Ex Materia - The Primacy of Being
Ora-Ora is pleased to announce Joseph Tong’s debut solo show with Ora-Ora in March 2023 at the gallery's Tai Kwun space in Hong Kong. The exhibition will be titled "Ex Materia - The Primacy of Being," and will run from March 20 to May 7. Ora-Ora will be showing Tong’s works simultaneously at Art Basel Hong Kong (March 21 to March 25, 2023). The artist will be present in Hong Kong and in attendance at both venues.
This exhibition of new textile works by the Berlin-based multi-media artist unites three branches of the artist’s ongoing Ex Materia series; specifically Ex Materia, Ex Materia (Transfiguration) and Ex Materia (Chrysalis).
The title of the exhibition alludes to mankind’s eternal quest to understand the origins of the creation of the universe. Whilst theologians have supported the concept of ex nihilo (from nothing), others (including Greek philosopher Plato) have asserted that creation occurred ex materia, meaning that life coalesced and emerged from pre-existing matter.
As CEO and Co-founder of Ora-Ora, Dr. Henrietta Tsui-Leung said, “This is Joseph Tong’s first solo show with Ora-Ora and a real homecoming for the artist, returning to Hong Kong for the first time in several years. The week of Art Basel Hong Kong is the perfect moment to highlight Joseph’s uniquely human perspective: classical, timeless, and entirely contemporary in outlook.” Speaking of the artist’s output and approach, Ora-Ora’s CEO continued: “We know Joseph as an artist of huge intellectual integrity and creative ingenuity, continually breathtaking in his philosophical audacity, range and agility.”
Tong’s Ex Materia (Transfiguration) (2022-2023) series is mystical, primal, terrene; these works are organized in a play of mirrored compositional constructs, forming kaleidoscopic patterns and uniform systems of reference. The series is designed to be modular, apt to be hung and re-hung in almost infinite combinations and arrangements. Using warm and tactile fabrics as his canvas, they are a tapestry which forms a microcosm of artistic and human creation. The artist’s interest in psychology forms a visual echo in the traced impression of inkblot Rorschach tests.
The creative process is conceptual, yet highly specialist in its execution. Operating with image-editing software, a digitally-drafted template is first composed before being either printed onto recycled polypropylene and polyester mix textile or pure wool. The process is then completed by hand-drawn inclusions in aquarelle, oil and wax pastels (onto the surface of the fabric) to provide the requisite image depth and colour intensity.
Brand new works being shown for the first time include six small diptychs – Ex Materia (Chyrsalis) Part I to Part VI, (2023). Whilst the chrysalis is an echo of the re-emergence of everyday life post-pandemic, the lepidopteral motif draws upon the idea of beauty in symmetry, as prevalent in nature. Followers of Tong’s work may notice a tonal shift in his new output, as subdued tones give way to more vivid colours.
A visual linguist, Tong eschews the notion of a signature style. His variety encourages a pursuit of intellectual enquiry on the part of the beholder that mirrors his own restless engagement. His studies of Philosophy at King’s College, London were a springboard into psychology, mythology and theology, themes to which his work either alludes or actively investigates. Influenced by a range of classical musicians and inspired by the poetry of Fernando Pessoa and Ezra Pound, Tong is himself a multi-disciplinary artist of word and action, bound not by limits of his imagination but by the physical possibilities of physics and materials.
Speaking of the forthcoming show, Joseph Tong said “The rhyming symmetry of the natural world that I observe in Ex Materia is forming its own echo with my first solo show with Ora-Ora. Returning to Hong Kong in the spring of 2023 fulfils and reconciles this cycle in a deeply poetic, personal way.”
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