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Hiram To 'Garlands'    Jun 28 - Jul 28, 2012

Garlands
Hiram To
Garlands, 2010-2012
 
Garlands
Hiram To
Garlands, 2010-2012
 
Garlands
Hiram To
Garlands, 2010-2012
 
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Amelia Johnson Contemporary is pleased to present the latest project by Hong Kong-Australian artist Hiram To, marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of his first one person-exhibition.

Garlands is an unique project for the artist in every sense, as it is the first time that To is collaborating with his mother Helen Lai, and a side step from the artist’s oeuvre of politically infused-conceptual art.

Garlands follows from the themes of Garden District, To’s last one person exhibition at the Goethe-Institut Hong Kong in 2009 where a cast of real life characters with multiple names and dubious identities, plans of magic props and poisonous plant life are merged into mappings that chart the course of one’s life and desires.

In To’s Garlands, the artist uncharacteristically takes on his own family history and the process of understanding oneself through the earliest memories of his mother’s Doris Day records, and later, through the character Esther Blodgett / Vicki Lester as played by the legendary actress Judy Garland in A Star Is Born.

Building a fictional narrative that crosses into To’s own family experience, he invites his mother to pose in a series of portraits based on vintage studio shots of Judy Garland. The completed work, rendered on a glittered ground, flirts dangerously with sentimentality. Yet, the images are beyond the easy definitions of ‘drag, ’ ‘camp,’ or ‘kitsch’. If sentimentality can be summarized as the expression of uncomplicated emotions at the expense of reason, these works are the opposite as they deal with conflicting feelings and memories on a shimmering surface.

A second series, Vessel, presents photographic images of floral arrangements also created by Lai in the Ikebana style. The images draw upon the artist’s childhood visits to his mother’s flower arranging class at the YWCA. To’s mother belonged to the first generation of cheongsam wearing-office ladies in Central, a generation of new ‘feminist’ women in Hong Kong. Flower arrangements at home would be a feature of all the festival occasions of To’s early years. At the same time, these temporal displays would serve as totems of time, underpinning the cultural values and psyche of the era. Later on, flowers would become a business and life career for Lai.

Vessels refers not only to the vases and basins in varying forms and shapes that contained the floral arrangements; it is also a reference to ourselves as receptacles of learning, where much of the content is often short-lived or changing, like the plant life they hold. The floral arrangements in the images are not in full views— cropped to be seen from a particular vantage point— the diffused, Kodakchrome-coloured photographs have been printed on mirror, effectively masking the silver’s reflective ability.

ABOUT HIRAM TO:

Hiram To is an artist who works in conceptual-based installations. He is also a writer in the visual arts, popular culture, film and fashion. Currently, he holds a full-time position in corporate communications and splits his time in art making and writing in fashion and the visual arts. Born in Hong Kong to Chinese parents, Hiram To lived in Scotland and Australia. He has widely exhibited in Australian public galleries and internationally, with works acquired by institutions such as the National Gallery of Australia, Powerhouse Museum and the Queensland Art Gallery. Hiram was invited by Camden Arts Centre in London to exhibit a one-person exhibition in 1994. The invitation was the first Chinese artist solo show at a British contemporary art museum. The Winnipeg Art Gallery, the State Gallery of Manitoba in Canada also presented a selected projects survey of the artist in 2002. He was one of three artists representing Hong Kong at the 52nd Venice Biennale in 2007.

As a curator, he has collaborated with Institute of Modern Art Brisbane, Artspace Sydney, Ipswich Art Gallery and Next Wave Festival in Australia, and Hong Kongs Goethe-Institut. Since 1995, he has resided in Hong Kong and worked in communications and journalism. His writings have appeared in South China Morning Post, Harpers Bazaar Hong Kong, C for Culture, City Magazine, The Standard and many other English and Chinese language publications. In 2011, Hiram collaborated with Australian artist Scott Redford on the project For Your Pleasure (Remake / Remodel). He created Canto 6, a magazine project with Harper’s Bazaar Hong Kong with the participation of Hong Kong vocalist Sandy Lam and other Hong Kong artists, and One Suitcase Per Person, a project with David Diao and Ken Lum, two of the most important international Chinese artists in the world today.

ABOUT AMELIA JOHNSON CONTEMPORARY:

Founded in 2005 by Amelia Johnson, Amelia Johnson Contemporary has built up an enviable reputation for presenting carefully curated exhibitions. The gallery is dedicated to exhibiting groundbreaking international contemporary art in Hong Kong and to promoting young Hong Kong artists through spotlight exhibitions both in Hong Kong and overseas. The gallery has grown to such an extent that Gallery 2 of Amelia Johnson Contemporary was established at the start of 2011. Based in an old potter’s studio across the street from the main gallery space, Gallery 2 is an exciting new venue for showcasing site-specific installations and large scale single works. The gallery has participated in many international art fairs, including CIGE (Beijing), Arco (Madrid), ShContemporary (Shanghai), The Asian Art Fair (New York) Pulse (Miami) and ART HK (Hong Kong). www.ajc-art.com

For further details on the exhibition, detailed artist biography & images please contact the gallery on (852) 2548 2286 or info@ajc-art.com

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