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Man Yau: Passage

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Man Yau’s installation is an allegory of the classical European garden, which is known for its symmetry and precisely regulated, artificial “nature”.  

Man Yau: Wheel of Fortune, 2024 (detail). © Man Yau.

I’m observing dried petals in my studio. I’d like to dream about something else, but what I’m about to do starts from my memories and the sensations where my fingers are contorted and the skin on my palms is cracked. 

The petals are so fine that you can only cut off a tiny bit. Removing too large a piece would make the once-living plant part crumble, with all its striations, cells, and air sacs. And when all the fragments are set in place, they form images that merge into a carefully regulated garden. 

They must be forced to stay in formation.       

A central starting point for the exhibition is the expression of being the subject of exoticisation: being both on display and feeling constrained.   

The garden represents the creation of aesthetically pleasing frames and seemingly picturesque landscapes, where nature and the human body are treated as objects, not unlike merchandise or ornaments. The exhibition’s spatial dividers contain various illustrations of dried flowers, pressed between panes of glass – such as a corset, chopine shoes, and fence motifs typical to the Victorian era. A chinoiserie-style pattern appears repeatedly on Tengujo paper with superimposed images of forced and distorted body parts. 

A kinetic sculpture resembling a wheel of fortune is composed of eight sectors with different fates ranging from love to misfortune. However, unlike a wheel of fortune, the motor-driven sculpture never stops.

In her art, Helsinki-based Man Yau (b. 1991) uses sculpture to address questions of identity and being exoticised. She leans on familiar shapes and situations and combines these with politicised materials such as porcelain and silk. A core aspect of her artistic work is the exploration of the values and history related to everyday objects. Yau reshapes these observations to investigate concepts of values in racialised, gendered, and commonly accepted narratives. 

The exhibition is supported by the Alfred Kordelin Foundation and the Greta and Alfred Runeberg Foundation.

Thank you: Lasimasi, LIITOS, Kalasataman Seripaja, Karhinen, and Syväsen Kukka. The artist would also like to warmly thank Eetu Huhtala, Emilia Tanner, and Jaakko Pietiläinen for their participation in the production.

The exhibition will be opened on Friday 12 January 2024 at 57pm.

In 2024, the exhibitions at HAM gallery are supported by the Finnish Heritage Agency.