By Chow Chun-fai and courtesy of Gallery EXIT
Portraits from Behind is a series of small-format paintings by Hong Kong artist Chow Chun-fai, who depicts vivid scenes from the large-scale anti-extradition bill protests that have gripped the city since last June.
Key protest scenes come alive on Chow’s canvases – including a rendering of the footbridge above the Cross Harbour Tunnel Toll Plaza bursting into flames during the 12-day Hong Kong Polytechnic University siege last November. Protesters had tried to block police from entering the campus which they had occupied.
Chow’s series has been on display in Gallery EXIT in Aberdeen since mid-March, and the exhibition will end on May 30. The gallery said the 40-year-old artist was “deeply disturbed and shaken” by the events in Hong Kong last year. The paintings served as an outlet for Chow’s emotions.
To enhance the authenticity of his work, Chow referred to photos and live streams taken at the demonstrations, giving his paintings an almost “documentary quality,” the gallery says. But the artist did not offer any context or explanation in his work, as he hopes viewers can reconstruct the fragmented pieces of information and come up with their own interpretation of the events.
Apart from capturing the police-protester skirmishes, or the sea of people at public demonstrations, Chow’s collection documents various kinds of people he met during the movement. In an interview with Stand News, Chow said that, because most people at the frontline were reluctant to be recognised, he decided to paint their “portraits from behind.”
“People may not know each other, they only knew they were ‘of the same road.’ It is even quite Utopian – you don’t have to know the other person’s identity, but you trust them,” he said.
Apart from protesters, Chow also depicts other people who were at the frontline, including journalists, first aid volunteers and fire fighters.
The only face clearly captured in Chow’s series was his self-portraits at the protests.
Chow Chun-fai: Portraits from Behind
Date: March 14 to May 30, 2020
Venue: Gallery EXIT (3/F, 25 Hing Wo Street, Tin Wan, Aberdeen, Hong Kong)
Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 11 am to 4 pm
Chow Chun-fai graduated from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Department of Fine Arts (BA and MFA). In 2012, he ran in the Legislative Council election in the Sports, Performing Arts, Culture and Publication constituency. Chow is a the recipient of the Grand Prize of the Hong Kong Arts Centre 30th Anniversary Awards, and the Sovereign Asian Art Prize. His work can be viewed on his website.