tsang tsou choi at saamlung
Saamlung is pleased to announce a solo exhibition of work from the late Hong Kong outsider artist Tsang Tsou Choi, perhaps best known by the epithet from which this exhibition borrows its title: the “King of Kowloon.” From the golden years of midcentury colonial Hong Kong almost to his death in 2007, Tsang was notorious for the distinctive writing he left across the terrain of the city: believing that his family had once been deeded the rights to the land now constituting the core of urban Kowloon, the artist engaged in a monomaniacal project of righting this ancient injustice by executing calligraphy describing his genealogical and political situation on lamp posts, electric utility boxes, fences, walls, and other publicly accessible surfaces from one end to the other of the former British territory, demanding his righteous returns.
Fortunately recognized for his aesthetic output well before his death, Tsang Tsou Choi is widely known throughout Hong Kong and across greater China as a fixture of collective memory, an integral element of the urban texture of the territory. Until now, however, much of the attention he has received from the cultural world has positioned him in the realm of street art and design, resulting in all manner of product collaborations and visual inspirations on consumer objects.
As the first exhibition of work from Tsang Tsou Choi in the commercial gallery context, this project positions him as the historical precedent for an alternative future; that is to say, we trace back to his position a certain rupture within Hong Kong art history by which we might locate in his stance the first properly contemporary artist in a region still haunted by the ideological specters of modernism. By offering certain possibilities for public intervention alongside a concerted disavowal of social responsibility, Tsang becomes, in retrospect, a key figure for cultural production today. This exhibition examines his work as painting, as calligraphy, and as sculpture; in approaching the artifacts of his practice as contemporary art, a measure of spatial perspicacity and conceptual rigor emerges.
The core of the exhibition focuses on a series of some half-dozen pieces in ink on board and cloth, large scale paintings that hold their own within even the most recent discussions of the return to analytical expressionism in non-figurative painting today. Further works on display include a number of pieces in pen on paper and several calligraphic-cum-sculptural interventions carried out on objects like umbrellas, lanterns, and utility boxes. Vintage photographic documentation of Tsang Tsou Choi and his work installed in situ is also available separately for research and perusal.
Tsang Tsou Choi, who passed away in 2007 after a lifetime of outsider aesthetic production, was the artist better known as the “King of Kowloon.” Born in Guangdong in 1921, he moved to Hong Kong in 1937 and, after discovering certain documents amongst his possessions, came to believe by 1956 that he was the rightful ruler of a portion of the British colony. Spending decades in conflict with the police and courts, Tsang insisted on writing out his genealogy and understanding of the world as calligraphic graffiti across Hong Kong, claiming this urban space for himself and his family. By 1997 he had become known to the art world, and was included in a series of key exhibitions by curators Hou Hanru and Hans Ulrich Obrist, including the traveling project “Cities on the Move” and the “Zone of Urgency: Canton Express” project of the 2003 Venice Biennale. His work belongs to a number of private collections, and has most recently appeared at the Sotheby’s sale of a portion of the Ullens Collection.
Saamlung is the commercial gallery and project office founded by critic and curator Robin Peckham in 2011. Located in downtown Central, Hong Kong, the gallery presents work by emerging and historically significant artists from greater China and around the world in concise solo projects, curated group exhibitions, publications, and other satellite events.
Sang Tsou Choi, “King of Kowloon” 14 January through 11 February 2012
Opening 14 January, 18:00-21:00
Saamlung, 26/F Two Chinachem Plaza,
68 Connaught Rd. C. (135-137 Des Voeux Rd. C.) Central, Hong Kong
Above text is provided by Saamlung Gallery.