Tsang Kin-Wah

LEE : What kind of inspiration would Hong Kong give you? 
TSANG : Usually I don’t get inspiration directly from where I live but I like to observe the people I met and the things happened around me, and in this case, living in Hong Kong does often affect my emotions, which sometimes give me some reflections on the topics that I am interested in such as human nature and politics. These, in turn, mostly reveal in my works indirectly.

LEE : What does your experience living abroad mean to you?
TSANG : It is indeed a very precious experience to me. As I only lived in China and Hong Kong before going to London, my perspective was relatively limited and narrow at that time.  After spending a year there and travelled quite a bit in Europe, I realised that there is another totally different way of living and working. Somehow, this still affects me in many ways. On the other hand, the study I had in London also have a tremendous impact on my artistic life up until now. It is not the things the tutors taught me directly but rather the ways they make art and how they present their ideas and concepts that impressed me.

LEE : You converted from Buddhism to Christianity. However, your work shows the influence of Buddhist thought. 

TSANG : I am not a Christian anymore now. I have stopped believing in Christianity since I was 17 or 18. Since then, I studied quite a lot of Nietzsche, Confucian and other philosophers. And now, I do not believe in any single religion but rather like to take some relevant ideas from philosophy and different religions including Buddhism and Christianity, and mix them together. That is why my works show some influence and ideas of Buddhism such as the idea of Karma.

LEE : Nietzsche's nihilistic attitude appears in many writings and works. 

TSANG : His writings seem to be quite nihilistic at the first sign but Nietzsche’s attitude towards life is actually rather positive and he thinks that we should embrace life and need to evolve to be a better man without the constraints of Christianity. He does influences me a lot after my Christianity period. And there was a time I was very much wanted to make myself better, whether it is my ability or my human nature but at the end, I realise that I am not that kind of optimistic and positive person in some ways though his idea of human evolution still often reminds me to improve myself and my works.

Lee : What inspired you to introduce text into your work?

TSANG : This happened when I was first starting to make my work in the second year of my undergraduate study. I was thinking what kind of elements I should be using in my works. Then I suddenly realised that I could and should put the things that I am interested in as the main part, which is text, as that is a work of mine. So this was how I started to put text in my works. I used mainly Chinese texts at first and then used English as well after my study in London. There was a period I used different languages and texts related to the cities where the works were showing at such as Dutch, French, Korean, etc. But now I mostly use English as the main type of language and text. 

LEE :Text is a short sentence and feels like an important message. Why do you write short sentences of text? 

TSANG : Most of the texts I used in my early period were related to some strong emotions or foul language, so I thought short sentences fit better.  It is rather cumbersome when the sentence becomes too long, which would also blur the messages. Besides, it is like a game to have different short sentences placing close to each other, so that audience can mix and combine the texts in their own ways to create different “stories” and meanings.

LEE : Always say text “you” in your work. To whom is the message sent?

TSANG : The “You” does not point to any specific audience. It is rather fluid that sometimes it points to the audience; sometimes it is about me while sometimes it is the general public, and sometimes it is Jesus/God or other religious and political group of people.

LEE : Did Chinese calligraphy cultures influence your work?

TSANG : Chinese calligraphy does influences my work but in a rather indirect and subtle way. I like it a lot since I was a kid and so I learnt all the styles when I was studying fine arts in the Chinese University of Hong Kong. When I am making a text work, whether it is a video, painting or installation,  I still feel like as if I am practising calligraphy and have to concern about the thickness of the strokes, their spaces related to each other including the negative space and the space as a whole, etc.

LEE : What did you do at Venice Bjennale?
TSANG : I did a site-specific installation which contained 4 video projections on different spaces of the Hong Kong pavilion. It was a work talked about different stages and evolution of life from my understanding and thought after reading Nietzsche, Heraclitus, Buddhism, etc.  The first space was a video of a river projected on the floor of a boxed courtyard, which symbolised the time and space before and after life. The second space was a bit like Plato’s cave, where video was projected on a single wall; the third was a video projected on two windows imitating the windy and rainy condition outside, with some kind of water leaking from the ceiling and dripping slowly on the wall to the floor; the last space was a three-wall projection talking about the overcome of oneself that referred to Nietzsche’s idea of overman and also the film, 2001 Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick. Leaving the exit of the last space, the audience were then brought back to the first space where the river was. This created a circular path that echoed Nietzsche’s idea of eternal recurrence and also the idea of karma.

LEE : What kind of experience did you have at Venice Bjennale?

TSANG : I quite enjoyed spending time with my teammates to overcome all the difficulties and finally realised the work. It was quite a special experience to stay there for 5-6 weeks too but to be frank, I did not enjoy the biennale as a whole, especially during the preview period. 

LEE : When did Projection mapping and computer technology work begin?

TSANG : I started to work on video projection and computer technology in 2009 when I was making The First Seal from The Seven Seals series. I did some kinds of experiments on adding different elements such as light projection, sounds and music, to my works before that but still thought the results were not good enough. Until at a certain point around 2008/09, I felt like it was the time to make the texts move and combine it with other elements I used previously. This was why I started making video projection/mapping by using computer technology at that time. 

LEE : I hope you can give me a new experience at the M+Museum opening in 2019. 

TSANG : I do not have much information on the current status of the M+ Museum. I only know that they are now quite busy in preparing for the grand opening and exhibitions. And before that, they are holding group and solo exhibitions regularly at the M+ Pavilion and other activities like talks, symposiums, workshops, etc.

LEE : What are your plans for the future?

TSANG : I do not have some solid plans for the future but I do hope that I can have opportunities to finish some of my video works such as The Seven Seals, Ecce Homo Trilogy, etc. in the near future.