Tuesday, August 6, 2013

REVIEW: Sunday Lai in BOING!!

Osage Kwun Tong, 27 – 28 July, 3 – 4 August, 10 – 11 August (5-10 pm)

BOING!! is a weekend pop-up night market in Osage Kwun Tong Gallery. It basically showcases 50 art students, young artists and art collectives. The theme was indeed "night market" and not only did the artists exhibit their works, they can also sell them. So far, I have been to two of three weekend night market already and I am most thrilled to report that there were some fabulous works on display.

Totally new, yet most refreshing to me was the work of Sunday Lai Long-Sang, a graduate from the Academy of Visual Arts, Hong Kong Baptist University (2009). Her work Pawning Painting and Gold Ring is a process and transaction driven work. At its most fundamental, Sunday was selling a video, a video of her pawning a gold ring and also 4 paintings by her. The video shows the transaction, the valuation and the exchanges of values. However, the work is actually way bigger than the video itself. In fact, I am not even so sure whether the work is already finished or not... perhaps I, myself is part of the work! Let me explain.

Showing Pawning Oil Painting and Gold Ring
"NOT in stock in HMV" sign in reference to the DVD for sale

The whole project or work started with Sunday being able to sell her paintings in a Taiwan art fair at the start of the year. Back in Hong Kong, she then started questioning the value of her paintings, a question that we all know is very subjective yet paramount in the world of art. In her valuation process, she decided to follow-up the value change of her paintings by benchmarking them against a gold ring by pawning them. She then video-taped the whole transaction.

Watching the transaction is like watching a movie one knows already how it will end; and in this case, one knows that the pawn shop will not accept the paintings. BUT STILL, when the words "They are not worth any value!" is said, emotions are triggered. The composition of the protagonist looking up to the person who puts value on the item made the imagery even more compelling; almost like a criminal waiting for the judge's verdict in a courtroom. In the video, two transactions were made, one gold ring for HK$600 and another one for HK$1000. What is unknown to the audience but revealed by the artist later was that the cheaper ring was actually given to her by her mom, while the more expensive one was bought by her. This information, meanwhile, introduced a different valuation of the rings. When she broached the topic of selling the entire work, she raised the concern of giving up (or even worse, selling) the ring that her mom gave her. Whether this was part of the "act" or not, the dilemma and the question of value was somehow transferred to me, the buyer. Is the cheaper ring indeed really cheaper?
Oil Painting No. 1
Oil Painting No. 2
Oil Painting No. 3
Oil Painting No. 4

I first saw the exhibit on the 27th of August. I informed Sunday of my interest in buying the entire work. She asked me to make an offer but I didn't. Instead, I asked her to make me an offer. Despite my agreement to her offer, she then informed me that she would prefer to check out what will "transpire" during the rest of the exhibition period. Should I feel offended? I would normally... but somehow, I do really like the work and I feel that this whole transaction process is part of the work itself! Instead, I asked her when she will be able to make a decision, and the reply was, "middle of the week".

Receipt for Gold Ring No. 1 (HK$600)
Receipt for Gold Ring No. 1 (HK$1000)

"Middle of the week" came and she sms-ed me that her show will be extended to the following weekend; and if it is okay that she will reply to me the Monday after the weekend. I suppose I have no choice, but to wait... The reality is that I am aware of at least two other collectors who have offered to buy the work... what are my chances? Monday came and the price has doubled... and at the end, we met in the middle. I can't help but feel that I am part of the work... maybe I should print out and frame the entire sms exchange! In conclusion, it is a brilliant work from a very young artist; and I am looking forward to seeing (or experiencing) more of her works.

Check out Sunday's older work: Living in the Scene = 生活場景 video (2009)

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