Told by the Soil – Stories of Victoria — Exhibition at The Gallery of Hong Kong Art School

Curatorial Statement
“I think I have opened a door leading to the parallel universe of Victoria Peak on my way of searching.” ~Carol Lee, artist

Victoria Peak was a symbol of Hong Kong, a witness of the city’s history for over a hundred years. Starting from the colonial period, the hill had seen all the ups and downs of the place as we had experienced many changes in the city. However, it was the quiet soil under our feet that had always watched over us. The soil spent days and years here as we do, but it had never changed on the passing of time. For the soil, on one side was a world of physical senses and on the other was a world of intellectual thinking. They were like two parallel universes divided by just a thin line.

“This is the primary soil of Hong Kong. It is always here.” ~A construction site worker

The exhibition traced its origin to a conversation between Carol Lee and a construction site worker at Victoria Peak. Despite all the changes, there was untouched soil in our city. Interested in this fact, Lee wanted to relate it to her art. She collected soil from construction sites at different sections of Victoria Peak and studied the colours and characteristics of the soil samples. She tried to find the relationship between soil and land by examining the primary soil using her artistic language. In this exhibition, soil and land had swapped places. The soil buried underground has been transformed into tangible artworks which can be seen, listened to and touched. The stories and history on the land were used as the background concept and presented in an abstract form.

“Going through the process and arriving at the works, I saw a gap in time.” ~Shirky Chan, curator

Lee’s works were often visually minimal and static. She told her stories in a quiet and restrained way. There was an interesting version about how man was connected with the sky and the land: man stood at the intersection of a vertical line and a horizontal line. The vertical line was light from the sky whereas the horizontal line is the horizon that separated the sky from the land. Lee’s art had always included this “vertical line”. She exposed paper and objects to sunlight, leaving in her works the tracks of light, objects and time. In this new series, in addition to the “vertical line”, she put her focus on the land. Using the daily life and culture on the “horizontal line” as background, Lee studied the minerals below the line. The vertical line representing sunlight touching the ground, the horizontal line sandwiched between the land surface and underground, and the artist’s own stories were the three elements which form a perfect cross. “Time” again had a crucial role to play in this series. It gave the works a historical perspective, and the timing of digging the soil was an important factor for the works. There was a gap in time between the beginning and conclusion of the series. The world changed rapidly, but things remain unchanged in the alternate one. Lee had turned the known and unknown of the uncertain relationship she discovered in Victoria Peak into her own story.

Told by the Soil – Stories of Victoria
Exhibition Period : 6 December 2022 – 13 January 2023
Time : 11am – 8pm (Closed on Sundays & Public Holidays) | Closed at 6pm on 22, 24, 31 December 2022
Venue : The Gallery of Hong Kong Art School  (10/F, Hong Kong Arts Centre, 2 Harbour Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong)
Artist : Carol Lee Mei Kuen
Curator : Shirky Chan

Date : 9 December 2022 (Fri)
Time : 5 – 7pm

Seminar – Dialogue with Hong Kong Soil
(Onsite @ HKAS Main Campus / Livestream through HKAS alumni network FB)
Date : 7 January 2023 (Sat)
Time : 3 -5 pm
Language : Cantonese / English
Speakers : Carol LEE Mei Kuen (Artist) | Niko LEUNG (Co-founder of ‘Hong Kong Soil’) | Ivan VALIN (Head of Division and Associate Professor of Practice, Division of Landscape Architecture, Faculty of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong)