12 Jan 2008, Hong Kong
The exhibition, Eniminiminimos: Artists who make things small (Studio Bibliothèque, Hong Kong, 12, 13, 19 & 20 Jan 2008) was reviewed by Hong Kong-based journalist Sincere Hui in Ming Pao Weekly (12 Jan 2008 issue).
Images of works by Debbie Hill and Chihoi were featured.
English translation follows the scanned pages.
Title: Art varies in size and value
Author: Sincere Hui
Photography: Tse Ho Yin
Publication: Ming Pao Weekly, 12 Jan 2008, pp. 87-88.
“Miniatures and contemporary art rarely overlap,” says curator Michael Lee. “Success in art today seems equated with large-scale work especially installation art.” He adds: “Though small in size and easily neglected, miniatures require immense time and effort on the part of the creator. The value of small things should not be overlooked.”
As one of the programmes of Fotanian: Fotan Artists Open Studios 2008, the exhibition Eniminiminimos: Artists who make things small has invited 12 artists from Singapore, Hong Kong and Britain to who engage with the theme of ‘small-size’ through a variety of forms: miniature book, sculpture, photography, sound art, model, animation and installation. Although it does not feature landscape paintings on a grain of rice by professional miniaturists, the exhibition focuses on how contemporary artists engage with the issues of interpretation and creativity through the miniature.
Associations through portraiture
Everyday we are bombarded with images of superstars: from the posters hung in record stores to the clips projected from the LCD screens in Causeway Bay. In this miniature art exhibiiton, the portraits of Britney Spears have been painted onto chewing gum no larger than 3cm in diameter. Which is more powerful? A large or small portrait? Britain-based artist Debbie Hill uses the disposable chewing gum as her canvas to pay homage to celebrities who have fallen from grace, such as Spears and Amy Winehouse. Says the curator Michael Lee: “The same mechanism that propels someone to stardom can also work to dismantle it.” In an instant, superstars can become rubbish in the eyes of their fans. The value of using chewing gum as material goes beyond relating to the exhibition theme; it includes changing the usual habits of the audiences. Says Lee: “The minty fragrance is part of the experience other than scrutinising details of the portraits.” Although only their faces are depicted on the tiny gums, the super-realistic representation and craftsmanship provide a powerful platform for audience’s imagination and reflection.”
Other than featuring practitioners from the visual arts circuit such as Chow Chun-fai, Cornelia Erdmann and Tang Kwok Hin, this exhibition has also invited a few rare guests. Lee explains: “Mention miniature art and the miniature hobbyists come to mind. Recently I visited a miniature art exhibition on collective memory, where I saw many pieces that were more outstanding in craftsmanship than creativity. It was as if miniaturisation was a tool to express or illustrate their sentiments about urban redevelopment.” For Lee, an exception was the work by Li Loi-yau, president of Hong Kong Miniature Art Society. Her 1:12 scale miniature, For My Son: The Sports Shop, which took her one and a half years to complete, features tiny shoes, bags, rackets, basketball racks and so on, a fine example of miniature art and intense relationship. It is part of her personal collection. According to the artist, “my son loves to visit sports shops since young, so I had more than ten years of deep impressions which I had wished to turn into a unique sports shop miniature in his secondary school days. Eventually I took muich longer than that, as everything were recreated from memory rather than photographic reference.” Curator Lee said: “Not just small in size but more importantly filled with deep love of a mother for her son, all condensed in a miniature.”
Also a lover of handicraft is Chihoi who has published several handmade books. For this exhibition, he is showing a 256-page miniature book measuring no more than 2.5cm in height, which he made from a single piece of A4-size printing paper and a single white thread. Though blank, this book communicates deep sentiments through its intricate craftsmanship. In addition, the artist also handmade a small box to contain and protect the book, which makes the whole work ultra-precious. Michael Lee says: “Miniature art requires creativity and resoluteness. Not all artists have the patience, skill, ability or desire to spend time making intricate and small things. So if audiences can spend comparable time and effort to experience the work of miniature artists, they may start to question conventional ways of equating physical size with social importance. Small in size could very well be big in significance.”
Translated by Michael Lee Hong Hwee