“Nostalgia appears to be a longing for a place, but it is actually a yearning for a different time—the time of our childhood, the slower rhythms of our dreams. In a broader sense, nostalgia is a rebellion against the modern idea of time, the time of history and progress.”
ontemporary Showcase: Time Goes On is a charming selection of 23 works that journeys into the imagination, inviting whimsy and folklore, kaleidoscopic colors, and quirky glimpses into the subconsciousness. At the root of many of these works is a sense of nostalgia – not in the downcast sentiment of loss and displacement, but its twin which Svetlana Boym described as “a romance with one’s own fantasy.” We can easily see such a romance in the ideas of ephemerality in Okokume’s Time Flies or in the preoccupying threads that recur time and again in the works of contemporary darlings Yayoi Kusama, Yoshitomo Nara, Andy Warhol and KAWS. It also weighs on younger artists, in the cutting-edge sculptures and paintings by up-and-coming Hong Kong talents Kasing Lung, Kila Cheung and Chino Lam, who similarly rebel against the time of history and progress.
Barcelona artist Okokume (Laura Mas) is best known for her signature character Cosmic Girl who travels to ailing planets and restores them to their full glory. Here, Cosmic Girl deep in thought as she looks over her shoulder gazing at what lies beyond. Her pensive expression urges viewers to reflect on the beauty of everyday life, cherish the people and abundance around us, for life is ephemeral and will slip away along with time.
A puppy and his friend the octopus are watching the clock with bated breath, as if waiting for something or someone. Within Yoshitomo Nara’s oeuvre, the puppy is representative of the artist’s memories of childhood. In interviews, the artist frequently refers to his childhood struggles with loneliness and feelings of abandonment as leitmotifs in his work. Nara commented that dogs and children are alike in that they are “interchangeable representations of loneliness and solitude.” Nara wrote about a girl befriending a puppy in his first children’s book, The Lonesome Puppy. In it is the comforting notion: “No matter how alone you are, there is always someone, somewhere, waiting to meet you.”
KAWS’s work invites viewers to reflect on the world they live in. Upon closer examination of Lost Time, there is something uncannily familiar about the silhouette. It is in fact Ernie, the beloved muppet from the children's TV show "Sesame Street." Pulling source imagery from popular and mass culture, KAWS revamps timeless, iconic characters and appropriates them with his trademark XX-eyed characters. Despite this transformation, there is something immutable and fixed in time about the "Sesame Street" character, so deeply rooted he is in our collective memory.
In Permanent Thirty Three, KAWS appears to toy with the tradition of classical portrait busts, making permanent what might otherwise be a single fleeting moment. Made of vinyl, the figure wearing a baseball cap stares fixedly ahead with an inscrutable expression. The artist made 33 of these in different colors, in keeping with his usual vibrant palette.
In these works, COMPANION cradles the lifeless body of BFF in a manner similar to Michelangelo’s Pieta in the St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. This audacious homage to the art historical motif traverses the realms of high art and mass culture. The recurring sculptural figure COMPANION ranks among the most emblematic characters within the artist's pervasive visual lexicon. KAWS's COMPANION figures are everyone’s constant friend, “seemingly emphasiz[ing] with us while we emphasize with them – plodding through life.”
Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup cans represent one of the most iconic symbols of American Pop culture. As an omnipotent signifier of Pop Art aesthetics, the Campbell’s Soup cans subverted the heroic gestures of post-war abstract painting by breaking up the dichotomy of high and low culture, of originality and appropriation. For the artist, it may have had a personal significance. Having grown up in extreme poverty and food insecurity, Warhol had come to see these cans of soup, which his mother would rely on to feed her child, as “the embodiment of nourishment, of warmth, of comfort," according to art critic Arthur Danto.
When Kila Cheung left for Japan for an internship in 2017, this stint away from family inspired the Hong Kong artist's Home series, beginning with the present heartwarming lot. Head like the sun and body of an island, the beaming wooden figure is seated atop a cabinet made by a local Japanese artisan. Inside the cabinet drawers is a pencil drawing of what appears to be a lighthouse centered in a vast sea, as well as a key from a Hong Kong locksmith. It expresses the artist’s longing, the present work a reminder of the warm, sunlit island of his memory – a place of family and constancy that promises to remain his home even as he embarks on new ventures abroad.
Rendered in richly saturated colors, dreamlike silhouettes and boldly defined forms, Alone Again exemplifies KAWS’s investigations into the legacy of Pop culture. The central figure takes on the familiar outlines of Kermit the Frog, overlayed with signature ‘X’ eyes, and checkered morphing shapes. It is as if our childhood memories have been jumbled and projected through the looking glass, appearing and vanishing in sections. It is a poignant commentary on our image-saturated world, from childhood overwhelmed by an endless abundance of images, posters, cartoons and ads.
Hong Kong-born Kasing Lung moved to the Netherlands with his family as a child. Having grown up in a culture filled with fairytales and folklore, Kasing soon conjured his very own fantastical realm. His pen and brush have given life to countless characters, including the recurring bunny-eared Labubu. In From the Heart, mischievous Labubu grabs onto the tail of púca, a creature of Celtic folklore, as they sprint through the woods. While standing on its own as an individual piece of artwork, it is also considered part of a bigger composition, comprising twenty works featuring more than a hundred original mythical creatures of different nationalities.
Since the late 1990's anonymous French contemporary artist Invader has dispersed his pixelated mosaic "Space Invaders" on walls and buildings in over 60 cities around the world. His first mosaic throw-ups were inspired by the 8-bit aesthetic from the first generation of video games invented in the 1970's. Since then his work has become more varied, and his characters have continued to "invade" cities around the world.
Otani Workshop’s world is a nexus of childhood daydreams and fantasies populated by what one can only imagine is a lost ancient civilization of children and creatures. They are depicted with bulbous heads, somehow adorably misshapen, and solemn muted stares. Among them are Asuka and Omiku. Brainchild of singular sculptor Shigeru Otani, the “workshop” creates an array of figures made from Shigaraki clay as well other materials.
Driven by a love of sashimi and aquatic creatures, Hong Kong’s Chino Lam created a series of original characters that combine sea animals with human attributes. Rendered with traditional mediums such as calligraphy and Ukiyo-e, these cute and daemonic creatures evoke a sense of mismatched aesthetic and dark humor. Sumerian showcases Lam's unique graphic style. It depicts Oannes, a sage deity of Mesopotamian myth said to be half-fish half-human who was heaven-sent to impart knowledge and skills to the Babylonians. He is poised amid the entire evolution of human civilization, even referencing the Chinese text The Classic of Mountains and Seas, plus a whole host of mythic geography and beasts.