‘Tears of Paradise’ refers to the milky teardrops of poppy opioids. 1839 Britain, having mastered time and navigation ‘Rules the Waves’ to become the 1st narco state in history by forcing China under semi-colonial rule to consume opium sold by the East India Trade Company. It resulted in multiple invasions by Western powers and Japan, the ‘Unfair Treaties’ and the loss of Hong Kong. Within this historical framework, Communist China developed Capitalist policies that have resulted in economic miracles and the largest human project in history; The Belt and Road initiative or the revitalisation of the silk routes that connect more than 130 nations. The title plays on the word ‘tear’ to mean both crying and to rip.
The painting is layered with financial newspaper, inkjet printing, sand and paint to form visceral surfaces to encourage a viewer’s perception into a multi-dimensional state of constant flux. Deconstructing the image, the woven narratives, mythologies, symbols and stories leads to existential questions about our human condition. The newspaper is a symbol of everyday human activity and in particular in the world of finance that dominates global economics with its unthinkably complex digital space through which transmissions of trillions of capital determine Utopias and Dystopias. Juxtaposed with the sand it poetically implies an Ozamandian corrosion that all civilisations crumble to sand and from the prism of fictional reality we can imagine what kind of world we want to live in.
An important pivot point of the painting is about Hong Kong, from where my parents emigrated to London where I was born and raised. The personal storylines oscillate to the wider geopolitics where I am interested in the question and critique on the effects of global capitalism and its underlying mechanisms of power on our perception of identity, territory and sense of belonging.
The word ‘home’ evokes the place where one lives, especially as a member of family or
household. It also carries the meaning of returning by instinct to one’s territory after leaving it. Being both Chinese and British, I witnessed the 1997 British to China handover of the then
colonised Hong Kong. My in-between identity prompts me to think about the definition of home, where and what it is, and the narratives of conquest. What is the meaning of home in an age where the world order is changing at accelerated speed? How can a domestic domicile be powerlessly torn down and replaced with a shopping mall or a skyscraper, all in the name of progress?
Hong Kong is often used as a backdrop in science fiction to explore the intersections of old and new architecture. The compressed futuristic city is composed of layered expressions of
humanity, history and civilisation, forming a feedback loop that we collectively define but also simultaneously defines our identities. The existential questions of ‘who, why and what am I?’ are universal questions of consciousness, and also the germinating seeds of transformation that I layer into my work.
In the ‘Tears of Paradise’ painting the central ‘island’ area is the Pearl River Delta Economic
Zone and Greater Bay area, a megalopolis of 9 cities: Guangzhou, Shenzhen (Silicon valley of China developed within 40 years - Where Huawei innovated 5G tech), Foshan, Zhuhai, Jiangmen, Zhongshan, Dongguan, four districts and counties of Huizhou and four districts and counties of Zhaoqing. Greater Bay is all these cities including Macau and Hong Kong. Connected by the longest sea crossing bridge in the world, 3000 km of highways, over 2200 km railways. Population of 22 million, the Pearl River Delta Economic Zone accounted for 19.9 percent of GDP and 38.9 percent of total trade in 2005.
The building on the bottom left is the offices of the National Endowment of Democracy in
Washington USA. The founder described the organisation as doing the work of the CIA 25 years ago. It is known as a regime change institution that funds Colour Revolutions around the world including the pro-Democracy/independence protests in Hong Kong while the US wages a trade war with China and enacts laws at the request of the protest leaders to inflict economic sanctions on HK if human rights in HK are not met by standards set by the USA. In other words the protest leaders requested economic sanctions from a hostile foreign power over HK’s internal sovereign matters. The opium flower blooms under Hong Kong as a link to the recent history of colonial rule from which there was no Democracy during the course of its 150 years.