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Online virtual exhibition captures the lack of “contact” between humans amid Covid-19 in Hong Kong

BY Leone Xue / Hong Kong Baptist University | 21-Oct-2020
Online art exhibition “Contactless”, a collection of 22 ink paintings on rice paper by virtual story-telling artist Louise Soloway Chan, captures the unintended consequence of the pandemic in Hong Kong-loneliness, fear and panic.
Online art exhibition "Contactless" by Louise Soloway Chan. Visitors can listen to recorded audio introduction from Ms Chan by clicking on the button beside each of the painting.
“I often describe myself as a virtual diarist, kind of recording life around me as I witness it,” said Chan in the virtual opening on Oct 15, “As I draw directly from life, pretty much all of the faces you can see are wearing masks, which seems to be part of the global story and now sadly becoming part of the new normal.”

A Hong Kong resident of over 20 years, Louise Soloway Chan was born in the UK and inspired by India in the mediums she is working with today. This series was all painted by the artist during lockdowns and quarantines in both directions-getting caught in the lockdown in UK in March and then travelling back to Hong Kong in June-who is currently back in UK again to stay with family.

Although, she used to work with clay on a much larger scale, as life is spelt rather unsettled, she started to use more portable media like inks and rice paper. “I have to be ready to pack my bags, making rather quick decisions to be the lockdowns, and to get to families in time,” said Ms Chan.

Ever since moved to Hong Kong, Ms Chan has constantly portrayed the ordinary lives, men in suits rushing to work, helpers picking up children, and many invisible hands, construction workers and cleaners, that are the backbone that keeps functioning the town.

In 2011, the MTR commissioned her to create 12 huge bas-reliefs street scenes in Hong Kong, depicting traditional shop businesses, lantern and teashops. The works that has taken six years to complete are permanently installed in Sai Ying Pun station,

Hosted by the Boundless Artists Collective, “Contactless” reflects the affects that the coronavirus had on daily life. Usual means of communication have been forced to change in lieu of face-to-face interactions.

The first sketch of the series is a picture taken shortly after the Chinese New Year. “It was the early days right at the beginning while the news of the virus arriving in Hong Kong, first set in the panic. And you can see all the faces, pairing up with their eyes, looking anxious.”

A series named Long Vacation reflects the long-haul flight she took from London to Hong Kong in June. “When boarding the flight, it was an extraordinary scene so many people are all in their hazmat suits, and guard boards and full protective gear,” she said.

All proceeds will be donated to BAC’s charity partner, InspiringHK Sports Foundation, to provides sporting opportunities for underprivileged families. “Hopefully the works from this exhibition will lock for a reminder not only of the dark side but the way life carries on with moments of humor and resilience and how the human spirit navigates adversity,” said the artist.