ART CRITICISM

TEXT : Ire Tsui

While F11 focuses on heritage preservation and exhibiting the works of photography masters, the newly opened F22 Photo Space is a contemporary arts venue that serves as a veritable lifestyle space possessing multiple functions including gallery, bookstore and café. If F11 represents the past, then F22 embodies the present and the future in its mission to discover new photography talents, and by being run according to commercial principles to promote art photography. The opening event is a solo exhibition of Chinese poetic photographer Huang Jing, winner of the 2011 Leica Oskar Barnack Newcomer Award. Huang’s black and white portraits of city life shift between the unreal and the everyday, perhaps signaling to us that we ought to linger and feast our eyes before continuing on our ways.

Time, shadow, light and life are the eternal themes of photography.

“In the world of photography, there is no past that we cannot return to
In the bustling city, in between black and white
Capturing light and witnessing time”

The above is from a Facebook post from LAAB Architects, the team responsible for the spatial design of F22, which aptly describes the black camera lens-shaped revolving doors at the entrance of the gallery, which gives the impression that one is penetrating the world of photography, and signals that one is entering a space that expresses the points of view of photographers rather than just a conventional white-box gallery.

Situated on the 5th and 6th floors of a commercial building in Causeway Bay’s Tin Lok Lane, F22 boldly connects the two floors with a black circular staircase, thus creating an open workshop-like gallery space. With black and white as its main tone, the 5th floor houses the gallery, photography bookstore and a retail shop for limited-edition items, while the 6th floor contains an open-plan gallery and café with comfortable seating, allowing visitors to enjoy refreshments while browsing exhibits.

The freedom to browse

The opening show of the gallery is a solo exhibition of Chinese poetic photographer Huang Jing’s works. F22 founder and director Douglas had known Huang Jing for six years, and heaps praises on his works. “Huang Jing is only 30 years old. The subject matters of his photographs are all connected with his immediate surroundings, like his family, friends and the city he lives in, expressed in an off-hand style.” Curator Jin Dan Dan describes Huang’s work as having a “nonchalant sense of order”, seemingly aimless on the surface, like a Kafkaesque daydream.

“Perhaps I will never become a good writer, for I find it hard to describe these things with words.”

Huang graduated from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, majoring in photography, and now lives in Shenzhen. He was the recipient of the Leica Oskar Barnack Newcomer Award in 2011, and his works have been shown in numerous art galleries and museums in Europe and China. This solo exhibition divides his photos into three categories: city, objects and space, and light, which are arranged within the gallery’s two floors and accompanied by text chosen by the photographer himself, such as Nobuyoshi Araki’s quote, “ Art is all about doing what you shouldn’t. ” and  Josef Koudelka’s line, “A single photograph can tell a lie, but a book cannot. ” The juxtaposition between images and text brings out another level of meaning to the photographs. In sharp contract with conventional galleries, F22 encourages a casual and unrestricted viewing approach. Wandering among the various photos depicting sand and stone, a pair of shrimps, flies, balls being thrown, water pond, escalator, Disneyland’s sparrows, seaside, buses and parks, the relationship between viewer and work becomes ever more intimate. Such everyday cityscape in Hong Kong, Shanzhen and Meizhou are all inter-connected in some ways; these images may be abstract, but at the same time strangely familiar.

The opening exhibition is a solo show of photography poet Huang Jing’s works. In his images of everyday life in the city, do you recognize dreams or reality?

Photography works and texts by photographers sit side by side, creating a unique viewing experience.

A two-storied living gallery space 

“From our experience with running F11 FOTO Gallery, we found that most galleries tend to show works by big name photographers only, and that there are few opportunities for young photographers to exhibit their works. That is why with this new space, we want to experiment with a more commercial approach to running a gallery and try to strike a balance between art and commerce,” revealed Douglas, adding that F22 not only exhibits photographers’ works, but also puts them on sale so that photographers can have a source of income to support their work. The gallery is collaborating with Asia One Books to operate a photography bookstore, as well as setting up a pop-up store to sell vintage cameras and merchandise. The café has a tranquil and intellectual feel, decorated with industrial-styled furniture and tables made from recycled wood from Wan Chai pier. Under the muted lighting, the space provides a comfortable environment for people to watch documentaries, read and chat. The menu features specialty coffee beans, offering selection of traditional and modern flavored coffees, and the hand-crafted coffee and hot cocoa are extremely flavorful.

F22 Photo Space is set to officially open in September 2017, and will hold regular photography seminars and other events.

Translation: Simon Chung

Related