Adrift in Time
Photography by Chun Wai
Curated by Dr Florian Knothe
Edited and translated by Dr Florian Knothe,
Christopher Mattison and Walter Chan
Website designed by Wendy Zhang
This exhibition presents the artistic work of Chun Wai created in France in the 1980s-1990s. Adrift in Time—Photography by Chun Wai displays a photographic record of the past and the passing of time. Born in Hong Kong and educated at the École supérieure des beaux-arts de Mulhouse in France, photographer Chun Wai toured Europe on a quest for the beginning of time, understanding that everything he photographed had a finite start and end. This physical and philosophical journey caused the artist to realize that his insights into the relationship suspended between predestination and chance were leading to an expansive form of loneliness—a state he felt was similar to the torment experienced by the ancient Chinese poets. Chun wandered the streets and alleys of great cultural centres like Paris discovering the collections of its great museums, art galleries and flea markets, along with the vast memories contained within, preserved and passed on through the course
Paris Gare de l'Est 巴黎東站
Louvre Museum 羅浮宮
Rue de Rivoli 里沃利路
Odéon, statue of Danton 奧德昂：丹東的塑像
Seine River 昨日的塞納河
The Wings of Icarus
Icarus falls slowly
In that moment
The earth will be covered by his damaged wings
All histories and mazes will melt
Only a dazzling pyramid will remain
Passersby in haste
Marché aux puces II 跳蚤市場 II
Pont au Double 道布勒橋
For thirty years, Chun kept his images of France stored away in a box, as if preserving these treasured memories in a corner of time; a souvenir from which he can now extract memories. Since the ’90s, some of the negatives have deteriorated to the point that the original images are no longer recognizable. They have become tangible illustrations of the passing of time, while the artist’s memories reactivate his endless associations. Whereas it has been said that photography freezes time, Chun’s images and their varying states of damage attest to the flood of time. The reading of these images now leads to another journey, crossing the boundary between memory and forgetting, towards the subsequent truth of chaos.
Further, by juxtaposing the photographic images with carefully composed text, Chun elevates his memories by providing them—and by extension his photographs—further poetic meaning. The journey of his formative time in France was first document-ed in situ, and while some of the pictorial record has been dam- aged by the passing of time, its memory is now revisited and newly described through the augmentation of images and words. In this way, the 2022 project Adrift in Time presents an accumulation of “souvenirs” and wonders first experienced in France and then reconsidered over the decades—part of a life experience in which some is lost and much is gained.
№ 175416742 532
№ 027641623 615
“The tint of abstraction, forms and brightness, boundlessness, weightlessness, are all interwoven and transformed.”
Rendering an image is like an artisan carving a door or a window from a space. The door or window need not be huge—merely large enough for our souls to pass through.
The legendary figure Cangjie is credited with developing the Chinese writing system. It is written in Huainanzi, compiled
in the Western Han dynasty: “When Cangjie invented Chinese characters, the sky rained grain while the spirits cried out at night.”
№ 114056937 427
№ 142851326 751
№ 107562978 523
№ 037451752 254
№ 035916253 748
№ 037871579 832
№ 026541782 649
Adrift in Time is a monologue and travelogue of time. The exhibition presents two sections. The images in the first are figurative, while the latter images are abstract. They were all selected from photographs Chun took when studying in France. Though these images were taken over thirty years ago, he recalls them like it was yesterday. Over the years, some of the photo-graphs have been damaged by mold; however, they remain free from the boundary of preconceptions, and have been opened up to interpretive possibilities. The damaged images are removed from the chains of time and memory. One can’t help but question: what then is the essence of photography?
Elements of photography and literature are interwoven, yet they are not the same. Chun wishes to expand the realm of poetics with the compelling features of both, merging them into his contemplation of life during such a turbulent era. In the images and texts within Adrift in Time, the artist attempts to trace time, in which all phenomena emerge and perish, along with the relationship between subject and object. In this way, photography becomes a form of contemplation, a reflection on life and existence.