Memory, Playfulness, and Stream of Consciousnes

Memory, Playfulness, and Stream of Consciousness
16 February–16 March 2022
Tang Contemporary Art
10/F HQueens
80 Queen’s Road
Central Hong Kong

Just as Robert S. Woodworth said, psychology in the present moment can no longer be described as an epiphenomenon of human activity. At a time when we have been tired of post-modernist and philosophical-linguistic explanations of the world’s most complex phenomena, psychical research could become a source of comfort. How does the mind perceive external objects? How can dreams continue to emerge from practices that resist fate and time? What kinds of conscious machinations must memories hide within to become connected? Countless pioneering dreamers over the course of history have made promises of serious laws and airtight logic. Art is one way to resist. With this as a starting point, the exhibition examines the key ideas of memory, playfulness, and stream of consciousness to bring the viewer on a delightful journey along the psychological Milky Way.

Henri Bergson understands art as a kind of intuition, and Frédéric Worms describes Bergson’s theory as a kind of aesthetic creation, or a scattering of brilliant fragments (les éclats) of an aesthetic that both does and does not exist. Bergson’s narrative implies that the agreement between intuition and fragments weaves an ambiguous psychological prospect for posterity; this dualistic and multi-layered sensibility bears some similarities to our current emotional atmosphere. When confronted with pressure from both the mental and material worlds, James Joyce and Tom Stoppard offer strong responses through the beauty of playfulness; these creators transform self-consciousness into a weapon of humour.

Exhibition view: Group Exhibition, Memory, Playfulness, and Stream of Consciousness, Tang Contemporary Art, Hong Kong (16 February–16 March 2022). Courtesy Tang Contemporary Art,

Stream of consciousness has transformed psychology into a scientific field, but it has also offered numerous possibilities for the creation of art and literature. The temporal and spatial inversions and symbolic indications of memory and fantasy foster an overlap between stream of consciousness and artistic expression. Rooted in the present and faced with this complex and changeable time, the forms and definitions of art have become more diverse and equivocal. With the repeated reflections of memories and fragments that emerge in consciousness, artists consciously or unconsciously express their assessments of our times and their concerns for social environments, ideals, and unresolved moral issues.

Exhibition view: Group Exhibition, Memory, Playfulness, and Stream of Consciousness, Tang Contemporary Art, Hong Kong (16 February–16 March 2022). Courtesy Tang Contemporary Art,

As an action, a process, a memory, or an illusion, painting constantly explores the essence of things. With her distinct realist style, Nona Garcia’s works train the eye on nature and ecosystems and establishes a dichotomy between the transparent and the hidden, the framed and the natural, the sublime and the everyday. Her two paintings, one massive and one miniature, offer micro-perspectives into her life. Images are like repressed memories, and Garcia shifts the viewer’s gaze toward overlooked objects, making those ordinary, invisible things visible once again. We no longer see images of cliffs and forests; suddenly, the compositions generated by shapes, textures, and spaces become the walls and corners of narrative. Perhaps, a long time ago, someone made a difficult trek along that stone cliff covered in moss. The Diesel objects faintly visible between the trees also reveal traces of the people who lingered there. These works rely on their purity and homogeneity to store memories.

Exhibition view: Group Exhibition, Memory, Playfulness, and Stream of Consciousness, Tang Contemporary Art, Hong Kong (16 February–16 March 2022). Courtesy Tang Contemporary Art,

In moving between the remembered and the textual, the classical and the contemporary, Zhang Ben’s paintings are arranged into complex and precise visual orders. The church, the pendulum clock, the compass rose, the Tower of Babel, and an array of celestial bodies inform the rhetoric of his paintings. Zhang categorises and organises figures that he doodles during his day, imagined views, thoughts from reading, and pictures from travels into their own folders. After long fermentation in his mind, these fragments of memory are unconsciously combined into floating images that eventually comprise the fixed sense of order in his paintings.

Cameron Platter delights in absurd designs, but hidden beneath a childish playfulness lies a survey of the dangerous undercurrents of our times: capitalism, conspiracy, colonialism, moral degeneration, human nature, and life’s hardships. He uses pantomime, otherworldly landscapes, kitsch aesthetics, and the humorous collision between an object and its embodiment to convey the unsettling aspects of human civilisation. By smashing together and cycling between the positive and the negative, he layers sensual and happy images with terrifying and despairing ones; this mechanism of contradiction seems to expand the drama of the aesthetic. Most of Gao Yu’s works have double meanings and the titles are often puns, which connect to his response to and interrogation of his current circumstances. When bitter melons, puppies, Pigsy (Zhu Bajie), and other vivid characters and words are personified and alienated from themselves, playfulness becomes a way of probing the real world and issues internal to the art system. Faded happiness and humour dissolve insincere anxiety.

This anxiety seems to evaporate in Yang Na’s doll-like images. Her surrealist paintings depict an extraordinary, fantastical dreamworld that incorporates her emotions and consciousness, and the glossy cartoon figures appear suspended in humanity’s distorted state. The inversions and reflections of time and space, reality and dreams, appear side by side, and every concrete image gives way to the possibilities that could occur in a stream of consciousness. Rodel Tapaya’s process of combining and editing pictorial elements requires the careful combination of numerous pictorial fragments and the selection of imitated objects, which he presents, one by one, as narrative and metonymy diffused onto the canvas. He works to fully blend anonymous yet expressive illusory elements that exist in the background, which he finally transforms into an epic allegory for human civilisation.

©2022 Tang Contemporary Art

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