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For Caution

[09.12.23 – 27.01.24]


Phillip Lai


10 Sik On Street, Wanchai

(Related files)

Kiang Malingue is pleased to present “For Caution”, an exhibition of new work by Phillip Lai. This is the London-based artist’s second solo exhibition with the gallery. 

Over the past three decades, Phillip Lai has developed a sculptural language which explores approaches to the ubiquitous materials and experiences that derive from a techno-industrial culture – such as that of mass production, functionality, the mechanistic, automation, ergonomics, infrastructure. Its basis refers to our psychological interactions in this culture, as well as an intermingling with it. Transfers or retentions of energy are envisioned, through materials and objects that often suggest the support of basic daily functions, needs and the sustaining of human life.

For his exhibition at Kiang Malingue, Lai’s work occupies various floors of the gallery. The new works made for this show cross-reference each other in their formal vocabularies as well as in their resonances and discords, building upon each other’s offerings. Cages and enclosures appear in this exhibition, making reference to municipal tipper refuse vans, hazardous storage or emergency vehicles that control waste and risk in our everyday life. The work probes a peripheral attention and subliminal alertness to these commonplace features of the urban. 

For example, the notional perimeter of safety and danger is explored sculpturally through the work Four Cautions. The inverted caution signs on the red metal enclosure deflects the subject of protection, and the design of the structure blurs its compliance. An aspect of management and control is also re-imagined in other work. Inside a galvanised metal cage, two beacons reside on the tip of bent pipes, creating a roving new order through strobing and acoustics. In a further series of work, functionality and the operations of signalling are rendered defunct. Instead, the shells and fixtures of light-bars from emergency vehicles are refabricated, exchanging function for a material closeness, and share the contained cavities of the objects with various materials of sustenance.

Across all of Lai’s work, he excavates for something deeper and beyond the apparent inertia of objects. This excavation, as though to glimpse more clearly the underlying interaction of things, seems to reach for the quietest, most remote trace of figuration that may belie their abstraction. 

(About Phillip Lai)

Phillip Lai was born in 1969 in Kuala Lumpur, and he lives and works in London. His works have been shown in solo exhibitions in institutions including Camden Art Centre, London (2014); Transmission Gallery, Glasgow (2009); and The Showroom, London (1997). His work has been shown in group exhibitions in such institutions as The Hepworth Wakefield, Wakefield, UK (2018); John Hansard Gallery, Southampton University, Southampton (2015); Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham (2014); City Gallery Prague, Prague, Czech Republic (2012); Tate Modern, Turbine Hall, London (2010); Cubitt, London (2008); Overgaden Institute for Samtidskunst, Copenhagen, Denmark (2007); Midway Contemporary Art, Minneapolis, USA (2007); CCA, Glasgow, Scotland (2005); Hayward Gallery, London (1999); MoMA, New York, USA (1998); and ICA, London (1995). In 2018 the artist was shortlisted for the Hepworth Prize for Sculpture. His work is held in collections including: Arts Council Collection, London; Nomas Foundation, Rome, Italy; Sifang Art Museum, Nanjing, China; Tate, London.