osage: over the ocean

A few weeks back I went to the opening of My Father Is over the Ocean (solo show by Hong Kong artist Au Hoi Lam), which also represented the re-opening (in a new location) of Osage Gallery. The exhibition is almost entirely about the relationship between the artist and her father and her grief at his passing, with the title derived from the folk song “My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean” (which according to my Chinese colleague is not widely known in China). Overall I liked the exhibition and thought it was well done, partly because I’m a sucker for this kind of softer, more nuanced art, but it lacked a kind of power I was hoping for, so I wouldn’t say it’s a must-see.


Sixty Questions for My Father (or for Myself), 2012-2013

I had never been to the original Osage Gallery, which closed before I arrived in Shanghai, but I gotta say … the current location is awkward, at the edge of an apartment complex in a fairly isolated area, and the interior layout is troublesome. The gallery is split between the building’s ground floor and basement, and it’s pretty obvious the basement was converted from mechanical services because the small adjoining rooms and narrow entrances are super aggravating. The original folk song is about someone who has gone – Bonnie in the song and the artist’s father in the show – and the repeated lyrics create this feeling of nostalgia and interiority with a twinge of melancholy. The piece Sixty Questions for My Father played nicely into this. Au Hoi Lam had disassembled the bunk bed her father used to sleep on and wrote questions on each piece. The repetition of these various wooden boards against the half-painted blue walls reflected that nautical, drifting theme quite nicely.

There is definitely an interesting thought process to Au Hoi Lam’s work, but her over-reliance on personal stories felt a bit limiting at times. And I found her paintings to be quite subpar. Without the blue walls, all the pieces would’ve been blah. I’m not sure if the blue paint was the artist’s decision or the curator’s, but the bright hue was definitely necessary to tie the works together, keep the mood buoyant, and provide some color in the space. The exhibition found a greater measure of success in the larger multi-piece installation works, but will I visit the exhibition again? No, it’s not powerful enough to warrant a second trip. Will I visit the gallery again? Only if there’s something I’m absolutely dying to see, which is unlikely. Because the location really sucks.

Au Hoi Lam: My Father Is over the Ocean. Shanghai Postscript.
March 14 – April 14 May 30, 2014

Osage Shanghai
Room 101, Block 5, Wangzu City
251 Caoxi Road, Xuhui District, Shanghai
Tuesday to Saturday, 10:30 AM – 6:30 PM
Sunday, 2:30 PM – 6:30 PM


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