Contemporary by Angela Li is pleased to present The Lost Time Travel Machine, a solo exhibition of Hong Kong artist Angela Yuen. With a long fascination of all things local and nostalgic, Yuen uses manufactured plastic toys, old-fashioned stationeries and Hong Kong’s iconic objects to create playful three-dimensional sculptures and installations, casting colourful shadows which resemble Hong Kong’ magnificent skylines and street scenes. In her latest works, Yuen continues to explore elements that represents Hong Kong’s history and culture, such as ice-cream motorcycle, street vendors, trams, rickshaws, sampan boats and the demolished Queen’s Pier. Like still frames from old Hong Kong movies, her works bring audiences to a parallel dimension, where some of the faded local cultural elements and currently significant urban characters of today coexist.
This first major solo exhibition of Yuen showcases her signature three-dimensional sculptures, both kinetic and static, with their shadows projecting beautiful silhouettes of Hong Kong’s skyline, as well as her newly developed wall hanging installations that capture lively local street scenes. Her works are nostalgic and cheerful with a sense of playfulness, incorporating old-fashioned plastic objects including plastic rulers, stencils, hair curlers, toy soldiers, rubber ducks, capsule toys, tea party sets and floral beads that occupy the surfaces. Strategically placed lights in the sculptures transform objects into imaginative silhouettes and stories; every object is carefully choreographed, combining cast coloured shadows to produce unexpected, stunning visual results.
Yuen’s sculptures are full of symbolic meanings, from their visual representation to her choices of material. For instance, she chooses ready-made plastic toys and objects as her form of language due to her interest in the city’s history. Growing up watching classic Hong Kong movies from the 70s and 80s with her father, Yuen gradually developed a strong interest in the city’s golden years. Hong Kong’s golden era of growth was the fruit of industrialization in the post-war period, and the local plastic and toy manufacturing industry played an important role in the growth of Hong Kong. Yuen’s works are conceived as a study of the city’s history, “I choose plastic toys and manufactured objects as my medium because the material is imbued with symbolic meaning associated with the spirit, sweat and hardship of the local labour, and plastic manufactured objects serve as an iconic representation of Hong Kong’s manufacturing boom that shapes the early stages of the city’s modernization.” Yuen continues, “Hong Kong is ever-changing and progressing, and the rotating elements in my kinetic works signified Hong Kong as a city in constant evolution, from manufacturing hub to international financial and service centre.” Yuen’s sculptures are storytelling time travel machines, like portals that travel between the cultural significances that are lost in time and the artist’s imaginary Hong Kong.