Amelia Johnson Contemporary is pleased to present the latest project by Hong Kong-Australian artist
Hiram To, marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of his first one person-exhibition.
Garlands is an unique project for the artist in every
sense, as it is the first time that To is collaborating
with his mother Helen Lai, and a side step from the
artist’s oeuvre of politically infused-conceptual art.
Garlands follows from the themes of Garden
District, To’s last one person exhibition at the
Goethe-Institut Hong Kong in 2009 where a cast of
real life characters with multiple names and
dubious identities, plans of magic props and
poisonous plant life are merged into mappings
that chart the course of one’s life and desires.
In To’s Garlands, the artist uncharacteristically
takes on his own family history and the process of
understanding oneself through the earliest
memories of his mother’s Doris Day records, and
later, through the character Esther Blodgett / Vicki
Lester as played by the legendary actress Judy
Garland in A Star Is Born.
Building a fictional narrative that crosses into To’s
own family experience, he invites his mother to
pose in a series of portraits based on vintage
studio shots of Judy Garland. The completed
work, rendered on a glittered ground, flirts
dangerously with sentimentality. Yet, the images
are beyond the easy definitions of ‘drag, ’ ‘camp,’ or ‘kitsch’. If sentimentality can be summarized as the
expression of uncomplicated emotions at the expense of reason, these works are the opposite as they
deal with conflicting feelings and memories on a shimmering surface.
A second series, Vessel, presents photographic images of floral arrangements also created by Lai in the
Ikebana style. The images draw upon the artist’s childhood visits to his mother’s flower arranging class at
the YWCA. To’s mother belonged to the first generation of cheongsam wearing-office ladies in Central, a
generation of new ‘feminist’ women in Hong Kong. Flower arrangements at home would be a feature of
all the festival occasions of To’s early years. At the same time, these temporal displays would serve as
totems of time, underpinning the cultural values and psyche of the era. Later on, flowers would become
a business and life career for Lai.
Vessels refers not only to the vases and basins in varying forms and shapes that contained the floral
arrangements; it is also a reference to ourselves as receptacles of learning, where much of the content is
often short-lived or changing, like the plant life they hold. The floral arrangements in the images are not in
full views— cropped to be seen from a particular vantage point— the diffused, Kodakchrome-coloured
photographs have been printed on mirror, effectively masking the silver’s reflective ability.
ABOUT HIRAM TO:
Hiram To is an artist who works in conceptual-based installations. He is also a writer in the visual arts,
popular culture, film and fashion. Currently, he holds a full-time position in corporate communications and splits
his time in art making and writing in fashion and the visual arts. Born in Hong Kong to Chinese parents, Hiram To
lived in Scotland and Australia. He has widely exhibited in Australian public galleries and internationally, with
works acquired by institutions such as the National Gallery of Australia, Powerhouse Museum and the
Queensland Art Gallery. Hiram was invited by Camden Arts Centre in London to exhibit a one-person
exhibition in 1994. The invitation was the first Chinese artist solo show at a British contemporary art museum. The
Winnipeg Art Gallery, the State Gallery of Manitoba in Canada also presented a selected projects survey of
the artist in 2002. He was one of three artists representing Hong Kong at the 52nd Venice Biennale in 2007.
As a curator, he has collaborated with Institute of Modern Art Brisbane, Artspace Sydney, Ipswich Art Gallery
and Next Wave Festival in Australia, and Hong Kongs Goethe-Institut. Since 1995, he has resided in Hong Kong
and worked in communications and journalism. His writings have appeared in South China Morning Post,
Harpers Bazaar Hong Kong, C for Culture, City Magazine, The Standard and many other English and Chinese
In 2011, Hiram collaborated with Australian artist Scott Redford on the project For Your Pleasure (Remake /
Remodel). He created Canto 6, a magazine project with Harper’s Bazaar Hong Kong with the participation of
Hong Kong vocalist Sandy Lam and other Hong Kong artists, and One Suitcase Per Person, a project with David
Diao and Ken Lum, two of the most important international Chinese artists in the world today.
ABOUT AMELIA JOHNSON CONTEMPORARY:
Founded in 2005 by Amelia Johnson, Amelia Johnson Contemporary has built up an enviable reputation for
presenting carefully curated exhibitions. The gallery is dedicated to exhibiting groundbreaking international
contemporary art in Hong Kong and to promoting young Hong Kong artists through spotlight exhibitions both in
Hong Kong and overseas. The gallery has grown to such an extent that Gallery 2 of Amelia Johnson
Contemporary was established at the start of 2011. Based in an old potter’s studio across the street from the
main gallery space, Gallery 2 is an exciting new venue for showcasing site-specific installations and large scale
single works. The gallery has participated in many international art fairs, including CIGE (Beijing), Arco
(Madrid), ShContemporary (Shanghai), The Asian Art Fair (New York) Pulse (Miami) and ART HK (Hong Kong).
For further details on the exhibition, detailed artist biography & images
please contact the gallery on (852) 2548 2286 or firstname.lastname@example.org