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The Call of a Fallen Leaf: A Solo Exhibition by Wenda Yiu

Curated by Chloe Chow

4 November–23 December, 2022
WMA Space | 8/F, Chun Wo Commercial Centre, 23-29 Wing Wo Street, Central, Hong Kong (By appointment only)
12pm – 7pm (Closed on Monday)

As a sequel to the group exhibition ‘Island(ed)’ that explored the isolated nature of islands, the new solo exhibition by Wenda Yiu will further extend WMA’s exploration on the islands of Hong Kong. Titled ‘The Call of a Fallen Leaf’, the curator hopes to unearth the history of the land through the traces of its habitats. As noted by her, “We often use the term ‘rooted’ to describe one’s gaining of a foothold in a place, and ‘uprooted’ as one’s parting with it. Roots have therefore become a living metaphor of how human beings connect with places. If we are to trace the entrenched roots and fallen leaves on the islands, are we then able to grasp the stories of the islands’ past and present?” 

Yiu’s works in recent years have all centred around the islands of Hong Kong. Rather than limiting herself to one medium, she makes use of the unique characteristics of each artistic medium to map out her investigation, documentation and imagination of the islands. This exhibition begins with the fallen leaves collected by Yiu, and subsequently traces the history and stories of 19 islands that have disappeared as a result of urban development. These include the Kellett Island on Victoria Harbour; Lam Chau which was flattened for the construction of the new airport; and Tit Cham Chau that was connected to the mainland for the sake of building the landfill. Such changes have become the driving force behind Yiu’s work, as she said “These stories might be easily forgotten and I try to document these through my works.”

Fallen leaves collected from
Stonecutters Island. Taken in 2022. Image courtesy of the artist.

The works presented in this exhibition include paper sculptures, paintings and photos, as well as a selection of archival materials that supplement our understanding of the islands’ transformation over time. Yiu’s new work Memorandum of the Secret Islands features 19 paper sculptures that are crafted with paper made of fallen leaves collected from reclaimed land or land-linked islands, as an attempt to preserve and interrogate the traces of the islands’ existence. Yiu has also continued to expand her photography series, This Close, That Far, which was shortlisted for the 2019 WMA Open Photo Contest. 

In this series, Yiu took photographs at the sites that constituted the former boundaries of the island and the mainland, and juxtaposed them in a rigid manner to highlight the tension between island ecology and urbanisation. The entrenched roots and fallen leaves, which connect to its land and the people, are also transformed into contours in the two paintings 19 Ambassadors of Islands and The Receipt of the Disappeared Line. Through the alternate use of hard and soft lines, Yiu reconstructs the maps’ coastlines that are at once abstract and figurative, archaeological and fictional, disappearing but reappearing at the same time, as a way to outline the islands’ coastal changes over the past decades. 

Wenda Island (2017).
Canvas Painting. 20 x 25 cm. Courtesy of the artist.

The exhibition also consolidates a series of archival materials that Yiu has referenced in her research of these 19 islands. These materials include the native plants that she gathered as well as the historical photographs and articles that she collected from multiple archives, such as the Hong Kong Museum of History and the Lands Department. As very limited records exist for some of these featured islands, we take this opportunity to invite the public to join us in constructing an archival database for these 19 islands. As Yiu described, “After living in Hong Kong for so many years, what really belongs to Hong Kong? What should we cherish? I am very eager to do something about the place I love, starting from the islands that formulate this place.” Each of these findings will help to further develop Yiu’s work, and in turn evoke our memory and imagination of these unnamed islands.

Media interviews are welcomed and can be arranged. Please contact Mr. Kyle Chau ([email protected]) or call 3974 5488 for more information.

About the artist

Wenda Yiu Tung Wing (b.1992, Hong Kong)
Yiu graduated from the RMIT University with a BA degree in Fine Art (co-presented with Hong Kong Art School), majoring in painting. Her practice derives from her interest in nature and its relationship with humanity and culture. In recent years, she traces the disappearance of islands in Hong Kong with imaginations and research into archives and folklore, and explored them through mediums including old maps, ink painting, photography and collage. Her artworks were shown in a number of joint exhibitions in Hong Kong, including Art Basel (2022, 2021) and Fine Art Asia (2020), and were collected by private collectors. Yiu held her first solo exhibition ‘Mapping Local’ in 2020. She received the ‘Outstanding Artwork (Painting)’ prize at Hong Kong Art School (2017), the finalist award in ‘WMA Open Photo Contest’ (2019) and the C&G Artpartment Award (2020).

About the curator

Chloe Chow (b.1987, Hong Kong)
Chow is a Hong Kong-based curator and is now Head of the WMA Physical Space. Prior to joining WMA, she was Associate Curator for Hong Kong Visual Culture at M+. Recent curatorial projects include ‘Life is meant to be messy’ (Grotto SKW, 2022), ‘Island(ed)’ (WMA, 2022) ‘spinelessly planting’ (Contemporary by Angela Li, 2022) and ‘Hong Kong: Here and Beyond’ (M+, 2011). Recent publications include Every Little Unit (2022) and Hong Kong Visual Culture: The M+ Guide (2022). 

About WMA
WMA is a non-profit platform dedicated to facilitating greater understanding of Hong Kong through the image-based art form.

*Cover photo by Wenda Yiu. This Close, That Far Series (2022). Digital Vinyl Print, 590 x 203 cm. Courtesy of the artist.