After seeing ‘Imagine there’s no country, Above us only cities’ at ParaSite, I got the MTR and headed north to Kwah Hung to meet Morgan Wong, friend and artist (researcher and arts educator too). I met Morgan many years ago when he was studying at Slade School of Art, London, and since we’ve followed each others mutual practice and research interests, always managing to keep in touch. It was great to see him in his studio-home, well it’s great to see any artist in their locale so that when I’m home and speak to them I can visualise their reality. (Complete sideline but recently discovered “aphantasia“, the inability to visualise thoughts in the mind or creating mental images. No idea what this must feel like!). My mom always says that’s why she likes a photo…or Skype call…to “see” where I am.
Anyway, Morgan and I chatted non-stop for nearly two hours, about pretty much everything in our mutual worlds…the artist-curator and hybrid roles creatives take on…artists curating their work through technical installation and the curator curating installed artwork, current research into urbanism, garden cities and architecture in Hong Kong, future research in to Vietnamese refugees that opened up a huge conversation into the current European migrant/refugee situation and how the media polarised these situations, his artwork currently on show at Para Site, his new studio, the Birmingham art scene and galleries infrastructure, my work with CCVA, Shen Xin’s (who was one of Morgan’s peers when studying at the Slade) artist fellowship and so much more. Studios are an honest reflection of an artist and the way in which they negotiate the world, giving you personal insight into the things that fuel them. Morgan’s studio reminded me of how much “stuff” I have in my house…a reality I’ve always struggled with as its feels like extra weight to me…I like knowing what I have with a constant realisation that you don’t need much to actually live. When I get home, I’ll no doubt have a drastic post-Asia clear out as I usually do.
When I was in Hong Kong earlier this year in March, Morgan had been commissioned by Rolls-Royce in psrtnership with Pearl Lam Galleries to create new work (I will very belatedly write about this now) – ‘Untitled – Express Highway’ (2015). Commercial commissions are always questionable in terms of artistic freedom, rights and quality, however it seems Rolls Royce was a good partner to work with. Morgan was given complete freedom to the extent where he was not asked to use a car, this was his choice. He investigated ‘the value of urban development in relation to the irrepressibility of time by transforming Rolls-Royce Motor Cars’ Spirit of Ecstasy, from a symbol of beauty to an emblem for capturing timelessness.’ This statement taken from the project’s press release doesn’t really explain much! I’m glad he was there to explain it to me at the opening event. walking me through the environment he’d created…from the floor print-image on the showroom floor, the mutli-channel video work including footage taken while cruising on a route connecting the present heart of Hong Kong and a satellite ‘new town’ embedded in the city’s prehistoric history, interior car sound narration by a fictional character, and book…the book you can also see in his studio above – ‘Garden Cities of To-morrow‘ by the British urban planner Ebenezer Howard (I swear this has become a bible to Morgan).
“Inside the vehicle the audience will experience a virtual voyage in an intimate and timeless manner.”