Although artist Ho Siu Num was born only in 1984, his project Into Light (2009) already seems immensely well-traveled: it first turned heads, including my own, during the Hong Kong Contemporary Art Biennial Awards in 2009, a display within which it was one of only two or three works that actually felt simultaneously contemporary and related to Hong Kong in some real way. It was also remarkably successful as a solo booth presentation during ArtHK at the end of May; now that most of the work, surely, has been placed in collections, Blindspot Gallery has organized something of a victory lap by installing the series in full in its downtown exhibition space.
The conceit is simple: each black-and-white image frames, at its center, one of the pedestrian underpasses that tunnel beneath roads and through hillsides throughout Hong Kong (but particularly in the New Territories, the site of more comprehensive urban planning). Decorated with patterned tiles on all of their vertical wall surfaces, these tunnels are typically colorful, relatively clean, and, most pertinently, well-lit, such that when the artist establishes a suitably long exposure time the interior spaces of the passages become saturated with geometric frames of pure light, leaving only a small frame of dark but legible space at the very center--the end of the tunnel. The effect is brilliant and delightfully ambiguous, appearing to me as a consideration of the affect of modernist social housing complexes but apparently, at least in the artist statement, also making room for the more poetic insistence that “darkness will reappear.” Ho Siu Nam may not be a particularly even artist--see, for instance, the interminably romantic Impermanence (2010) photographs of open skies that he exhibited last year--but he is young and clearly has a sense for the formal motivation of technical observations. This work, at the very least, is incredibly strong; we can only look forward to what might come out of it.
-- Robin Peckham
(All images courtesy of Blindspot Gallery and the artist.)