"A Departure from Reality II: City Fable"
In its upcoming exhibition "City Fable", Blindspot Gallery presents Found Landscape by Ng Sai Kit and The Irrational Night by Lai Lon Hin. With their distinct perspectives and subjectivity, the two photographers capture the reality of Hong Kong which unfolds like an endless, interweaving fable of the city.
As Charlotte Cotton notes in The Photograph as Contemporary Art, ‘Tableau Photography’ is a style of contemporary photography in which a single photograph conveys a clear narrative through its setting to the viewers1. The exhibition highlights the connection between the work of Ng and Lai and this style of contemporary photography.
The word ‘fable’ refers to a fictitious narrative or statement, often a legendary story of supernatural happenings, or a narration intended to enforce a useful truth2. The two artists encapsulate their hometown at its most unique and subtle moments. Each element of the composition is a shrewd and careful observation, while the expression is visceral in its mute revelation of the artists’ feelings for the city.
The most distinguished feature of Ng’s Found Landscape series is its vertical view in narrow compositions that echo the characteristics of space in Hong Kong. As the city’s space is constantly invaded by dense and thriving buildings, the public retreats between ever-narrowing space. In Ng’s work, glass exteriors of buildings are infinite reflections of surrounding buildings, streets and scenery, and they deliver the illusion of Hong Kong reverberating in a confined, interweaved space.
Ng’s photography also draws on the multiple visual perspectives that are unique to Chinese landscape painting, which focus on the extension of three dimensions: height, depth and width3. In most of his compositions, Ng employs these classical techniques to depict the cityscape where every dimension of space seems to be inter-wined in an urgent density. Human figures appear in miniature proportions, as if they are characters in a maze-like tale. The intersection of macro and micro views adds to dramatic effects of the scenery, leaving room for the audience to envisage the story.
In another series of photos of Hong Kong countryside, Ng forsakes the single perspective from which we observe reality and portrays nature through multiple layers of black, white and grey visuals. Distance between mountains and greenery is abridged or lost, while spatial dimension gains a sudden ambiguity—the audience is snatched away from the real world.
Lai’s color photography illuminates the night: the intricate relationship between nature, artificial scenery and the city. With his singular sensitivity to light, shadows and colors, Lai plays on the idea of ‘natural scenery’ in Hong Kong through irregular compositions and unusual proportions of greenery and buildings. In The Irrational Night 4, the audience gets an almost surreal glimpse of the city’s man-made scenery: a solitary plant grows through the crack of a large piece of stone, which stands against a tall, brightly lit building and the surrounding artificial lights.
The Irrational Night 9 is another atmospheric capture. At the entrance to a building, a small stone-mountain appears beside the staircase like a phantom floating above man-made construction, and barrier with red strings found nearby accentuates the eeriness of the scene.
Ng and Lai explores their city and arrest the most imaginative glimpses of the real world, to express their subjective perception of the cityscape—where fable is born out of reality through the photographic lens.