Chihoi 智海: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 《聖誕快樂，並賀新禧》
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 《聖誕快樂，並賀新禧》
3 December 2022 – 21 January 2023
Visual artist Chihoi’s solo exhibition in Hong Kong ‘Merry Christmas and Happy New Year’ features around 40 new oil paintings and a slide projection of the same images. Taking his personal old slide collection as the point of departure, Chihoi paints the wall projection of the slide images directly on canvas. The reproduced images illustrate familiar impressions of old Hong Kong between the 1960s and 1980s. The artist then turns these reproductions on canvas into slides and projects them. As time passes, memories are transferred and translated, eventually encapsulated in their original medium.
For Chihoi who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, the Hong Kong in the old slides belongs to some other past, a time and space he never knew. Through a tourist’s perspective, the artist revisits old images and impressions. With the advance of imaging technology and the Internet, the slides, originally sold as souvenirs and not intended for the local people, now constitute a kind of shared memory of Hong Kong history, a missing puzzle piece to fill in the gaps of the otherwise not too complete memory. The faded old slides are left with a reddish colour, and the artist tries to reproduce this weathered, aged colour of the present: the vivid colours of neon lights have become mellow yet still enchant.
Hong Kong scenery and themes are a constant motif in Chihoi’s creations, the familiar images evoking emotions and memories in the subconscious and dreams. The artist has always attached great importance to the composition, choice of colour and various details, incorporating the imagery and imaginary elements drawn from dreams. And in this new series, the artist adopts an unprecedented painting method, with an understated style, a quick ‘sketch’ of still landscape outlining indistinct impressions. Compared with his slightly surrealist works of before, most of the works displayed in this exhibition are direct depictions of ‘real’ images as seen by the artist. Painted in an almost monochromatic tone, the works seem tranquil at first glance, but are in fact the precipitation and sublimation of years of observation and painting of Hong Kong’s history and scenery.
The 40 oil paintings in the series, divided into groups, will be exhibited in several phases, while the whole series is projected as a slideshow in the exhibition space. For the artist who also draws comics, the ordering of the slide projection is like the frames in comics. Comics consist of pages of drawings, which are compiled and printed into a final book form. Whereas the slide projection in the exhibition consists of reproduced photographic images of the artist’s paintings, themselves reproductions of the faded old slides. Instead of the paintings on canvas, the reproduced images in the slide projection are the real final product. From projection to painting, then back to projection, a conceptual cycle is formed, as well as our own projections of the past.
Warm and gentle, the quartline light of the slide projector carries the brilliance of the old analog era. The exhibition title ‘Merry Christmas and Happy New Year’ comes from ‘Merry Christmas’, one of the works in the series, which portrays the outdoor Christmas lights and those on the exterior wall of the old HSBC Building. The annual activity of seeing the brilliant Christmas lights is a shared experience of the artist and people of his generation. With this exhibition, Chihoi sends his season’s greetings and message, and at the same time projects these images of the past into everyone’s memory.