Infinite potential

Readers might remember Crafts on Peel’s inaugural exhibition, which showed contemporary artists and traditional artisans getting together to create beautiful works.

Equally knowledgeable but fun workshops, such as guangcai tableware painting and tea appreciation, also pleased audiences.

The previous events were so comprehensive that it was hard to imagine how the non-profit could top that.

However, Penelope Luk, creative director and cocurator of Crafts on Peel, said Imagine the ‘Im’posibilities: Bamboo, has done just that.

She said the new exhibition, an extension of the inaugural show, is the result of many research trips and studies from as early as 2017 – even before the tong lau where Crafts on Peel is located, was renovated.

The organization’s founder, Yama Chan, loved the handmade bamboo lanterns and treasured childhood memories of her parents taking her to buy them at street markets during the Mid-Autumn Festival.

“It’s a pity that we can barely see locally handmade bamboo lanterns in the city anymore,” Luk said. “From the yum cha steamers to the festive decorations and lion dances, as well as scaffolding still used in the construction industry today, bamboo as a material is so common in Hong Kong that it’s easy to overlook.”

The idea of having bamboo for Crafts on Peel’s first thematic exhibition became rooted in Chan and the team’s mind.

Beginning their research in Hong Kong, the team visited bamboo-framed lion head craftsman Cheung Foon, birdcage maker Chan Lok-choi and steamer manufacturer Tuck Chong Sum Kee, who later collaborated with Jinno Neko, Dylan Kwok and Lawrence Ting.

Their series of unique bamboo crafts on the venue’s ground floor continues from the inaugural exhibition, which allows the public to revisit touchpoints of the relationship between traditional craftsmanship and the modern world.

“Bamboo artisansfromTaiwanandJapan were also invited toshare how they re-inventtraditional bamboo craft,” said Luk.

Overlooking Reborn Merman by Cheung and Neko, which has been there since the venue’s opening, is Nine Patterns of Bamboo Weaving by Chen Yung-sheng from Taiwan.

It is one of Luk’s favorite works. “Although the woven panels seem plain, as you get closer, you can see that they become three-dimensional because they’re interweaved with different techniques in different colors.”

While the feature wall introduces the audience to the world of bamboo, the tangled weave of Chen’s The Dawn of Life – Tangle creates blossom-like layers. Displayed on the second floor, the sand structure installation demonstrates the pliability of bamboo.

The second floor, divided into three sections, shows what Luk called “theimpossibilitiesof weavingutilityandaestheticsinto traditional bamboo craftsmanship.”

Cocurator and artisan Benjamin Wang put a lot of effort into it. Described by Luk as a “walking encyclopedia” of bamboo craft, he met the team before its trips to 12 cities in Taiwan and eight cities in Japan in 2018.

“Without him, our exhibition would not be so comprehensive and perfect,” said Luk.

Assimilate into the Environment traces the development of bamboo crafts for practical purposes. For example, Wang’s Lamp, assembled from a fruit tray, a duck-feeding bowl and a chicken cage, highlights the practicality in once everyday items.

The narrative continues with The Pursuit of Elegance, showcasing how values developed during China’s Song Dynasty elevated bambooware from items of primarily rustic purpose to crafted objects of aesthetic value.

The third, The Beauty of Daily Objects, echoes the concept of “Beauty in usage” by Japanese philosopher Yanagi Soetsu. Japanese artisan Tamotsu Nishimoto’s Teppachi Morikago and Takezaiku Basket focus on “achieving beauty in life at the moment of usage.”

“Embodying purity and infinite creative possibility, bamboo is a material with an elaborate living culture across Asia,” said Wang.

Until December 31, the venue will also hold workshops, including flower arranging with bamboo vases and incense making.

(This article was published at The Standard on October 23, 2020: Weekend Glitz: Infinite potential )

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