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參展單位「木碎好少年」的木玩具小巧精緻，攪動槓杆，人物隨即擺動，喜感湧上心頭；《手指轉轉運動機》和《Touch Wood幸運動機》，光看名字便感到創作者的幽默感。藝術夫妻檔MUDWORK作品《度身訂造》木傢俱系列，記載了他們與子女的成長歷程；木櫈底座呈弧型，母親手抱孩童坐上去一同晃動，哄著哄著搖搖入睡。欣賞不限於觀看，如果可以，我建議大家親手觸摸木器表面和邊沿。在平滑曲面和邊緣輕微弧度上，觸摸木的紋理與溫度，感通人手打磨過程中投入的心力，與價值觀念。參展單位「will_woodcraft」展出的棋盤檯，用了古典歐式皮革拼接技藝創作桌面，並結合榫接技藝和木片彈性，造成如摺扇扇骨形的扇腳（Fan-leg），優雅之餘盡見工夫。芬蘭設計大師Alvar Aalto在1930年代開創彎曲夾木（bent-plywood）這新技術設計現代傢俱，其代表作有《Paimio Chair》和《Stool No. 60》弧線設計。「will_woodcraft」的棋盤檯扇腳，彷彿向這位設計大師致敬。棋盤檯有很多榫接細節，都不是機械自動生產所能完成，凸顯了不可取代的匠人手藝。手藝的價值不止於視覺美和實用性，更能體現人類勞動力與創造精神的結合，一種「全人」（well-being）的生活價值。雕塑家何兆基近年大力提倡的「手作確幸」教育計劃亦是一例。
多年來，香港各大小媒體不時報道手作工藝潮流，不知不覺呈現各發展階段的特色。從十多年前盛行的手作巿集，到近年演化成主題式巿集及用家親手製作的手藝工作坊，當中不乏白領打工族變成手藝師尋找自我的生命故事。深水埗南昌街一帶近年有不少皮革、布藝、金屬首飾等工藝店及作坊進駐，今天更被「美名」為「New Brooklyn」文青消費區。這些強調人手製造的消費文化，不純粹為了招徠消費，更重申了歷代工藝復興運動核心的人文精神。歷代工藝復興運動，各有回應時代的焦點：十九世紀末英國反工業大量生產的工藝美術運動（Arts and Crafts Movement）和歐洲推崇自然主義美學的新藝術（Art Nouveau），及後二十世紀初德國希望把藝術和科技結合的包浩斯（Bauhaus）設計運動，它們均關注「人情」和「創意」的人文精神價值如何回應時代。回看香港，民間博物館的「小作業大智慧訪尋深水埗手工業者」（2007）和油麻地「活化廳」藝術空間的「師傅贊」（2010及2012）均強調民間智慧和傳統手藝對社區的意義；「手作確幸」計劃則重視工藝裡實現自我與造福他人的人文價值。是次「木工」展覽強調本土匠人和木材，恰恰回應當前可持續發展的生活價值和本地巿場與生產的社會議題。
Craft Revival and Local Humanist Spirit
written by Jeff Leung, edited by Chan Sai-lok / art critics of “Free Walk In”
Despite its compact size, exhibitions held in Form Society are often joint efforts of multiple creative units, with a spirit of communal achievement. This exhibition ‘Hong Kong Carpenters’ features the works of 17 woodworking creative units, demonstrating different types of mortise and tenon, and a wide range of woodworking techniques. Exhibits include large furniture pieces, storage boxes, and small toys. Not only can we see the mastery and thoughtfulness of each carpenter featured in the exhibition, but we can also discover the stories behind each piece of work that tell the aspirations and ambitions of each carpenter.
In 2010, a group of teachers and students of the Hong Kong Arts School elaborated their musings on old objects in the exhibition ‘The Missing Parts – A Study on Functional Object’. A line from the exhibition brochure reads ‘apart from their functional purpose, objects embody love and the passage of time; art is not only about the final pieces of art works, but also the creative process and philosophy behind.’ This reflection on the relationship between people and objects echoes the connection between creators and wooden utensils, and the stories and thoughtfulness behind the pieces in ‘Hong Kong Carpenters’.
Small wooden toys by Chip Good Guy Studio, one of the creative units featured in the exhibition, are dainty and intricate. Viewers could not help but be amused by the slapstick humour of the works titled ‘Finger Spinning Exercise Machine’ and ‘Touch Wood Lucky Machine’, as characters swing to the movement of the handles. ‘Tailor-made’ by artist couple MUDWORK captures their memories as their children grew up. This wooden stool with a curved base is where the mother sat and slowly rocked the child to sleep. Seeing is not the only way to enjoy this exhibition. I would recommend everybody to touch the surface and edges of these wooden pieces whenever possible. You would feel the grains and warmth of wood, and the endeavour and beliefs of the craftsmen and artists, by sliding your fingers across the smooth round surfaces and slightly curved edges that are dedicatedly hand polished. The elegant and awe-inspiring chess table created by will_woodcraft features a table top with leather inlay, and is supported by fan-legs delicately inserted with mortise and tenon technique. Bent plywood technology was invented by renowned Finnish designer Alvar Aalto to create modern furniture in the 1930s, most notably the Paimio chair and Model 60 stools. The fan-legged chess table by will_woodcraft seems to be a tribute to Alvar Aalto. The delicate mortise and tenon details show us that a carpenter’s mastery is irreplaceable by machine. Apart from aesthetic and functional value, craft also tells us how labour and creativity are as one, which is a value system based on the concept of well-being. One example of this belief is Handmade Wellbeing Youth Crafts Education Programme initiated by sculptor Ho Siu-kee.
Handicraft boom has become a local media hot topic in the recent years, and we have witnessed its various stages of its development. About ten years ago, crafters’ market began to gain popularity. The newest trend is thematic craft market and DIY craft workshops. There have been many success stories of former office workers’ ‘soul-searching’ journeys to become handicraft makers. Craft supplies and workshops have sprouted along Nam Cheong Street in Sham Shui Po during these few years, some people even start to call it the ‘New Brooklyn’ of creative industry. The boom of handmade consumer products is more than just consumerism; it is a statement of humanism that forms the core of generations of craft revival. Each craft revival is a response to the age during which it occurred. Arts and Crafts Movement in the late 19th century Britain is a rejection of industrial mass production; Art Nouveau in Europe was inspired by shapes found in nature; then in the early 20th century Germany came the Bauhaus design movement that aimed to bring together art and technology. These movements placed emphasis on how humanistic values of human nature and creativity responded to their respective eras. In Hong Kong, exhibitions ‘In Search of Marginalized Wisdom: Sham Shui Po Craftspeople’ (2007) by Community Museum Project and ‘Mastermind’ (2010 and 2012) by Woofer Ten highlighted the significance of folk wisdom and traditional handicraft in the community. ‘Handmade Wellbeing’ programme stresses the humanistic values of self-realisation and altruism in the art of craft. Here in ‘Hong Kong Carpenters’, its emphasis on local carpenters and timber responses to the present social issues of sustainable lifestyle and local production and market.
The piece titled ‘Chinese Medicine Cabinet of Hong Kong Trees’ by Cou Tou Wood Working makes a comeback in ‘Hong Kong Carpenters’, after meeting viewers in ‘The Practice of Everyday Life’ in Oil street art space last year. This time many of the drawers are removed, leaving only drawers made with Burmese rosewood and cajuput tree etc. The artist’s deliberate choice of leaving blank spaces suggests the state of being in progress. In my mind’s eye I can see the rich array of different colours and textures if all the drawers are back in place. A Chinese medicine cabinet designed with a theme on local timber also tells me how the botanical biodiversity of Hong Kong’s forests connects wildlife and people. Handicraft combines creativity and artisanry, and of course examples from overseas are not necessarily better. We have yet to discover our city’s own handicraft masters in local shops and down the street corners. (translated by Chan Lai-kuen)
Hong Kong Carpenters
Venue: Form Society ( G/F, 186 Tai Nan Street, Sham Shui Po, Kowloon)
Date: 27 Jan – 21 Feb 2021