14.11.18 – 09.02.19
Since 2010 Puerta Roja has strived to build a cultural dialogue and uncover hidden narratives between Hong Kong and its Latin American and Spanish artists. Fernando Prats motivations can be traced back to the rugged topography, intense weather and telluric forces of his native Chile and his work connects deeply with the city. Linking to the profoundly rooted Taoist beliefs in relation to the destructive and creative balance of nature, as well as an understanding of the invisible connections in our universe, Prats’s work comes to life in Hong Kong, where, despite its urban façade, the power of landscape and climate is ever-present.
Prats echoes Puerta Roja’s philosophy by marrying a profoundly intellectual and conceptual discourse with a poetic and robust aesthetic. Since representing Chile at the 54th Venice Biennale, Prats has reached international acclaim for devising a brand new and deeply personal pictorial system. Reflecting his focus on the study of environmental conditions, for the Biennale in 2011, he presented three projects documenting his expeditions and ventures, including the Antarctic and areas affected by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in Chile. On the same year, and in recognition of his daring journeys, Prats would exhibit at the Espace Culturel Louis Vuitton collective exhibition Somewhere Else, pursuing the idea of travel as a powerful mean for “expeditionist” artists. From the practice of creating works outside of a conventional environment, the artist has developed a process far removed from the instruments of the painter, producing unconventional and unpredictable images generated by nature. The artist records natural actions on smoked surfaces, ranging from movements of animals, to powerful waves, seismographic vibrations and even imprints of geysers shooting water from the ground (an intervention possible thanks to the Guggenheim Fellowship).
In his renowned Paintings of Birds series, featured at Puerta Roja’s Nature Paintings exhibition, the artist’s hand gives way to the free and fleeting beating of the bird’s wings making a rhythmic and majestic imprint on the smoked surface. The motion of the bird is frozen in time through a process in-between abstraction and sequence photography, capturing a linear pattern of movement that is both controlled and random. The artist builds a structure around the canvas, allowing the birds to fly freely between a net and the flat surface of the support. While the marks themselves are produced erratically in a matter of minutes, the conditions in which the imprints are created are carefully orchestrated by the artist – a constant motif demonstrated in his many series of works and arduous creative expeditions.
The exhibition also points to the artist’s environmental bearing by including action paintings produced with wild Andean Condors that today are an endangered species. I believe Prats’ body of work is relevant, now more than ever, as we continue to face sombre ecological prospects. Art is an important vehicle to address such issues and Prat’s work unravels a new perspective on the relationship between human society and the ecosystem. To further pursue this perspective and accompanying the exhibition, the artist will be live-painting a new work from the Paintings of Birds series at the Hong Kong Art Gallery Association’s Symposium Looking Up: Remapping Hong Kong’s Art Scene in the Era of New Connectivity and Ruptures, at Asia Society. In the spirit of Puerta Roja’s commitment to its Hong Kong roots and in recognition of Prats’ focus on raising awareness of human connection to the environment, the resulting work will be donated to the fund-raising efforts of The Nature Conservancy in Asia Pacific. I am deeply grateful to the Board of the Hong Kong Art Gallery Association, Ms. Alice Mong, Executive Director of Asia Society Hong Kong Centre and to Mr. Moses Tsang, Global Board Member and Co-Chair of the Asia-Pacific Council of Directors of The Nature Conservancy, for making such a performance and resulting contribution possible. I am also grateful to Caroline Ha Thuc, one of the most influential curators in Hong Kong today for her insightful views on Fernando Prats’ deep philosophical, intellectual and spiritual connection to Asia.
– Adriana Alvarez-Nichol
Founder of Puerta Roja and Co-President of the Hong Kong Art Gallery Association