Legend of the Fist: China Is Not Ruled by Chinese Anyway

Chow Chun Fai


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Object Detail

enamel paint on canvas
quadriptych 244 x 488 cm
Hong Kong artist Chow Chun Fai hopes that his paintings ‘interrupt’ our relationship with cinema. He replicates frames from Chinese and American movies, often with subtitles in English and traditional Chinese characters at the bottom of the frame, reflecting the cultural hybridity and uncertain identity of this former British colony. He experimented with the difficult medium of industrial enamel paint used in old billboards and movie theatre signs in Hong Kong rather than oil or acrylic. In this work, the film he appropriates is a 2010 Hong Kong martial arts movie, ‘Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen’, set in Japanese-occupied Shanghai. This scene occurs, just as represented in Chow’s painting, about ten minutes into the movie. Chow’s selection of scenes from iconic movies such as this is not random; their carefully chosen images and captions each convey a subversive double meaning alluding to aspects of the conflicted relationship between Hong Kong and Mainland China. ‘Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen’ and the other works in Chow’s ‘Movie Painting Series’ examine the complex culture of Hong Kong, from its colonial past, its success as a financial powerhouse at the end of the twentieth century and the tensions that have unfurled since the handover in 1997.
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