Chow Chun Fai’s photo installations at Art Basel Hong Kong 2013

A couple of modern-day mosaics by Hong Kong artist Chow Chun Fai were granted real estate on the Art Basel Hong Kong main floor, but they were hidden behind a wall that prevented non-VIP attendees from viewing them.  This was a shame, as Chow’s works deserved far greater attention than they received.

From a distance, his portraits titled “Notes on Solitary Journey” and “Visitation” resembled brightly restored murals depicting pivotal moments in Chinese history.  A closer look, however, revealed much more.  “Notes on a Solitary Journey” – also titled “Rides on a Solitary Journey” on the artist’s website – is a work cobbled together by 432 photos, in total measuring about eight feet high and nearly seven wide.  A 14th-century warrior straight out of Lo Kuan-Chung’s novel “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” is completely juxtaposed with Jacques-Louis David’s oil painting “Napoleon Crossing the Alps” from 1800.  In Chow’s interpretation, instead of the diminutive Frenchman preening for the artist while pointing atop his lurching horse, it is the red-faced fierce Chinese warrior comically raising his spear overhead in the same triumphant pose.

In both works, a wagon can be seen in the background, but Chow takes the absurdity to greater heights by portraying his version with Lego figurines.

“Visitation,” another piece from Chow’s series of photo installations, was created in the same spirit, with several scholarly figures conferring in a sanded landscape with the odd toy horse and tree.