Johnson Tsang K+ exhibition a cup of tears

Pictures don’t do Johnson Tsang‘s work much justice. The level of craft is awe-inspiring – Tsang shapes, carves and paints every single piece by hand, right down to the last dimple on his cherubic little sculptures.

Johnson Tsang K+ exhibition store space

This month, head down to curatorial space K+ at Scotts Square to see Inner Child, an exhibition of the Hong Kong sculptor’s work that’s also his first solo show here. The sculptures are mainly of children and angels in different imagined scenarios – Tsang explains that he’s let his own inner child do the thinking and wondering behind the pieces, which are thoughtful metaphors for very grown-up issues like good and evil, war, love, pain, the death of culture, and entrapment.

Johnson Tsang K+ exhibition oops!
Johnson Tsang’s Oops! warns against the penetration of destructive cultures in the next generation

The complexity of the pieces vary, but every one is beautiful and poignant. A Cup Of Tears (top of page) is made so that when filled with water, “tears” begin to flow slowly from the eyes. Still In One Piece (below) shows an aged couple kissing as they disintegrate – Tsang carved every wrinkle on their faces by hand, one by one.

Johnson Tsang K+ exhibition still in one piece

Another must-see piece is A Job Offer (below), a piece depicting a boy contemplating a pair of angel wings. Like in the other works, the expression here is so amusing – scrunched up in a way only children would allow their faces to be. It’s what makes every one of Tsang’s little children and cherubs so hauntingly life-like.

Johnson Tsang K+ exhibition a job offer

Johnson Tsang K+ exhibition a job offer 2

The sculptor’s story is one that almost didn’t happen – Johnson Tsang (below) was a policeman for 13 years before he quit the force to sculpt full-time. He’d always enjoyed drawing and painting, but never explored clay as a medium until he stumbled into a pottery class at the Hong Kong Arts Centre on the way home from work one day in 1991.

“The first time I touched clay, I knew I had found the perfect way to express myself,” says Tsang. “Whenever I work with it, it’s natural. I just know what to do.”

Johnson Tsang K+ exhibition

A year and a half after that serendipitous encounter, Tsang quit his job (he tells me proudly that his rank at the time was sergeant) and began to sculpt full-time. He’s since won many competitions in Hong Kong and abroad, and is currently expert adviser to the Hong Kong Museum of Art and the Hong Kong Heritage Museum.

He now spends 10 to 12 hours a day sculpting, always working on a few pieces at any one time. Some of the works take weeks to make, says Tsang, adding that his favourite piece in this exhibition, Who Did It? (below), which likens warring countries to crying children blaming each other for the death of an angel, took more than a month to complete.

Johnson Tsang K+ exhibition who did it

Every piece at the K+ exhibition this month is for sale, but beauty like this comes at a pretty hefty price – the dainty A Cup of Tears will set you back $5,400, while the much more complex Who Did It? goes for $43,000. We say bring your chequebook. On now till Aug 31 at K+ (#03-14/15 Scotts Square).

Like this? Check out cool optical illusions at this art exhibition at Ion Orchard, ending Aug 16