Over the past decade, Vhils has been developing a unique visual reflection on present-day urban societies across the globe and the people who form them. Renowned for his groundbreaking carving technique, which employs the built environment as his canvas, Vhils’ approach has been hailed as one of the most compelling to have emerged from the contemporary urban art scene. Following multiple interventions across Hong Kong, “Debris” will be one of the most encompassing and holistic presentations of Vhils’ artistic production.
Central to the artist’s oeuvre, and a thematic basis for the upcoming exhibition, is an expression of the quotidian tension that lies between the individual and the demanding environment of urbanity. For “Debris”, HOCA has selected iconic sites across Hong Kong – a moving tram and the ferry pier – to display works and installations that reflect the breadth of the local cultural landscape. Utilizing a variety of techniques such as drilling, billboard collages, neon light boxes, and sculpture to present an immersive experience, Vhils will deconstruct the images and tropes that have become symbols of the city itself. This re-arrangement of components represents the multiplicity of stimuli people are subjected to in the urban space and is part of a broader reflection on identity in contemporary urban societies. Inspired by the time he has spent as an artist-in-residence in the city, the new works are composed of portraits, juxtapositions and imbrications of graphic and geometric elements, metropolitan patterns and motifs that form a reflection on how individuals are both shaped and help shape the seemingly overwhelming urban environment they live in.
In partnership with Hong Kong Tramways, Vhils will transform this traditional mode of transport into a moving art object by carving into layers of posters applied onto the façade of the carrier. Intended to draw attention to an icon of the local cityscape, the tram will be a moving tribute to the personal histories of the city’s inhabitants.
The exhibition will be held at Pier 4, where Vhils will present artworks in new mediums for the first time. Central to the new series is the exploration of his practice of destructive creation in an environment characterised by the plurality of media. An avid experimentalist, the artist has been developing compositions made of neon and metal, enabling him to expand the boundaries of visual expression. A highlight, installed across an elongated exhibition space, is a video of the streets of the city. In this enveloping experience, the audience will find themselves moving against the decelerated flow of the crowded city sidewalks, prompting a reflection on the role of the individual within the masses.
The landmark exhibition, created as a response to life in Hong Kong, represents HOCA’s commitment to promoting public awareness and developing access to contemporary art in the city. With a vision and curatorial strategy that draws inspiration from popular culture, the non-profit organization seeks to enhance access to art, in all its multitude of forms, in the city.