Reporter: Samuel Chan Che-chung
Pak Sheung-chuen does not read the way most people do. What first catches the artist’s attention is not the title or the text of the material, but the positioning of the punctuation marks and the white border round the page.
This unique reading habit may be a window to explaining some of the outlandish aspects of Pak’s artworks. Most people may find it hard to read the information printed in the middle of an opened map book, between two pages. But Pak found inspiration in these spaces, and decided to make a journey through them. He walked 24 pages in total, from the south of Tokyo to the northern end of the city, documenting his trip along the way in 2007.
This alternative journey project, titled “Valleys Trip” (named for the gap in between the pages which resemble a valley), was one of Pak’s works exhibited last year at the prestigious Venice Biennale, an international contemporary art exposition held in Venice every two years.
For many Hong Kong artists, the chance to be the city’s sole representative at the world’s most important visual art event might be the dream of a lifetime. This was not the case for the 33-year-old Pak.
“My works draw inspiration from daily life in a natural manner, , while Venice is like a stage. ’’ he explains. “You have to make yourself stand out in certain ways to impress the audience. This kind of contradicts to the way I work.”
Pak was also ill-suited to dealing with the media circus surrounding the biennale. Besides having to deal with the pressure of representing Hong Kong, he was also stressed by having to handle things he had no experience in, such as public relations and media criticism.
“I have never experienced such pressure before as an artist,” he says.