Ko Sin Tung
Hong Kong, 1987
Coloured-in wallpaper, patched walls, blurred images of domestic paraphernalia – these are but some of Ko Sin Tung’s visual dialogues with the intimate yet urban environments that persons individually create. Concerned with the impact of ‘things’, Ko Sin Tung investigates, through a myriad of mediums and materials, the psychological influences private objects project and the idiosyncratic functions they’ve been personally channeled to fulfill. A graduate from the Department of Fine Arts at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Ko Sin Tung observes the city’s inhabitants, their close-quarters, and identifies with curiosity their values as dictated through the items they treasure and keep, slowly observing how these objects mirror ways of life, or in the very least, illustrate what is expected for living.
The series ‘Modern Home Collection’ (2013), for example, presents an array of framed archival inkjet prints of photographed domestic objects, collected from various references of interior design on the Internet. Pixelated and aggrandised, familiar items vary from a glass vase to an ornate mug. Despite their disparate aesthetics, what permeates throughout the ‘collection’ is that each element is lived with, that each photograph is not in focus, and that each item has been selected by the owner as a manner of ornamenting his or her respective household. Confronted with these incongruous images of disparate ownership, the viewer has an overarching insight into the aesthetic particulars of multiple households and more crucially is presented, through objecthood, with each milieu’s dictum of taste.
Ko Sin Tung’s relationship with the domestic, however, has an additional focus: that on light. Considering its literal impact on domestic space, as well as its various material and metaphorical manifestations, Ko Sin Tung sets through her works to collect, identify and present it. In her work ‘Sleep Tight’ (2014), for example, she presents a piece of starlit wallpaper, which stretched across a wooden frame, has been displaced from its usual wall-mounted abode. Highlighting each constellation in a luminescent yellow colour, Ko Sin Tung intervenes with the material-turned-object, effectively highlighting those individual elements that were explicitly brought into the interior realm so as to add a hint of the outside’s starry luminescence, something that in a congested city like Hong Kong can often be clouded by its surrounding manmade fluorescence.
The impact of condition is furthermore at the heart of Ko Sin Tung’s artistic inquiry. In her work ‘As white as you can 1’ (2013), for example, she carefully paints over the railings captured on a photograph taken of an outside view from an interior domestic milieu. These unassuming sights are reconfigured as liberated, barred of visual intervention. Yet, by this mere painterly act of erasure, Ko Sin Tung has indeed highlighted the exact protected condition in which we live; a circumstance that affects our livelihood, which prevents our ingestion of light, and ultimately conflicts with our persistent appropriation of material objects that one as owner considers beautiful, sentimental or even status-lifting. Indeed this work touches upon the permeating psychology of her work and how it titillates between liberation and effectively pointing to our own tautology.
Based in Hong Kong, Ko has been exhibited internationally, including at the The Bunker, Beijing (2019), Hong-gah Museum, Taipei (2018), Tai Kwun Contemporary, Hong Kong (2018) and Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, Manchester (2017), among other locations. She was awarded the Special Jury Prize of Huayu Youth Award (2016), Pure Art Foundation Grant (2013-2014), and Project Grant (Emerging Artists Scheme) from the Hong Kong Arts Development Council (2014).