Exploring the presence of the past

TEXT : LAU KIT WAI

THERE ARE many facets to an artist. Pablo Picasso was not only a painter, but also a sculptor, illustrator and draughtsman.

By the same token, Stephen Au Kam-tong - a television and film actor, stage performer and indie director - has recently added to his expansive portfolio a multimedia solo exhibition titled Revolving Montmartre of Picasso that pays tribute to the Spanish master.

"When I look at Picasso's paintings, they are full of life," said Au. "His existence was all about painting, and his attitude towards artistic creation made me understand what freedom truly means."

The exhibition was inspired by a five-day trip last year in Montmartre - the French village where Picasso lived with fellow artists at the turn of the 19th century.

Au was there to do research for his role in the stage drama Picasso at the Lapin Agile. He was surrounded by impressive artworks as he absorbed the atmosphere of the Pariasian village.

Au attempted to recreate his experience at the exhibition.

Visitors to Fabrica Features in the basement of benetton in Tsim Sha Tsui will feel as if they have entered a bohemian Parisian café.

The gallery was refurbished to mimic the café Royal in Paris. The walls are decorated with photographs - derived from artistic themes of Picasso's work during the rose and cubism art periods - which were shot by Au during his trip.

The centrepiece of the exhibition is a short video mostly comprised of images of a double-decker merry-go-round that Au came across in Montmartre - a key inspiration for the exhibition.

Touched by its elegance and beauty, Au hopped on the merry-go-round and took a ride. His mind suddenly overflowed with memories.

"During the next few days [after the ride], I kept recalling things that happened in the past, especially events from my childhood. The memory flashes were very concrete and clear, as if they were being replayed in front of me," said Au.

He saw himself running away from home at the age of four to see battleships near the Wan Chai waterfront. He also saw his father taking him to the movies, students at Tiananmen Square in 1989, a television drama starring Maggie Cheung Man-yuk and the late Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing that was shot in Paris, and scenes from family events and relationships.

All memories - no matter happy or sad - should be cherished, said Au, as we can only come to terms with ourselves when we reflect on our past.

"Nothing that we have experienced can be forgotten. They are all tucked into the information warehouse of our brain and can be retrieved and replayed in a split second," he said.

"I hope the exhibition will inspire people to recall fond memories from their past. Even if there are unhappy memories, you have to face them."

Au's exhibition is being held at Fabrica Features (B/F Prestige Tower, 23 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui) until September 18

-- from SCMP, Young Post - July 31 2005 --