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a dialogue about curating

Sabrina M.Y. Fung (F): Curator
Leung Ping-kwan (L) : writer, poet

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L: You are very keen to collaborate on cross-media projects, including creative areas other than painting, such as literature, film, music, etc. Which areas interest you most? In your opinion, what facets of Hong Kong culture do different artistic mediums reveal?
F: I am fascinated by all forms of artistic expression. But my background is closer to visual arts, film and performance and my collaborations are mostly concentrated in these areas. As far as Hong Kong's visual artists are concerned, their works tend to focus more on refined details and they contain a personal dimension.
L: So it is not the type of work that addresses a grand "era", or historic events?
F: Exactly, one can say there are no such works. That is very unlike the case for Mainland Chinese artists, whose works are more focused on social, historic events and are often created in a larger-than-life scale. Hong Kong artists emphasise detail, and their works are somewhat more delicate. Of course, this is a generalisation. Each artist works in his or her own unique style, taking into consideration the nature and time frame of a particular exhibition. And those who work in the comfort of their own studios enjoy freedom of time and space and are thus able to create excellent outstanding works.
L: There are two types of problems with Art in Hong Kong. One is inadequate expression in spite of good, sound content. The other is a lack of depth. For instance, a good film director has to draw on his or her life experiences and self-cultivation to produce insightful works. Some visual artists in Hong Kong are technically accomplished and perhaps they can offer new inspiration.
F: But their concepts have yet to be developed. The main problem is that many artists become "professional" right after graduating from college and quickly find their way into gallery and museum exhibitions without having the experience or time to develop their works.
L: Now there are plans to build more museums and galleries. My biggest worry is that local artists lack the vision, craftsmanship, cultivation and the genuine understanding of their own culture that is necessary for them to be able to rise to the occasion.
F: And it doesn't help that local commercial galleries tend to show more traditional and decorative art works instead of supporting the avant-garde art scene. They are influenced by the market, after all. Hong Kong can support very few professional artists. Most have to support themselves with a full-time job and create works in their spare time. Totally different than professional artists, they do not need to consider how they must compete with other artists for survival. But if they want to advance to the next level, constant self-reflection about their works is essential. It is a type of ongoing cultivation.
L: An artist has to work with his or her heart and soul.
F: Absolutely. But for part time artists it's less a question of survival than one of time. They pursue art as a personal interest and it is therefore far from being a matter of life and death.
L: Do you think that local organisations have failed to support the development of artists? There is a lack of art coverage and reviews in the local media. Come to think of it, art reviews, not only visual arts but also other disciplines judge only on the basis of the number of works an artist has created or where their works have been exhibited. This leaves little room for artistic reflection, which can be a real hindrance to artistic development. Young artists, especially more notable names, receive adequate support and recognition from society, but the public is still struggling to achieve a consensus on how to promote and communicate the importance of the arts. Young artists need support and challenges to grow and develop, to establish contacts and to widen their horizons.
F: I agree that there is plenty of room for improvement. But I am not sure that it is the responsibility of the organisations to do this. Can society do something?
L: Artists in Japan are backed by large corporations and foreign funds. I don't think we should rely solely on government support. The question is: are young and up-coming artists given adequate means and opportunities to develop their art and help them progress?
F: I think there are more opportunities now and space to grow for active artists. However, it is a chicken and egg situation. Artists will not create new works if there are no new exhibitions. However, it is difficult to get financial support from the private sector for exhibitions that are not commercial.

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