Chasing the sun

Despite the social unrest and Covid-19 pandemic, many galleries have worked hard to continue holding exhibitions.

But with travel restrictions being strict, a new trend has emerged in the art market – works from gallery artists often had to be recurated and reexhibited.

Though the downtime had also increased the presence of local artists, 3812 Gallery’s opening of a new space in Central with an inaugural exhibition featuring a new artist served up fresh hope for the art scene. In celebration of its 10th anniversary, the new space will replace the gallery’s old one.

Running until April 9, Here Comes the Sun showcases over 20 acrylic and collage works across the late British artist Terry Frost’s 50-year career.

The theme resonates with the sun symbol seen in the artist’s paintings, inspired by the natural landscapes of St Ives, Cornwall, a county on England’s rugged southwestern tip always flooded with sunlight.

Gallery cofounder Calvin Hui, who gave the exhibition its Chinese title of “Ri Chu Dongfang,” or “sunrise in the East,” explained the name has layers of meaning for the artist, the gallery as well as Hong Kong.

The abstract hard-edge paintings contain traces of figurativism, with the coastline, sun, moon and glittering water, as well as boats and the female form, taking the form of free-floating color patches.

“Terry Frost’s works are colorful and cheerful, giving a sense of hope, joy and infinite positive energy,” Hui said. “His life is equally inspiring.”

Frost went through some hard times during World War II, when he served in the Middle East and was captured. Being an abstract artist with seven children to support after the war was not easy, Hui said.

“Life’s a bowl of cherries” – a quote reflecting this positive spirit – is printed on the gallery’s wall. “Frost’s works are refreshing, and the colors will give the audience a great deal of positivity and happiness,” Hui said.

Swing Purple is probably a visual embodiment of the connection between Hong Kong and the artist’s subject matter.

The painting’s varied geometry is reminiscent of boats bobbing on the sea in St Ives. The cheerful blocks of colors, referencing the sun-soaked scenery, give off a joyful vibe.

In the context of Hong Kong, the painting also resembles the sunrise at Victoria Harbour, while Kowloon, often nicknamed “The Dark Side,” is coincidentally in black.

Hui said the exhibition aims to establish a dialogue between the two coastal dwellings that transcends time, space and culture.

The new gallery will be the only one dedicated to British artists in Hong Kong, while its space in London focuses on introducing Hong Kong ink art and Chinese contemporary art to Europe.

Hui called this curatorial direction an “East/West parallel exchange” – a new goal for the gallery that he came up with during the year he was forced to stay in Hong Kong.

“This pandemic gave me time and space to reflect, refocus and prepare for our gallery’s 10th anniversary, and I wanted to take this unique time to move forward into a new decade with renewed cultural aspiration and business vision,” he said.

Hoping the time spent isolated from the outside world will also inspire Hongkongers, Hui said the exhibition, which opened just after the Lunar New Year, is looking to bring some positivity to Hong Kong audiences – especially when the city seems to be seeing light at the end of the Covid tunnel.

“The gallery opening also reflects our confidence in Hong Kong as the main market in Asia. Through our new space and our artists, we want to continue to demonstrate the unique strengths of the city and its people,” Hui said.

(This article was published at The Standard on March 12, 2021: Weekend Glitz: Chasing the sun )

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