Paint in the background

Researching before creating art doesn’t sound like something a contemporary artist would do. But now there is an opportunity for artists to experience a new way of producing art.

The British Council in Hong Kong, in partnership with the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art and Phillips Auctioneers, is launching a new Artist-in-Residence Scheme for 2019-20.

The initiative allows one short-listed candidate to work in any discipline on a nine-week-long residency program between February and April 2020, at the CFCCA in Manchester, UK. It hopes the new artwork or project can demonstrate what the artist gained during their residency.

Throughout the program, the CFCCA will provide the necessary materials and network support to help the artist contact insiders of specific groups they decide to work with, to help complete the research for the art creation.

“Some people think doing research is boring, but actually, it can be very interesting, especially when it comes to creating a piece of art,” said Antony Chan, head of arts and creative industries at the British Council in Hong Kong.

The theme for the artworks is entirely open. Artists can focus on vulnerable groups such as the elderly and the disabled, social events or specific communities they are interested in illustrating.

For example, if the artist wants to develop a piece that demonstrates how painting can enhance the mental well-being of the elderly, the CFCCA can help arrange interviews. Talking with the elderly, medical professionals, psychologists and NGOs can give the artist a basis – a clear understanding of the issue – for developing that piece.

Chan said one contemporary art piece he is most impressed by is Tracey Emin’s My Bed installation, first created in 1998. In this piece, the artist unhesitatingly displays one of the lowest points of her life amid yellowing sheets, condoms, a tampon, a pregnancy test, discarded underwear and numerous vodka bottles – depicting her loneliness in a darkened rental room.

“The pursuit of art is, through artworks, to foster the understanding of social inclusion and make a greater impact of people’s lives,” Chan said.

“We don’t want the artist to work in a vacuum because without the information, understanding, and more importantly, empathy, you will not be able to create that piece.”

Aiming at developing the next generation of socially engaged artists in Hong Kong, the program hopes the “emerging or mid-career artist” who is still growing in their artistic life will take the best advantage of this opportunity. The research not only helps the artist produce new art but also gain social networking and looks for future collaborations.

“There are many possibilities for growing artists to create art, and the program provides an opportunity for the artists to look at or even consider the importance of research before or while creating their own piece,” Chan said.

“That’s the element that we want to emphasize in the program – we are looking at a longer game.”

In addition to a budget of 2,000 (HK$20,240) for the research, materials and production of a new project, the residency will also provide 24-hour access to a studio on-site at the CFCCA with a working and single occupancy living space.

Living expenses, an economy return flight between Hong Kong and Manchester and an open studio or similar public event at the end of the residency period will be covered as well.

“We are a creative-oriented program because we have no restrictions on the content and form of the artist’s final work,” said Chan.

“Hopefully, the artist can have a deeper understanding of the specific field and enjoy new life experiences in Manchester.”

Interested artists should submit their applications before October 26.

(This article was published at The Standard on October 22, 2019: Education: Paint in the background )

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