Olivia Shao's 'Le Contre-Ciel' Exhibit Pushes Boundaries of Chinese Aesthetics

Blending ancient artifacts with contemporary works.

Art
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Olivia Shao’s Le Contre-Ciel at Empty Gallery in Hong Kong boldly blends ancient artifacts with contemporary works, challenging the boundaries of Chinese aesthetics in modern art. The title, inspired by French surrealist René Daumal, suggests a defiance of cosmic order, resonating with Hong Kong’s current political climate. The Chinese title “nitian” (逆天) invokes the “Mandate of Heaven,” questioning current power structures as reported by Spike Art Magazine.

Francis Alÿs’s “Cuentos Patrióticos” (1997) and Tang Kwok-hin’s “Riddles of Light” (2015) critique futile resistance and hollow rituals. Dim lighting and Neolithic jade artifacts create a somber atmosphere, while Kazuo Ohno’s “Mr. O’s Book of the Dead” (1973) blends surreal dance with funereal themes. A 17th-century huanghuali armchair adds worldly elegance amidst this gravitas.

The exhibition features works that mimic traditional Chinese art, like Julia Scher’s greyhound sculptures and Liz Deschenes’s photograms. Wucius Wong’s “River Journey No. 2” (1986) harmonizes with Tom Thayer’s “Rock Instrument / Symphony” (2024), blending old and new.

Le Contre-Ciel is a curatorial triumph, provoking thought on the intersection of tradition and modernity. It offers a sharp, engaging exploration of art’s power to challenge and inspire amidst Hong Kong’s complex cultural landscape.

Empty Gallery
19/F, Grand Marine Center
3 Yue Fung St, Aberdeen
Hong Kong

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