The artistic chemistry between Lily Liu Li-yun and George Wong Cheuk-hin has resulted in just that: In Between. The duo's work was part of "1+1: A Cross-Strait-Four-Regions Artistic Exchange Project" organised by the Hong Kong Arts Centre.
Wong and Liu's inter-disciplinary installation features two puppets hanging from an overhead pulley. Sand trickles out of their clenched fists and toes at different speeds and amounts, drawing strange patterns on the ground. As the dolls' weight changes, so does their height and distance.
The show's curator Jeff Leung Chin-fung thinks collaborations like this between Hong Kong, mainland and Taiwanese artists promote a creative exchange of ideas. "Wong and Liu's brainchild was among the project's most successful collaborations," Leung says. "They put their heads together to tell a coherent, imaginative yet culturally complex story."
The pair picked each other from a pool of 14 participating artists from the mainland, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau last October. What brought them together was a common experience.
Wong studied in Britain, while Liu completed her master's there. They both felt a shared and poignant sense of alienation as they struggled to re-establish their identity in a foreign land.
"Even after a while there, we still felt like strangers in a world of English speakers and Western culture," Liu recounts. "We wanted to cling on to our Chinese roots so we felt like clouds floating adrift in the atmosphere."
The two artists built upon this shared experience and drew on each other's previous works to create something new together. "I was inspired by Liu's painting depicting a girl lying face down while floating," Wong explains. "That's why I decided to use the flow of sand to signify how we cannot escape time."
Last November, Wong flew to Liu's studio in Beijing, where they worked furiously for three weeks, bringing their concepts to life.
Neither of the artists had collaborated with anyone before. This new experience helped change their views on the creative process, they say.
In his work, Wong investigates how life, space and time interact with each other. In hers, Liu touches upon historical events, cultural developments and current affairs.
"Hong Kong artists tend to look into personal and philosophical topics," Wong says, "while mainland artists often like to think on a larger scale."
Liu also saw benefits in the way Hong Kong artists often work.
"I work in a laid-back style waiting for inspiration to strike me," she says. "Wong does lots of calculations, draws up a work schedule ahead and pays close attention to details."
In Between and six other collaborative artworks will be on display at the Hong Kong Arts Centre until June 12