In the title of this exhibition, Wong used the words “stamen” and “pistil” in lieu of the commonly seen “flower”, deliberately chosen to serve as a metaphor for Hong Kong. “Stamen” and “pistil” refer to the male and female reproductive part of a flower respectively, highlighting the complexity of its nature. To Wong, the word “semi-permanent” is an embellished version of “temporary”, representing its intrinsic vulnerability and fragility. Thus, Wong utilises its characteristic as his personal reflection on the constitutional principle of “One Country, Two Systems”.
Wong’s last solo exhibition, “Whispers From the South”, sheds light on the communal memories and stories of ShenZhen drifters. This time however, Wong shifts his focus back to “Hong Kong”, which to him, is deemed as his eternal proposition. By actively avoiding falling into sentimentalism and its practices in depicting this issue, Wong employs the study of plant ecology and its changes to represent, or even uncover Hong Kong’s hidden histories. In comparison to consolidated and long-established stereotypes of Hong Kong, Wong goes through the process of disentangling local histories and way of life in the past, to investigate the origin and construction of the “Hong Kong identity”. From the surface, Wong’s works depict plant ecology and its evolution. Meanwhile, underneath are wider implications of the development of Hong Kong from colonial times to post-colonial period, and how Hong Kong history is being constructed.
Through Wong’s imaginative eco-fiction, he ties together various Hong Kong local plants and species, such as Camellia hongkongensis, orchids and Romer’s tree frog. By adopting a nonlinear narrative, Wong evades the monotony of a chronological narrative and emphasizes the complex structure between the issues in Hong Kong in relation to its history. Similarly to the root part in a plant, it is convoluted and intricately intertwined with one another. Perhaps these fragmented stories, disjointed and incoherent narratives embody how we feel when we confront our identity, Hong Kong history, and the changes in our external surroundings. Wong’s attempt in using an emotional approach to his eco-fiction conceivably presents itself as Hong Kong’s unofficial history. In the grand scheme of things, an individual’s personal experience can easily go unnoticed. This resembles an orchid or a Romer’s tree frog that has been stumbled upon accidentally, delicate yet captivating.
By writing his eco-fiction in the wilderness, Wong believes this as a more appropriate approach to discuss views on current issues surrounding “Hong Kong identity” and “local history”. In one of his works, a Romer’s tree frog is being suspended on top of drawings of Paphiopedilum SCBG Greater Bay Area. This type of plant has now been converted into a political symbol, and with the overlapping of the image of a local amphibian on top, it draws parallel between Hong Kong and its conflicted political ideology, as it is being pulled in different directions. With the replacement of the symbols, it blurs our local history as time passes and becomes harder to perceive. In another work, Wong details an ancient map of Hong Kong, giving an account of the Tankas who lived on shore, and their history of migration. They are not only locals who provide “amateur naturalists” with guidance, but also outsiders, searching and yearning for identity.
Ideas of ambiguous history, vague identity, continuous nomadism, fragmented and nonlinear narratives can be found scattered around in this exhibition. Emotional whispers wash over the canvases, as solemn history hides beneath. Wong’s unwillingness to let his art be burdened by the historical perspective encourages him to use an emotional approach, to sooth and console this piece of land, especially at this point in time.