CHOI Yan-chi

1949 | Hong Kong, Hong Kong
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CHOI Yan-chi — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Portrait of Choi Yan-chi

Hong Kong installation, mixed media, performance and conceptual artist.

Primarily based in Hong Kong, Choi Yan-chi was inspired by the first-generation contemporary Hong Kong artists such as Lui Shou-Kwan (1919-1975) and Hon Chi-fun (1922-2019). Her passion for contemporary art led her to acquire a BFA (1976) and an MFA (1978) in painting from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She returned to Hong Kong to teach at the Department of Design at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
Her works and performances were heavily influenced the by postmodern, and deconstructionist thought of the 1970s and 1980s. In the 1990s Choi received international acclaim for her many group and solo exhibitions in New York, Berlin, Toronto and Australia. In 1998 Choi co-founded the artist-run centre 1a space, which set the trend for converting unused warehouses into art spaces in Hong Kong. In 2003 Choi helped establish and taught at the Academy of Visual Arts at the Hong Kong Baptist University. She is a guest lecturer for HKBU’s Academy of Film and continues to participate in Hong Kong’s contemporary art scene. According to the artist, her installation art series rely on the power of object-viewer association and the unique experiences that each visitor brings when seeing her works. Other crucial components of her works involve notions of movement, time and space, as well as lived experiences, both local and international.

Choi revolutionised the Hong Kong art scene with her solo exhibition An Extension into Space (1985) at the Hong Kong Arts Centre. This was the first major solo exhibition of installation works in Hong Kong, and she recalls that the centre did not even know how they should translate “installation art” in Cantonese. This exhibition comprised three pieces made the same year: Light and Shadow, Stepping into Space and Light Adventure. The first two pieces are both painting-based and explore the notions of framing and the multiple possibilities of viewing art. Choi likens the third element, Light Adventure, to a “seeing game”. Its twenty double-sided mirrors refract light across the room, urging the viewer to move within the work and contemplate the tangible and intangible spaces in between. The overall concept of her installation disrupted the borders of “the frame” and encouraged the viewer to move throughout the installation to reverse the positions of viewer, object and space.

The Drowned (1989-1997) installation series is one of Choi’s best-known long-term projects. The works comment on China’s political climate after the Tiananmen Square incident on 4 June 1989. Choi ended the series around the time of the 1997 handover, noting that both events, “rattled [many] to the bone. Through Drowned, I wanted to convey a sense of trauma.” Drowned III (1993, Asia-Pacific Triennial, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane) consists of a stack of books enclosed in a glass case and submerged in oil. The paradoxical nature of preservation and destruction is evident, and the work reflects on the notion of the suppression of knowledge, which is the main theme of the series.

Her works are collected by both private and public institutions, including the Hong Kong Museum of Art and the New Hall Art Collection in Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Olivia Sims

A notice produced as part of the TEAM international academic network: Teaching, E-learning, Agency and Mentoring


© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
CHOI Yan-chi — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Choi Yan-chi, Drowned III, 1993, close up of installation showing the flow of a single air bubble up at one per second © Choi Yan-chi

CHOI Yan-chi — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Choi Yan-chi, Double Shadow, 1991, outdoor installation at Yellow Spring © Choi Yan-chi

CHOI Yan-chi — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Choi Yan-chi, Hybreeder, 1995, object filled with tea leaves and coffee beans, exhibited in Red Head Gallery, Toronto © Choi Yan-chi

CHOI Yan-chi — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Choi Yan-chi, Journey to Treasure Island (detail), 1998, glass cabinets with circular tray and various objects © Choi Yan-chi

CHOI Yan-chi — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Choi Yan-chi, Light Adventure, 1985, installation of double sided mirrors © Choi Yan-chi

CHOI Yan-chi — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Choi Yan-chi, Past and Future, 1998, blackboard with student’s desk tops hanging on the wall, installation at Next Wave Festival, Melbourne © Choi Yan-chi

CHOI Yan-chi — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Choi Yan-chi, Stepping into Space, 1985, painting, installation, acrylic board and canvas © Choi Yan-chi

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