Hong Kong • China 2018 – 2024

Drawing from over ten years of artistic engagement with East Asia, these works chart Allchurch’s journeys to Hong Kong and mainland China.

They represent extensive travel and engagement with the region, executed as the artist’s signature photo collage creations and presented in light box and print formats. A research trip to Hong Kong in 2017 culminated in several works that capture different aspects of the city: Babel Hong Kong (2019) and Solitary Temple Hong Kong (2019), as well as Memory Views I & II (2022) which were created from the artist’s image library during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Extensive travel and research in mainland China in 2019, funded by an Arts Council England/British Council ‘Artists’ International Development Fund’ Award led to Emily Allchurch’s Mirrored Cities’ series, which draws parallels between the ancient trading port of Venice, Italy, and historical and contemporary counterpart locations in China, in exploration of themes in common, such as globalisation, mass tourism and trade.

‘Suzhou Twinned with Venice (after Xu Yang)’ (2021), recreates a section of the c18th Chinese hand-scroll ‘Prosperous Suzhou’ by Xu Yang. Allchurch’s re-imaging combines the ancient water town of Suzhou, on China’s Grand Canal in Jiangsu Province, famous for its classical gardens, collectively a UNESCO World Heritage Site, juxtaposed with Venice, all rendered in Chinese asymmetric ‘bird’s eye’ perspective.

Allchurch made ‘Amidst Towering Peaks (after Ma Yuan)’ (2020) from photographs she had taken the year before in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in Hunan Province, China. The work is inspired by the Chinese landscape painting tradition of Shan Shui (‘mountain-water’), and was a breath of fresh air to make amidst the anxiety of the Coronavirus pandemic.

During this period of lockdown she also created ‘Memory View Hong Kong I & II’ (2022), revisiting her Hong Kong photographic image library, to explore the relationship, so prevalent there, between nature and the built environment. Presented in a traditional fan shape, these works adopt the Southern Song Ma-Xia school of painting one-corner style of composition, and evoke a sense of nostalgia.

Celebrating her recent return to Hong Kong with a new work, Towers of Babel: Hong Kong (2024), reflects the city re-energising and finding new post-pandemic directions. As with multiple levels in complex architecture, there are multiple stories of Emily Allchurch’s strong engagement with East Asia, especially with the city of Hong Kong and its multi-facetted manifestations.

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