Review: Life Force installation by Lie Fhung

By Penny Craswell

Indonesian-born, Hong Kong-based artist Lie Fhung has created an installation work called Life Force II that was recently shown as part of her solo exhibition “Life Force” at the dia.lo.gue artspace in Jakarta.

Lie Fhung, Life Force II 2017, Photo: Sefval Mogalana

The installation features Fhung’s signature materials – clay and metal – consisting of a series of hanging elements in porcelain, glass and copper wire, dramatically lit against the matte black and dark timber-floored exhibition space. Each of the porcelain pieces is fragile, made with super thin clay. Lit as they are, some encased within glass bell jars, these objects acquire a certain precious quality, like little birds with broken wings. 

Fhung regularly exhibits at Sin Sin Fine Art in Hong Kong, but has also exhibited internationally and won several international art prizes and awards, and this exhibition takes her back to her home country – Indonesia. Reflecting on her life in both locations, she explores ideas of life, death and renewal. “Life Force is about taking risk,” she says. “About precarious balance. About the fragility of life. About the certainty of death; anything that can break, will eventually break – it’s just a matter of time. Inevitable. But it is not a futility. You enjoy it as it lasts. You make the best out of it.”

Other works in the exhibition include landscapes created out of aluminium and copper piping, copper and tin jewellery and more porcelain encased in bell jars. They explore Fhung’s emotional landscapes, including grief and loss, change and growth, and the life-affirming possibilities of fragility. In the accompanying essay to the exhibition, Italian-American curator/art writer Valerie C. Doran writes: “Lie Fhung’s Life Force is a journey through the terrain of the artist’s own life, fraught with the vulnerability of love and the terror of loss, and saved, time and again, by the strange courage of the creative force, and the will not only to survive the cliffs, but to flourish from the soil of life’s catastrophes.”

The work was shown in the dia.lo.gue artspace in Jakarta, in a building by Indonesian architect Andra Matin. The artspace is run by a husband-and-wife team that shows contemporary art, design craft and culture, while also hosting workshops, and has a great cafe, according to Fhung. “The ambience is very comfortable, making it always busy with people hanging out or having meetings or working,” she says. 

The title of the artspace is also a pun – Fhung explains: “dia.lo.gue itself is a word pun in English and Indonesian: ‘dia’ means he/she (there is no gender in the Indonesian language) or could even mean God, ‘lo’ means you, and ‘gue’ means me in colloquial Indonesian. So. dia.lo.gue means having dialogue between you, me, him/her, and/or God.”

This exhibition, and stand-out installation, offers an insight into cross-cultural art and design happening right now in an artspace in Jakarta, one example of an artist grappling with the fundamentals of life and death, like so many of her peers around the world.

More on Lie Fhung

Lie Fhung, Life Force II 2017, detail, Photo: Sefval Mogalana
Lie Fhung with her work, Life Force II 2017, Photo:Joan Rumengan
Lie Fhung, Life Force II 2017, detail, Photo: Lie Fhung

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