If but for a moment the inevitable fate of a point in time, or our perception of a thing, was seen, held. ‘one second ago’, a group exhibition at Edouard Malingue Gallery, Hong Kong, evokes that tittering sense of balance regards a state of existence or actuality, whether represented by assemblages of the quotidian or elements from nature. Such fine lines or instances are addressed by the works of He Yida (b. 1980, China), Handiwirman Saputra (b. 1975, Indonesia), Jeremy Everett (b. 1979, USA), Tao Hui (b. 1987, China) and Phillip Lai (b. 1969, Malaysia / UK), which beyond responding to a sense of spatial and temporal oscillation, demonstrate that a sense of passing, as well as assignation of value to the negligible, is a universal phenomenon, extending beyond borders and conditions.
Employing everyday materials, He Yida challenges what we look at twice or indeed contemplate as beautiful, worth our gaze, engagement. Seemingly bearing the influence of Arte Povera, He creates sculptural arrangements that appear effortless, ad hoc, but equally open – to interpretation, possibilities. Initial impressions are replaced by further observations, permitting a serial wave of consciousness, no one thought being the same as a prior. Exploring spatial planes, He carves through literal space whilst creating zones for contemplations of order, societal and aesthetic. Indeed, He probes at human sensibility and emancipation, extending beyond Walter Benjamin’s notion of ‘aura’ as defining something that is highly valued yet deceptive and out of reach.
Moving towards the use of more visceral materials whilst equally engaging with a sense of precipice, Handiwirman Saputra creates composition from items such as thread to lumps of hair, which border the realm of two and three dimensions. Paintings that are extensions of a surface rather than points of finality, Saputra’s works appear rid of artistic pretension; there is an objective humility to their presence, which act as epistemological portals to probe our way of seeing, of perception, the relationships we create between things, the values we consequently assign and stories we weave. Combining a careful selection of items with technical rigour, Saputra prompts a search for beauty amidst the mundane, for visual and conceptual harmony amidst the seemingly anti-aesthetic.
Building on a notion of variance, Jeremy Everett’s works explore the poetic balance between beauty and vulnerability. A raw unframed canvas, finely layered by traces of molecular paint pigment – a delicate shard, the subtle outlines standing as vestigial marks of the process of creation. There is a sense of the bodily and self, as one recognises the inevitability of gravity, finding beauty at each stage and in every instant. Akin to an open sentence, Everett creates a form of visual poetry that hovers amid initiation and completion, pointing that finality is but momentary, belonging to that instant not the next. Circling conformation, Everett unshackles materials of their societal purpose, broadening their perception and use, whether cyanotype in the course of pigmentation or gesso as paint – a lesson in alternative viewings.
Creating a dialogue with this running notion of poetic material alteration is the work of Philip Lai, who develops a sense of itinerancy through estranging familiar objects to the point of abstraction. Emphasising spatial experience, Lai weaves situations, encounters, which compel a sense of contemplations regards what we believe to know, recognise and understand. Moving between different planes of sight as well as notions of weight, Lai’s works elicit those rare moments of pluralistic self-awareness where one is attuned to jumping thought as well as the details in one’s surroundings, from the floor that roots us to that object which may be out of the corner of our eye, or the indistinct point ahead. The reformulated quotidian becomes engulfing yet isolated and humble, each work acting as a treasured point of focus.
Extending deeper into considerations of the self, Tao Hui calls to question surrounding culture and identity. Using various mediums including video, objects, and installation, Tao creates bizarre and exaggerated scenes that test our realities, what we see and what we believe. Presented is a kinetic installation composed of wind cups, mirrors and metal chains, the rapid circular movement acting as a frenetic metaphor for the tenets of urbanisation and hegemonic thinking. Elements of what we see around us are flashed back to us by the mirrors only to disappear again, a reminder of what comes, is glimpsed, and goes. Subtle yet provocative, Tao’s work is imbued with a sharp emotional power, its pulse being one of visual staccato.
As such, the viewer is invited to discover poetry through slight gestures, playful compositions and unexpected materials. ‘one second ago’ is a call to that fragile state of balance, that short albeit precious moment when one stops to see and look at what is around us, until time flows again and carries everything away – a flicker in that temporal stream.