Pearl Lam Galleries is pleased to present Ma Yujiang’s first solo exhibition, Cang Mang, in Hong Kong at Soho 189, which will open to the public on Friday, 29 May. The young artist will debut a new series of work in which he manipulates archival WWII photos to explore loss and the theory of ‘cang mang’, which describes an emotional state of boundlessness and displacement of time and place in the context of social and political history.

Ma has a special affinity with the poetry of the late Taiwanese poet Chou Meng Tieh, who passed away in May 2014. He relates to the loneliness that Chou depicts in his poems as a result of feeling displaced. Ma moved from Shandong province to Beijing for school before immigrating to Hong Kong. Ma’s personal encounter with Chou in Taipei proved to be a lifechanging experience, which inspired him to create this unique body of artwork as a tribute to the poet. In the winter of 1948, Chou disembarked from a ship together with the youth army from Mainland China. Looking at the Strait of Taiwan from the Port of Kaohsiung, he suddenly felt he understood the meaning of ‘cang mang’. Ma’s large-scale photographic works give physical body to the deep sense of longing and solitude that pervades Chou’s poetry, and focus on the psychological complexity of wanting to root one’s identity in the face of displacement from a personal history, while being unsure of one’s destiny.

Ma will present two photographic works that capture the Taiwan Strait and the Port of Kaohsiung in 2014, along with a manipulated old photograph, to portray the confusion of Chou’s initial arrival in Taiwan.

The Cang Mang series consists of over 100 pieces, of which 13 will be shown in this exhibition, including contemporary photos of the Taiwan Strait taken by Ma, and 11 old WWII archival photos that the artist has ‘cleaned’ by removing evidence of violent scenes from places such as the beaches of Normandy and Pearl Harbor. Ma explains, “This series of photographs reminds us of how insignificant our existences are when we are confronted with the narrative of time and history. I want to express boundlessness in terms of space, time, life, death, and fate. I started from my own experience and broadened the time frame by bridging what happened in the past with eternal nature. By removing the warships and the scenes of destruction from the WWII archival photographs, I try to restore these locations to their original state of calm. Giving the sea back to the sea, and the sky back to the sky, so to speak, removes the distance that separated families, and recuperates a sense of peace within our void.”

Ma Yujiang was born in 1988 in Zhangqiu, Shandong, China. He majored in Public Art at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, where he graduated in 2010. Ma currently lives and works in Hong Kong.

Ma spent his childhood with his grandparents in the countryside, where he studied Chinese calligraphy and traditional Chinese literature with his grandfather. Ma’s work is deeply influenced by traditional Chinese art and culture, along with everyday life experiences, which he expresses through contemporary art language. Ma began exploring conceptual art at an early age. The artist leaves the completion of an artwork to the work itself. Human relationships, the exchange of emotion, displacement in different cities and the passing of time are all major influences in his work.

Major solo exhibitions include Cang Mang (2015), Pearl Lam Galleries, Hong Kong SOHO; and Related to Me (2012), Shangyuan Art Museum, Beijing, China. Selected group exhibitions include Real & Unreal, The 1st Changjiang International Photography & Video Biennale (2015), Changjiang Museum of Contemporary Art, Chongqing; Unlived by What Is Seen (2014), Tang Contemporary Art, Beijing, China; 4A, A4 (2013), 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Sydney, Australia; Do “I” have any problems? (2013), 4-Face Space, 798 Art Zone, Beijing, China; and XXX—Next 10 Years of Contemporary Art (2011), Today Art Museum, Beijing, China. Ma has also completed projects as part of the Shangyuan International Residency Program in Beijing (2011–13).