In recent years, Ko Sin Tung has been creating project-based, site- specific artworks and exhibitions in series, systematically dealing with social, architectural and quotidian themes. From a post-conceptual, post- minimal and seemingly detached perspective, Ko represents via installation, sculpture, painting, photography and video the process and means through which the contemporary society disciplines human bodies, critiquing the veiled, concealed and manipulated conditions of reality. Emphasising the internal dynamics in dichotomies — construction– destruction, development–ruination, exteriority–interiority — Ko’s artistic practice balances borderline imagery that appears ambiguous, and political discourses that are lucid and polemical.
In her early practice, Ko Sin Tung investigates the impact of things through a myriad of mediums and materials, the psychological influences private objects continuously project, and the non-utilitarian functions they have been personally channelled to fulfil. She observes the city’s inhabitants and their close-quarters, slowly questioning the ways in which their personal objects reflect life, revealing the existentialist abyss between the real and the simulacrum opened by bad images. Be it the blurry images of kitschy, ornamented vessels in Modern Home Collection series (2013-2015); the conceptual inscriptions of her textual works like P- E-R-M-A-N-E-N-T (2014) and 無敵海景 (2015); the political movement proposed by an array of works in the holistic exhibition “underground construction: failed” including 24 Tubes (2015); and even the reoccurring motif of the window that represents the threshold between the public and the private, as well as the enigmatic aura captured and reflected therein — all are telling of Ko’s early interests.
In 2019, Ko Sin Tung produced two exhibitions: “Dust and trivial matters” at The Bunker, Beijing, and “Adaptation” at Edouard Malingue Gallery, Hong Kong. The two exhibitions demonstrate the artist’s ambition in integrating heterogeneous elements and critiquing spaces, testifying comprehensively to the ongoing evolution of themes, forms and methods in her practice. “Dust and trivial matters” demarcates with transparent walls the former underground shelter that is already claustrophobic in the first place, severely separating the audience from the exhibits: video works, surgical instruments, cleaning equipment and readymade objects cut and sliced. Leaving indirect statements and euphemisms behind, Ko, in a fierce and acute fashion, represents her unique vision: the early window motif is here transformed into an environment that envelops and rejects the audience. The creative observer’s detachment is animated along with the presence of the audience; the surgical cleanliness — and it would further develop in projects to follow as an increasingly significant formal element — fights brutally and silently with the unremovable, natural filthiness in a context that is inherently confining. Carefully mapped, “Dust and trivial matters” through barring, slicing, shredding and discharging exercises reveals in consecutive scenarios a species of hidden violence.
For “Adaptation”, Ko Sin Tung also largely modifies the exhibition space, and works substantially on and with walls purposely built and smeared. Her long-term interest in the construction process — that is, the destruction process — fully manifests here: instead of filling the exhibition space with artworks, Ko builds the space and even inserts pieces into the walls, effectively re-staging the construction process. Speaking of her fascination with construction sites, Ko points out that the process of de- construction excavates a subtle dimension of reality, “as if this is the true face of the city.” Combining painting and photography, From dark to light (2019) in “Adaptation” further unfolds the window motif and is therefore constituted as a kind of meta-painting in this specific context. The uncanny A Blu-tack photo (2019) makes concise remarks on Ko’s oeuvre to date: maintaining a long-term, resilient relationship with her immediate reality, emphasising the subtle dialectics of vision-spectacle and touch- body, astutely observing the transience of things as she closely examines her own unconscious gestures. Since 2020, Ko has started to consider the influences of the global pandemic and regional political events on individual experiences, and continues to investigate the social, political and cultural as interruptions, obstacles, dangers and traps.
Ko Sin Tung is a highly promising, emerging young Hong Kong artist. She graduated from the Department of Fine Arts at The Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2009, currently works and lives in Hong Kong. Her works have been exhibited locally and internationally, including at the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Taichung City (2021), The Bunker, Beijing (2019), Tai Kwun Contemporary, Hong Kong (2018) and Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, Manchester (2017), amongst other locations. She was awarded the Special Jury Prize of Huayu Youth Award (2016), Pure Art Foundation Grant (2013-2014) and Project Grant (Emerging Artists Scheme) from the Hong Kong Arts Development Council (2014).