Words and Images in Contemporary Hong Kong Art: 1984-1997

Lai, Mei Lin 黎美蓮
Supervisor: Prof. David Clarke

This thesis explores the art of Hong Kong between 1984 and 1997. The year 1984 marked the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration over the future of Hong Kong, and the year 1997 Britain’s handover of the political sovereignty of Hong Kong to Mainland China. It is an important transitional period at the last part of Hong Kong’s colonial history. During this period, a number of significant social and political events took place. They include the June 4th Event in 1989, and the democratic reforms introduced by Christopher Patten, the last governor of Hong Kong. Many local artists have responded to the changing social and political environment by mapping them with their works. This thesis concentrates on the works of those artists who attempted to capture this important historical era with words and images.

This thesis comprises of four chapters. The first three are devoted to individual studies of the art of Antonio Mak Hin-yeung, Oscar Ho Hing-kay, and Wang Hai. Mak, a bronze sculptor, was renowned for his witty plays with visual-verbal puns and paradoxes which address the human conditions as well as the pre-1997 political milieu. Ho is well-known for his mixed-media drawings where cartoon-like images and long inscriptions are employed to portray the hysterics of the local community before 1997. Wang, trained in Mainland China, takes an outsider’s interest in the colonial aspects of Hong Kong. He comments on the local culture and politics with curt statements and appropriated images on the basis of certain feminist and post-colonial theories.

The final chapter investigates the diverse usages of words and images by a number of other Hong Kong artists: Lee Ka-sing, Choi Yan-chi, Ricky Yeung Sau-churk, Edwin Lai Kin-keung, Kith Tsang Tak-ping, Warren Leung Chi-wo, Phoebe Man Ching-ying, Anthony Leung Po-shan, Wong Shun-kit, Leung Mei-ping, and Chan Yuk-keung.