Hubert Burda Media

The Making of X+Y, an exhibition at K11 Art Foundation

We meet artists Phoebe Hui and Tung Wing-hong before their dual exhibition.

Tung Wing-hong in his studio. Photo: Until Chan

When curator Jeff Leung was approached by K11 Art Foundation (KAF) to organise a dual solo exhibition, he knew that artists Phoebe Hui and Tung Wing-hong would be a good fit. “They both create mechanical installations but they talk about different things,” Leung explains. “For me, Hong is more emotional. He uses cool, hard materials to suggest human feelings. This style, this cold outside but a lot of feeling inside, is very like a Chinese man. Phoebe’s work is more tied to scientific knowledge. And Phoebe is a type of Hong Kong girl – she’s smart, she can solve the problem. That’s why the exhibition is called X+Y, they’re different but their work can exist together.” 

For X+Y, Tung has built an installation that’s made up of eight rotating projectors, each of them casting a different video on to individual monitors, which are themselves rotating. This is just the latest of Tung’s conceptual, video-based works, which he started making halfway through university. “When I went into year one of university I was still painting, but I got to a point where I didn’t know what I should paint,” Tung remembers. “Everyone was painting. Why should I make a painting? I couldn’t find a theme to paint that was unique to me. So I tried mixed-media objects.” 

Phoebe Hui. Portrait: Until Chan

Tung describes the videos in his KAF piece as “abstract landscapes” but they were all filmed inside his studio, which he shares with three other artists in an industrial building in Kwai Chung. He made one of the videos by moving aside a ceiling panel and pushing his camera through the crack, then filmed how the light filtered into the attic-like space. “Each of the eight videos will be slightly different,” Tung says. “But there will be some common objects or landscapes in them, so viewers will recognise that they’re related. I hope the viewers will put some thought into the mechanical installation, and I hope that they won’t get dizzy.”

Unlike Tung, who’s been studying art since his teens, Phoebe Hui took a little longer to find her calling. “I liked to make art when I was a child but I never thought of being an artist. I wanted to be a doctor,” Hui remembers. “Then I changed my mind when my mother passed away. Actually it affected me a lot because I started to think of whether I should think of what I’m really interested in rather than what my parents expect me to do. I started to make my own paintings again and contributed my comics to local magazines. 

“Then I did a bachelor’s degree in film editing and sound design,” Hui continues. “And when I was studying I had an internship at Wong Kar-wai’s [studio] and I really hated it. I realised that I liked movies and I liked storytelling but I probably didn’t fit the industry at all. And I started taking a class in installations and I really enjoyed the process.” 

Visitors testing Hui's take on the harmonograph

Visitors testing Hui's take on the harmonograph

Hui now makes large, interactive installations that often involve sound. For X+Y, she’s created one inspired by the harmonograph, a 19th-century invention that drew patterns based on the music that was played through it. “Mine looks quite different to the original harmonograph,” Hui says. “The original versions used pencil and paper to notate the movement of the two pendulums that are attached to the harmonograph models. But for my versions I used two swings to represent the pendulum and I used a water tank to become the paper. And I have a spotlight pointing to the water tank so that the movement of the water will project on the white wall.” Hui hopes that visitors will sit or stand on the swings, then watch as their movements create ripples in the water. 

Seeing as her art requires direct engagement from the audience, what does she think of the curator’s theory that Tung’s work is more emotional than hers? “For my recent projects I kind of want to be more rational,” Hui admits. “It doesn’t mean that I refuse to talk about feelings or other personal feelings or concerns, but I try to let the audience make a decision about how they should feel, instead of imposing a particular feeling."

X+Y is being hosted at chi art space in Central until October 23.