 2020)

Bottom: Man Mo Temple, Hollywood Road, Hong Kong Island, Illustration of Heritages, 2020

Images courtesy of the artist

Could you describe how you went about creating《Animal 1516ing》?  Was it a planned artwork or did you go about it more intuitively?

 

《Animal 1516ing》is much more like a private zone in my heart. That is why I made it like virtual space with 3D-like perspective. This work is not trying to express a political view but I tried to do it like a teaching job because teacher is not allowed to express their personal thoughts during the lesson since it is not a professional code of conduct. But the Teacher should show the students different perspectives and points of view about a topic and students are always have their own choice to make a belief. 《Animal 1516ing》is something like this, I tried to list out different views from the political spectrum, but not to tell which one is my choice, just keep it as a guess or whatever.

 

Anyway, I didn’t plan anything for my creation because I don’t want it to be like an assignment, and this answer may break my lecturers’ heart. I hope I can make my work with my own rhythm, let it to be free. It doesn’t have to be a beautiful artwork with many meanings, but it has to be “me”, a work that can represent me, my thoughts, and my feelings. This is one of the reason why I put the character from Animal Crossing because it is a copy of me, and it will be one of the watermarks to the people of Hong Kong in 2020 during the pandemic.

There are faces and text layered in your artwork. What is the symbolism behind some of these?

The faces and the text layers are collected from the internet, which are representing different political views. It is not about the personal expression but about how to embrace China in a right way. The Hong Kong government banned protestors from wearing a mask in October 2019, but then the Hong Kong government distributed a reusable mask for all Hongkongers in May 2020, seven months after the Emergency Regulations Ordinance. So, this is the first 1516 feeling that we have, as a ‘patriot’.

 

In August 2020, the US government released a notice stating that Hong Kong goods for export to the US must be labelled as ‘Made in China’. However, it sounds logical because the Hong Kong government states that Hong Kong is a part of China. So, what about the “Made In Hong Kong”, a Hong Kong film written and directed by Fruit CHAN in 1997? Should it be renamed to “Made In China”?

 

I am so confused….

Lennon wall in Hong Kong

Image courtesy of the artist

Could you tell us more about the phrase ‘1516’?

 

1516 in traditional Chinese is 十(sap6)五(ng5)十(sap6)六(luk6), which means perturbed, confused, don’t know what to do. I think you can try to imagine that when you are thinking to buy a new iPad or iPad Air, and you will get this feeling as well!!

 

You mentioned having exhibited in South Korea.  Did you have any advice about exhibiting in another country?

 

The exhibition was curated by the teaching staff from Kyung Hee University in Seoul. We did not receive actual advice but she delivered an inspiring speech in the opening ceremony. She told us that making artwork is like travelling, but the destination is in your mind. It means that creating an artwork can let you explore your personalities and different faces of yourself.  I do think this is a very fist step for the transformation from an art student to an artist who creates artwork not assignments.

Fine Arts Exhibition in South Korea, 2018

Image courtesy of the artist

Do you have any upcoming projects or shows that we should look out for?

 

I am currently working for a project which supervised and in charged by an Associate Professor from the Department of Cultural and Creative Arts at EdUHK. The project is a cooperative creation between the Associate Professor and his creative team, for the Hong Kong Library Festival Exhibition in the coming months. The project is about the local culture in Hong Kong and the artwork will be a representation of local poems, and the project will visualise various elements mentioned in the poems. The transformation from literature to visual arts will be a fun work to watch.

 

With reference to the latest development of the outbreak, the launch of physical exhibition is still under reviewing, but there will be a virtual exhibition for sure. You may check with the latest update from the Hong Kong Central Library, https://www.hkpl.gov.hk/en/hkcl/home/index.html.

 

Hopefully, the exhibition will share with you something new about “Home Kong”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for taking the time to chat to us. Is there anything you’d like to add?

 

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Gallery, Ms. Rachael Kiang and Ms. Yvonne Le for giving me this opportunity to share my thoughts and the artwork. Also, I want to express my sincere thanks to all the Australian and the Australian Government. Thank you for everything.

More about the artist

thkwong.coms.hk

Instagram @thhhh_