Photographer Michael Wolf’s latest presentation, Informal Arrangements, juxtaposes an abstracted view of Hong Kong’s seemingly endless industrial façades with an intimate perspective from within its hidden network of back alleys. Living and working between Hong Kong and Paris, Wolf has developed an apt understanding of urban culture in these cities, capturing the hyper-density of Hong Kong for more than 20 years. Through his immersive practice, the Munich-born artist invites the viewer to consider a disappearing cultural landscape and seek out the city-dwellers’ attempts to adapt to the erosion of public space.
Since moving to the city in 1994, Wolf has been fascinated by Hong Kong’s high rise architecture and the alternative perspectives that lie, condensed and preserved, in its alleyways. Situated between public and private space, these alleys are utilised by the population in a myriad of ways; forming shortcuts between the main thoroughfares, they also provide quiet resting places, or are claimed as much-needed storage spaces by local workers and residents.
Layers of discarded objects, materials and peculiar spaces are transformed and given a second life in scenes that are usually concealed from the main paths of the city. Wolf’s images draw upon the informal assemblages of everyday objects such as gloves, pipes, plastic bags, ribbon, chairs and shoes, as well as miscellaneous architecture, in order to record human activity within these assorted spaces. His photographs, both large and small-scale, are presented to the viewer as a type of urban still life, highlighting the beauty that exists in the fundamental form, line and colour of various compositions.
Taken from Wolf’s ongoing encyclopaedic project, which features thousands of images documenting shifting arrangements in particular sites, Informal Arrangements is composed of pieces that have been organised into sets or typologies, according to formal principles such as colour, rhythm, structure and shape. In addition to this, a selection of Wolf’s Bastard Chairs – collection of makeshift seating arrangements composed of fragments of broken chairs bound with fabric, plastic and string – are also on display at the exhibition at Flowers Gallery, alongside a deconstructed assemblage appropriated from a Hong Kong back alley.
These sculptural elements illustrate the wholesome nature of Wolf’s diverse practice that lies between producing photographic documentation and transforming found objects into ‘cultural artefacts’. Marc Feustel, contributor to Informal Solutions – Observations in Hong Kong Back Alleys by Michael Wolf (WE publishers, Hong Kong) comments: “We can only hope that Michael Wolf’s photographs of the ingenuity and artistry that is evident in these spaces remain a celebration rather than a memorial.”
Michael Wolf, Informal Arrangements, until 9 January, Flowers Gallery, 82 Kingsland Road, London, E2 8DP.
For more, visit www.flowersgallery.com.
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1. Informal Arrangements © Michael Wolf, courtesy of Flowers Gallery.