Chun Fai Chow - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale Hong Kong Thursday, July 9, 2020 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Commissioned directly by the present owner from the artist

  • Catalogue Essay

    Phillips is proud to present four works by Hong Kong-based artists Adrian Wong, Frank Sin, Chow Chun Fai and Trevor Yeung. These works exemplify the city’s healthy, vibrant and diverse local art scene, one that continues to fascinate Hong Kong’s community as well as explore the interdimensionalities of the sprawling metropolis that it occupies.

    In Human Voices Are Drifting Towards You, Chow Chun Fai takes a still from the iconic Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs, and renders its careful composition in his trademark painterly execution of block colours and ambiguous forms. In this scene, the two protagonists Yan (Tony Leung) and Ming (Andy Lau) meet in a hi-fi shop, unbeknownst to each other as the ‘mole’ each of them would be looking to root out in their respective operatives (Triad gang and police special unit), sharing a moment of contemplation and musical appreciation. The coming together of the two audiophiles is a tranquil yet complex scene, one that breaks from the fast-paced, tense rhythm of the film, revealing the opposing characters to be more similar than different – forcing us to question the legitimacy of their rivalry soon to transpire later on. In Chow’s work, the characters and objects within the scene become almost sculptural, creating space and depth within the composition against the framing of the English and Cantonese subtitles, themselves becoming transient truisms which build a sense of visceral emotion. The words themselves refer to Yan’s commending of the quality of the speakers playing “Forgotten Time” - a song by Tsai Chin in which she sings wistfully about past memories – himself claiming that they allow the music to transcend the equipment themselves and manifest as human voices present in the room with them. As such Chow does not seek to create memorial images by painting movie stills, instead seeing these as scenes of real presence, radiating nostalgia and bitter sentiment. Already considered a cinematic masterpiece in itself, its plot was later taken up by the famed American director Martin Scorsese (Goodfellas, Taxi Driver), and whose version was revered by critics and won a slew of academy awards following its release.

    Chow Chun Fai
    I Want My Identity Back, 2007
    Though each artwork and artist seems different and detached from one another, they are all in fact all interlinked by their very conception. Through their creations, these artists achieve a kind of self-realization, a preservation of their own ideals and practices - artistically, culturally and otherwise in a city that is in a constant state of rapid and dramatic evolution. In their eyes we see Hong Kong as a city suspended in an eternal battle between conservation and modernization. While in the case of Chow Chun Fai’s reinterpretations of Hong Kong cinema, we see an artist fighting against the decay of an industry that for so long had defined the city’s culture, which has increasingly submitted to the might of mainland Chinese cinema. By incorporating the dual subtitles into his paintings he allows them to take on a contemporary meaning, reflecting social and political tensions of the present. This is a sentiment no more clearly shown than in another painting by Chow, also of Infernal Affairs, in which Tony Leung crouches on a rooftop - the iconic Victoria Harbor his backdrop - and says into a cellphone: ‘I want my identity back’.

    What ultimately unites these artists is their fierce love for the city they occupy, its rich history and diverse heritage; a love then coupled with an intense insecurity about the future that awaits it.


Human Voices Are Drifting Towards You

signed and dated 'Chow Chun Fai [in Chinese and English] 2009' on the reverse
oil on canvas
100 x 149.6 cm. (39 3/8 x 58 7/8 in.)
Painted in 2009.

HK$120,000 - 180,000 

Sold for HK$137,500

Contact Specialist
Danielle So
Associate Specialist, Head of Day Sale

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale

Hong Kong Auction 9 July 2020