Wing Shya

Wing Shya, Scarred [Hong Kong, 2013]

Sweet Sorrow is project Wing Shya had burning inside him, a chance to make his own artistic mark and to voice his concern for the isolation felt by the young people of Hong Kong. He claims he never felt like a good photographer “until I did this,” a completely self funded project that took almost two years to complete. This otherworldy dystopian fairy tale comprising of a cast of spectacularly dressed misfits may not have a happy ending, instead it leaves us yearning to see more, and maybe we even see a little of ourselves mirrored in these beings.

A playful extravaganza of visual story telling, Sweet Sorrow, welcomes you to the city of darkness, the Hong Kong only an insider has walked, through the hidden temples, dingy rooftops, dilapidated houses where trees are claiming back the space and abandoned villages, disused toilets, the urban wasteland, its back alleys and ramshackle rooms, soon to be torn down for newer, cleaner skyscrapers. Wires upon wires, gardens of tv antennae, the drip, drip, dripping of graffiti down a dilapidated wall or fresh blood down a young girls’ inner thigh. The end of innocence and the prickle of isolation has never been so colourful or visually indulgent, so sweet and so full of sorrow. This series of photographs manifests as a visual anthem for the “Me Generation” of Hong Kongers. The place is of great important, as Wing Shya explains during an interview with CNN:, “Hong Kong city is a collage. This is my creative source, the noise, the colour, the neon signs. Everything is very original. I use the colour, I make it more contrast, I make something un-matching, putting two different things together. Because Hong Kong is like that.”

Sweet Sorrow is indeed a symphony conducted by Wing Shya, in collaboration with Kanako B. Koga and Fantasista Utamaro and a whole orchestra of talented people. The shear scale of the project is only matched in its visual depth; the scenes themselves are collages. In addition to authentic Hong Kong locations and the living Manga-esque characters Shya chose to layer the images with the empty cartoon speech marks and sounds effects in the form of graffiti, neon lights or body paint by Japanese artist, Fantasista Utamaro. Instead of “bang!” “crash” “zap” “kaboom” - there is just stillness, silence and solitude. As if the Hong Kong visual landscape were not enough, he stretches the visual to new levels, in one scene two samurai sword holding super heroines stand by an impressive Hong Kong neon sign decorated with unique neon light designs made specially for the project. Everything is amplified and every detail is considered. Kanako B. Koga hand stitched every costume to bring to life the characters dancing in the mind of Wing Shya.

On film sets photographers can only shoot just before or after the action, leaving a haunting feeling as if something is about to happen or has just taken place. Wing Shya has made that part of his style and Sweet Sorrow continues with cinematic scenes that captures time itself, hanging on a thread.

Today the world of fetish has become ever more expressed in tightly packed urban landscapes that confines the body in space and time. As a way to re-connect with the sensory world, especially via pain and pleasure, humans find outlets in bondage and role play to deal with their inadequacies and deep seeded need for contact. Sweet Sorrow explores some of these external methods often shared between partners or in groups, as vehicles to get to the internal, to grasp the human. New subcultures and trends such as Cosplay, Furries, Japanese Roping “Shibari” and the like are more and more popular, spreading ever faster with the internet, and with them come a new visual language that is both culturally significant and anthropological in its practice of ritual, costume, play and communication.

Shya is concerned with a generation who grew up with the new age of information technology. He explains, “the Me Generation is resourceful and privileged in all material aspects... However, the pedestal of being blessed does not grant many of them happier lives, and in fact, in response to the vast changes of the society, the infinite consumption of information and material abundance; feelings of detachment and isolation in these people are prominent.” Sweet Sorrow is an epic personal and creative challenge that the now world renowned artist set himself and Blue Lotus Gallery is proud to exhibit the iconic work that came out of it.

On the other hand it is also a sweet message from and an older Hong Konger to the younger people to remember to reach out and break through their mask, their facade and connect with each other. 

...Such sweet sorrow of no morrow...


Darkness crept through fragile beings whose sentiments bare themselves in different corners of the city of turmoil. Uncanniness could not lavish enough apathy on the outwardly bound extravagance. Vanity so to speak. Turmoil tinted the minds of these beings - perhaps personas - who are left being trapped in their grotesque shells. Struggling with the very dim survival attempts, where lights being shed on is where they are found indulging themselves in the peace of mind of self-love. Such sweet sorrow of no morrow. 

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Wing Shya transmutes between film, art and fashion. Born in Hong Kong 1964, Shya returned to Hong Kong following his fine art studies at Emily Carr Institute in Canada and founded the award-winning design studio, Shya-la-la Workshop.

In 1997, appointed as the exclusive photographer and graphic designer for Wong Kar Wai; Shya began his collaboration with the renowned movie director, on Happy Together, continued then on In the Mood for Love, Eros and 2046. A now- recognized director himself, Shya began his venture in filmmaking by collaborating with musicians and artistes like Karen Mok, Jacky Cheung and Vanessa Mae on music videos. In Spring 2010, Shya debuted his block-buster movie, Hot Summer Days and continued to work on the sequel, Love in Space, released in Fall 2011.

Shya made his return to fine art in 2006. Invited by the Mori Art Museum in Roppongi Hill, Japan; Wing Shya was the first non-Japanese photographer to exhibit at the museum with his inaugural show, Distraction/Attraction. In 2007, he was selected to exhibit in In Fashion 07, curated by Marion de Beaupré at Art Basel Miami, and in October the same year, he had a solo exhibition, Jealousy, at Xintiandi, Shanghai. Shya also took part in China Design Now in 2008, which was exhibited at V&A Museum. In recent years, he has exhibited with Louise Alexander Gallery (Italy), +81 Gallery (Tokyo and New York) and Ooibotos Gallery (Hong Kong).

Wing Shya frequently contributes to numerous fashion and art magazines, including i-D (UK), Vogue Italia, 32c (Berlin), Numèro (France) and TIME Style and Design (US). His clientele includes Louis Vuitton, Maison Martin Margiela and many more. 

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