Beauty, Happiness, Intelligence -Plurality of Meaning Understood
By Roger Lee, Fringe Cats, Fringe Festival'96
With less than 18 month until the big '97', Hong Kong artists, both at home and abroad, are expressing their apprehension and some fear of what will happen under the new political regime. Hong Kong born, U.K. educated and now based in Toronto, Canada, Tang Ying Chi, represents the dual mentalities, some oppositional, that she sees as evident in the two societies.
Evident in many of the paintings are in the prominent photo emulsion of temples and buildings that speak of power and the glories of past and present China. These images, the grid and contoured frames connote the new politics which will take over Hong Kong, that is suggested by the free, painterly and expressive brush and emphasized by the drape, unstretched canvas.
The contrast between a structure society (China) and one where freedom and self-expression predominate (Hong Kong) are subtly inferred in Beauty, Happiness, Intelligence II in which formalist concerns for surfaceness and the defined rectangular forms are opposed by the fragmented framing devices. Frames that constrain the individual are released by the prevalent use of loose painterly marks that erase the frame, the floating cloud-like forms and the prominent "X"on top of the flesh toned shape. All negated the conception of order and control.
In Beauty, Happiness, Intelligence III, text is employed to represent Hong Kong culture. The English text, 'business career', 'classified' are the economics that runs Hong Kong society. The Chinese text, in a very child-like calligraphic style, is about the tight knit family. How will the new state react to the culture of business, the family and the personal lives of Hongkongese. The ideology of the state is juxtaposed to the personal freedom that is the capitalist, Hong Kong. This use of oppositions suggests the fragility of balance that will ultimately see itself play out after the year 1997.
By titling the works Beauty, Happiness, Intelligence, Tang allows the viewer to personally define what each word means therefore making evident that there is no clear singular definition. It is this plurality of meanings that is understood in Hong Kong and their trepidation arises with the arrival of the major power to the east. If there is a dichotomy of mentalities, both political and personal between the Chinese state and Hong Kong culture, how will it be resolved in 1997?