Home for the gods

Most people think Hart Hall, on the ground floor of H Queen’s in Central is a storefront area but it has always been planned as an exhibition space.

Household Gods is the first exhibition to result from its non-profit arts program. It showcases works by Nadim Abbas, Wu Jiaru, Tap Chan and Shane Aspegren – all of whom are taking part in the ongoing sixth session of the Hart Social Studio at Hart Haus, an open-concept workspace in Kennedy Town.

Abbas’ installation is the first to catch the eye, situated as it is in the front.

Homeless Forms for Formless Homes arranges items characteristic of daily rituals into patterns with cardboard and wood infrastructure, appearing like architectural models for a building complex: tinned food to represent eating, sponges for cleaning and toilet paper for self-caring.

“When people walk around the installation or just look through the windows, it’s as if they are peering into homes in a city building,” said Jeannie Wu, Hart’s director.

Although Abbas uses mundane household goods to create furniture, some people have said the installation looks like an altar.

Curator Kwok Ying said the exhibition is about human habits, rituals and emotions, all happening at home.

Although people are working from home due to the Covid-19 pandemic, what the artists demonstrate in Household Gods is that they still cannot escape urban anxieties and uncertainties, previously exacerbated by life stress and now the ongoing global pandemic.

Tap Chan’s two new works are a case in point. Suffering from severe insomnia, she transformed two headboards into winged wall sculptures in a mirror flip formation of each other and named it Twofold Consciousness, seeing it as a monument of sleepless nights.

The middle of a line of sight of two wall sculptures is Threshold Field, which consists of a handmade shelf in polyurethane atop a white nylon-strung carpet. With pink and blue mouthwash topping the installation and pops of sudden minty smells, the dazzling white installation depicts people’s obsession with cleanliness during the pandemic.

The exhibition’s Chinese name could be translated into “stay at home and settle your mind,” while some stuff of dreams, like what audiences can see in Chan’s works, and healing can be found in the exhibition.

Pondering the rationality of the traditonal Chinese depiction of door gods as always armed, fierce-looking and protecting our families from violence, Wu Jiaru created a unique interpretation of door gods.

In door-god I & II, the characters have naked and soft bodies, representing an intimate and honest image of door gods in Wu Jiaru’s mind.

The paintings are seen as metaphors for a quote by Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu: “Whatever is fluid, soft and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard.”

Aspegren’s work Rations for Brief Spells occupies a spacious room in the exhibition. It comprises of a series of small sculptures created from organic objects, meditation areas as well as carpets that allow guests to sit and immerse themselves in a loop of different sound sequences.

The work is based on his long-term research of sonic frequencies’ healing qualities on the body and mind.

Another Wu Jiaru work, beige-object, assembles preserved materials and waste from Wu’s household, such as plastic bottles, phone cases and toys, before she paints colors and sprays light-reflecting powder on them.

When audiences take pictures of the installation with their flash on, objects covered in the gray powder will have a completely different look in the light reflected. The idea is to make people rethink their growing dependence on their phones.

Audiences may need to bend down to get a better view of Wu Jiaru’s work, which coincides with bringing the audience’s visual focus to the same horizontal level of Aspegren’s work.

“This is the tacit understanding that the artists practiced at the Hart Haus,” said Jeannie Wu, echoing Wu Jiaru’s quote on Hart Haus: “For the past two years, I have been a boat and Hart Haus has been my harbor.”

(This article was published at The Standard on November 13, 2020: Weekend Glitz: Home for the gods )

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