Returning after the success of his Hong Kong début in 2015, Chi Chien's 《齊簡》conceptual show demonstrates a keen interest in language, historical events and its time-sensitive malleability. Concepts of history, the past, and post- (as in post-modern or post-war) are reconsidered through their translations between Chinese and English. While in English, 'past', as deployed in the exhibition's title, indicates a time before the present or predating the future, its Chinese character counterpart 《後》could also mean 'after' or 'back', giving the temporal word a spatial connotation, where 'back' may also relate to a sense of privacy or concealment as in one's 'back' garden 《後花園》.
The attack on Hong Kong Kai Tak airport at 8am on 8December1941 by Japanese forces serves as the jumping off point for Chi Chien's latest solo exhibition, "Past Continuous" 《過去進行式》, in which time and its ethereal fluctuations are employed as artistic material. Composed of paintings over floral fabric, installation, sound and mechanical structures, the show revolves around an image of a brigade of warplanes hovering above the city, frozen in a state of perpetual pause. Chi's works are connected through movement. A model plane whirs by in circular fashion accompanied by roaring engine sounds, the shadows cast by the toy houses shift, the light bulb turns on and off in a breathing rhythm, the digital clock keeps ticking showing the current time and, though immobilised on the wall, his paintings live like stills from a stop-motion film, their silent snippets only a brief pause from an otherwise lively scene.
The choice of an archival image is emblematic of Chi's curiosity with time and the complicated relationship between past and present, fact and fiction, and the ambiguous dance between, what the artist refers to as, "real and symbolic time" and a constant reminder that the past is inevitably continuous.