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Near and Elsewhere

[28.11.13 – 03.02.14]


João Vasco Paiva


Edouard Malingue Gallery, Hong Kong

(Related files)

Edouard Malingue Gallery is pleased to present ‘Near and Elsewhere’, a solo exhibition of Hong Kong-based artist João Vasco Paiva (b.1979, Portugal) that explores the aesthetic qualities unconsciously-created by a city’s public collective. A graduate from the Porto Arts Institute, João Vasco Paiva moved to Hong Kong in 2006 to complete a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Media. Upon graduation with distinction in 2008, João Vasco Paiva set to create works in multiple mediums, which consistently explore how urban spaces may serve as catalysts for aesthetic production. While João Vasco Paiva’s practice is intrinsically tied to Hong Kong, his work resounds with dense urban environments around the globe, which he systematically documents, analyses, abstracts and reduces to create a codified interpretation that is simultaneously an artwork. At the heart of João Vasco Paiva’s practice is thus an interest in finding an order and inner logic to urbanity’s intrinsic complexity.

‘Near and Elsewhere’ reconsiders from an aesthetic perspective the objects and entities that metropolitan citizens collectively create, form and use to subsequently neglect or discard. From the boarded-up shop fronts camouflaged by a collage of ads, to cast-off plexi-glass strips and mark-ridden fences used to prop severed wood, João Vasco Paiva examines these detruded objects and considers their geometric qualities. By their interaction with multiple individuals, from shop-owners to real estate agents and carpenters, João Vasco Paiva remarks how each entity has unconsciously developed a visual quality that extends their value beyond their original use. As such, ‘Near and Elsewhere’ presents a series of urban sculptures that are inspired by those shapes and objects that have unintentionally amassed an aesthetic output. These are complemented by a video, which addresses our progressive desensitising to commercial bombardment.

While created from and inspired by objects amassed in and around Hong Kong, each of the sculptures on display are crucially not to be understood as Marcel Duchamp-esque ‘ready-mades’. Indeed, a rigorous process of creation has underpinned each structure so that the final result is a distant variant of the original. Untitled (Lumberyard Array 3) (2013), for example, is in fact a collected fence that João Vasco Paiva has repeatedly cleaned and painted, till the point where their original texture and colour is of the past and the only signs of their previous life are the thin cuts cast upon them. Similarly, the plexi-glass structures, found in the various corners of the gallery space, present the unwanted debris in a new order where their arrangement has been purposely altered to initiate a novel viewing perspective. A Brief Moment in Time I (2013) is a wooden board that has been painted in subtle hues of white and beige to express the geometry that is created by the piling and layering of ads on shop fronts. Furthermore, the objects that resemble the styrofoam boxes used in wet markets are resin-casts, lined with painting tape, while his painting on pulp paper is inspired by pipes on the façades of buildings.

In addition to the reconsidered sculptures described above, João Vasco Paiva presents a couple of works that introduce further lines of tangential thought. The first are a series of floor sculptures that represent speed bumps. While they continue from the artist’s interest in identifying the aesthetic qualities of the mundane – a speed bump is something you literally pass over – João Vasco Paiva presents this object in a contemplative setting, which elicits reflection on how elements that are intrinsic to a city’s infrastructure and functioning are often ignored. The second work also addresses ignoral, but of a different kind: that caused by acceptance rather than lack of interest. The video Threshold (2013), shot in the commercial and congested areas of Sham Shui Po, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay, shows clips of eye-level landscape, blanked of all pieces of text so that all advertising is removed from vision. In juxtaposition with the other works in the gallery, the video urges a revelation: that so much of what we see is accepted within our periphery of vision, despite being visual pollution, while instead so much of what we do not look at twice, actually has aesthetic qualities and is worthy of contemplation.

Overall, ‘Near and Elsewhere’ encourages a thoughtful reconsideration of what we choose to see and how we interact with it. Inspired by Marc Augé’s discussion of ‘Non-Places’, João Vasco Paiva addresses, in artistic, tangible and visual form, how each person sees things differently: what is of importance to one individual is not necessarily to another. João Vasco Paiva thus presents the possibility, that if recast in an alternative form, and presented in an alternative setting, our perceptions of significance may be shifted: what was once ‘near’ may be cast to being ‘elsewhere’, and vice-versa.


João Vasco Paiva is considered one of Hong Kong’s leading emerging contemporary artists and has been exhibited widely in museums as well as galleries from Hong Kong and Portugal to the UK, Australia, Hungary and New York. Recently, Paiva was featured in the seminal ‘Hong Kong Eye’ exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery in London and held a solo show at the Goethe Institute in Hong Kong. Upcoming shows include a solo exhibition at the Fundaçao Oriente in Macau. Furthermore, Paiva is the recipient of multiple awards, including the Hong Kong Emerging Artist Grant and the International Artist Support Grant awarded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Portugal.