Flower show - A Photography Exhibition in Central, Hong Kong

Blindspot Gallery, March 14–April 14 2012

“I hope to capture every beat of the society via photography, and to gain inspirations for my photographic works from the society”, Paul Yeung said. Better known for his roles as a correspondent in Reuters and commercial wedding photographer, Yeung also belongs to the new-arising group of ‘photography author’, referring to the construction of new meanings upon the ordinary things through the medium of photography. In Flower Show, by capturing the visitors’ outfit and activities at the Hong Kong Flower Show and deliberately cropping out their faces, Paul showcases his outstanding rumor of collective behavior and makes ridicule of the cliché of salon photography.

This exhibition at Central’s Blindspot Gallery is a big success – Paul Yeung brings the audience a different angle of thinking. The twelve images exhibited, all taken within the space of 10 years, are considered as out of the norm of salon photography at first glimpse since they do not share its common theme of beauty appreciation such as sunset, pretty girls and scenery, but simply making fun of the interesting coincidence of life – visitors at the flower show accidentally wearing flower-patterned clothing echoing the actual flowers at the back. This set of photos also showcases a parody towards the practices of the amateur photographers who mindlessly take thousands of photos on the flowers yet do not ever consider the meaning conveyed or significance of the photo itself. Noticeably the Chinese title of this exhibition literary refers to ‘flowers ain’t flowers’, which is certainly true: there should be a deeper meaning expressed behind the images and more endeavor should be made on investigating the possibilities of the images. After all, what kind of values could photos envisaged? Paul’s exhibition gave his audiences a vehicle to define their own ideas upon photography.

Apart from the photos exhibited, it is worth taking a look at the man behind the camera. Paul Yeung was born in Hong Kong in 1978 and is undoubtedly one of the most local supreme photographers. Previously a photojournalist, he won numerous awards presented by The Newspaper Society of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Press Photographers Association, and was selected as one of the Fourteen “Hong Kong New Generation Photographers” at the Hong Kong Photography Festival 2010. Also he graduated from MA in Image and Communication (Photography) at the prestigious Goldsmiths College, University of London, which clearly shows his remarkable talent and efforts on photography. Although Yeung no longer works as a photojournalist, his photography still has much to do with the current affairs in the society, such as the parody towards the contradictory consumerism nature of the Flower Show displayed in this exhibition, and his earlier work Occupy London which captures the crowd protesting scene during the Occupation of Wall street in England last year. When asked to summarize his photographic style, he wittily answered with three things: “documentary in Art”, “serious with fun”, and “social and personal”, which reveals his rationales to record the history accurately, his pursuit of art, and more significantly, his humor and playfulness on life which makes him eminently stand out from the rest of the photographers.

In Flower Show’s curational statement, which you will find on the postcard-sized pamphlet onsite, Yeung writes: “this is our playground, and its themes are: games and representation”. Indeed he is playing a game extraordinarily in transforming the conventional way of photography to be exhibited, showing his “potential randomness and playfulness”. Creatively mixing the traditional Chinese paintings with the modern media photography, he printed the pictures on Xuan paper, added poetry and stamp on each photo, adopted the Chinese approach of mounting and hung the scrolls on the white –walled room which all intelligently has made a strong contrast. Meanwhile, sharing stark similarity of the style of Martin Parr, an England photographer, Yeung balances the lightness and heightened exposure to make the photos so unusually bright with beautiful hues, in order to bring out the topic of his imagined playground of human beings. When examining Yeung’s curational statement and his works, the “playground” presumably represents Yeung’s inner thought of a wonderland or Garden of Eden, which contains solely happiness – you are not bounded by any kinds of rules or norms restricting your own thoughts.

At the night when Hong Kong ArtWalk held, presumably due to the reason that the gallery provided beer and food with the largest quantity in that area, it received the ever-largest crowd, including celebrities, in its limited space; you could not, therefore, stand still in front of the art works for more than three minutes without nudged by the other visitors. Nevertheless it was exhilarating to see the engagement of the visitors and the livened-up atmosphere that bustles with excitement. What is important about the exhibit is that it shows the photos have encouraged the visitors to talk, think in addition to look. When visitors are visibly captivated by the pieces, meanwhile the mirthful dialogues and jolly giggles become the best background music of the scene, which ultimately match well with the cheerful playground theme of the Flower Show.

If you are in or around the Central, I suggest you nipping into this (free) exhibition. For those of you who enjoy private space and quietness more, visit it on weekdays is definitely a nice choice to avoid the crowd. In this exhibition, you may find more in it if you are a profound thinker; you may spend your time in a worthwhile way if you regard the gallery visiting as a pastime; you may even have a feeling of meeting an old friend if you share the sense of humor as Yeung does. Prints and other media are available for purchase.

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