Sat 15 Oct 2022 to Sat 7 Jan 2023
Artist: Jaffa Lam Laam
I used to ask: What can artists do for society?
After years of stumbling, I now realise that it’s not easy only to recognise myself.
In my first solo exhibition after nine years, I feel like I’m the Monkey King who has been mediating alone for 500 years.
I meet the Master, step on the Somersault Cloud and go on a pilgrimage to the West.
The pursuit of the truth is a vast and elusive road ahead.
Axel Vervoordt Gallery presents Chasing an Elusive Nature, a solo exhibition by Jaffa Lam (b. 1973), the first Hong Kong artist in the gallery’s roster. The inaugural exhibition with the gallery also marks the artist’s first solo exhibition following the invitation by Hong Kong Arts Centre, Jaffa Lam Laam Collaborative: Weaver in 2013.
Chasing an Elusive Nature spans the entire floor of the gallery and features new sculptural works and site-specific installations made with a variety of materials, including recycled crate wood, umbrella fabric, bronze, and stainless steel. Lam’s new works are presented in dialogue with some of her earlier pieces, showing her long-standing anchorage in local heritage, history, and explorations into the city’s collective power.
“Taishang LaoJun’s Furnace” (2022) is a large installation consisting of 500 rock sculptures moulded from fifty stones that the artist collected along the coastline of Hong Kong. Instead of showing the original stones, Lam chose to reproduce them in concrete, bronze, and aluminium, forming an uncanny and artificial landscape on the floor. The title refers to the Monkey King, — the artist’s favourite hero — who was born out of a magical stone and was once punished in Taishang Laojun’s furnace. He emerged, however, stronger than before. Monkey King was trapped under a mountain for 500 years, which is the number of rocks created by Lam, as another way to record time. While revisiting Hong Kong’s history and Cantonese culture, Lam tends to raise the issues of boundaries and territories, as well as the loss of craftsmanship in the city.
The exhibition’s second room is conceived as a meditative and intimate space. “Lost Limb Chair” (2022) is a hybrid chair, typical of her work that interweaves natural and industrial recycled materials. “Meditation Tent” (2011), consisting of a large number of recycled umbrellas, is hanging from the ceiling. As part of the journey for experiencing Lam’s spiritual epiphany through her creations, the viewers perhaps can mitigate their fear and the sense of the unknown that they currently might carry. The space also features several works and elements showcasing Jaffa’s multidisciplinary practice.
In the past ten years, water has been a significant subject matter for Lam’s practice that represents the spread of continuity of the city and feelings of resilience and flexibility. The exhibition’s last room showcases a series of works that celebrate the polymorph and metaphorical features of this natural element. “Peaceful · Surging” (2017), for instance, is a polished and mirrored wall sculpture that evokes the unfathomable depths of the ocean. Made of stainless steel, the sculpture resembles ocean waves that seem to unfold in a play of light and shadow. In “Lying Silence” (2022), she follows the natural grain of the wood, subtly rounding its points and embracing its slopes and deviations, to give to wood the movement and features of water.
Lam’s works oscillate between reality and illusion, loneliness and intimacy, as well as passive and active. The wider the frequency of the oscillations, the deeper the interpretations by the viewers of Jaffa’s creative process. Today, there’s a strong tendency to rely only on what is visual. The act and ability to see may result in an illusion or complexity of things and situations. The artist uses complexity in a way that she envisions what is happening in the world from micro and macro perspectives. It is intricate, yet subtle and elegant. Lam gently reminds us that human actions are capable of communicating signals of hope, and these actions have great potential to shape a better society.
all images © the gallery and the artist(s)