Haikou Reflections, Hainan Island

Haikou Reflections : EYE to EYE


August 23 to September 8 2013

Zhongshan Road, Haikou City, Hainan Island, China

I was invited to take part in an exhibition called Haikou Reflections. I decided to spend my residency time drawing in simple pen and ink 120 portraits of people from all walks of life across Haikou City; farmers, hairdressers, bankers, bus drivers, doctors… here is more detail of the underlying motivation. The exhibition took place in a space that was originally a shop and became renovated as a makeshift gallery for the duration of the exhibition. My exhibition was called Eye To Eye. 

I was interviewed for local newspaper Hainan Ribao (Hainan Morning Post) as a result of my exhibition. Here is my original text and also below is news paper articles and translations.


Microsoft Word - Interview .docx


Traditional classical drawing has always sought draftsmanship geometry and symmetry of the form, whether figure or object, a rigorous representation through the line,accuracy of ratios and precepts adhered towards harmony, proportion 。。。 perfection。 

Kai-Oi Jay Yung has consistently referred to her drawings and paintings as ‘doodles’, means by which through line, pen, paint and ink, she can convey an idea as naturally as writing it. Abstract shapes and symbols become her own language. 

 The 120+ portraits before you lay bare the artist’s untrained hand in any learnt technique in drawing. As an artist Yung works prolifically usually across video, sculpture and installation art to live performance, deploying sound, moving image and materials to create large scale multi-sensory environments to be explored or live interactions with the unsuspecting participant viewer. Whatever the form though, people- their memories, lives, fears and desires are central to Yung’s process.

In recent projects, the portrait through quick line and ink has become a fascination for Yung as a guise to attain rare and exquisite time with the stranger. These drawings, humbly and sometimes crudely shaped and sifted, unintentionally aging or skew or misrepresenting the other demonstrate at once the impossibility of truth and the possibilities of perception. Sidelining all classical etiquette but as an exercise of seeking what is within the eyes of that person- who has surrendered him or herself to be quietly sat and focused upon for several minutes, is the artist’s attempt to seek an inner truth from eye to hand and paper,and to reveal both rhythms of the subject and her own inconsistencies. There is in fact an insufficiency, a vulnerability in the honesty of both unhewn face rendered and the attempt to render it as best as possible with only one’s eye and want guiding each marked line. 

 Some of these portraits were drawn in under one minute; on a jerky bus, university grounds, a smoky cafe, a shoeshop, a street stall, side of a dusty and busy road, …. Some of these people were shopkeepers awaiting customers, shoppers bargaining for goods, students gathering in a parking lot, playing pool, bank tellers, pharmacists.. playing mahjong on the side walk, reading books in a bookshop. The conditions in which the artist created these images are far from conducive to a quiet attelier. Sometimes crouching on a side street in the rain, escaping being thrown out of a cafe, being jostled by ten school children, or rushing the marks before the subject changed their mind… the absurdity of such conditions is reflective on the artist’s attempt to overcome these personal and intimate space en Haikou open air, to transgress the closure of one to another in the cityscape and to penetrate deeper if not for an instant. 

Drawing the people one by way was an intense connection of one set of eyes to another, sometimes the subject unable to retain eye contact, as if hiding oneself, self aware, giggling furiously, fidgeting, worried about what they would look like, as though the drawing would somehow be a truthful re-enactment of something shameful, terrible, unbearable, of seeing oneself through the eyes of the other or inability to recognise oneself would somehow erase oneself’s very identity.

The drawings are resultant of 85% of people approached. The artist chose to draw these people because for her Eye to Eye is a project for the inhabitants of the city. Each portrait represents a very succint and irreplacable point in time. It is insignificant what the portrait looked like in fact, for Yung, each is an offering to each individual, along with each image was a personal invitation to the exhibition, for each person a chance to see themselves in a different way and to bring them into the gallery, perhaps for the first time and perhaps for most who had not otherwise felt art had any place in their life. Within her means, within the context of this 4 day process-led residency and in line with her interests in the psychological and physical exploration of blockage points within the individual, Eye To Eye offers an attempt to bring together the people and thoughts of the city. 

 The artist posed three questions to each person who agreed to be drawn. They related to their thoughts on the future of the city, their contribution towards it and a very personal question related to their experience and memory.  These questions were an attempt for the artist to seek a deeper connection with her sitter, to engage in conversation otherwise difficult with the stranger.

Besides the language barrier, in which an interpreter played a useful role since the artist being only English speaking, the artist found the struggle to answer these questions as revealing as the answers themselves. Whether; surface level responses, inability to answer, people answering what they think they should answer rather than what they really believe- the voices in this gallery are reflective of the encounters the artist by ‘chance’ and offers a glimpse into the unspoken connection. 

Hainan Morning Post Article

1hainan ribao

Before the start of the arts festival, the British artist Jay interviewed almost 200 citizens by herself. 
She asked them three questions: What is the future of HaiKou; What is your contribution to the city of HaiKou? What personal difficulties have you faced? She collated the answers and recorded them as notes which she hung in throughout the exhibition. Everyone who visited can reflect and have further conversation through the notes shown on the wall and consider their own thoughts about HaiKou’s past,present and future. Jay believes there are many artists in HaiKou who also need a platform to express their thoughts, and the Zhong Shan road is a possible site. Jay hopes the Zhong Shan road can be a unique and international space for art. So,the citizens in HaiKou can have a chance to get close to local or international arts and also as a point of reference to support and improve the city culture of HaiKou.

您好 看本次艺术节《海口镜像》中一位艺术家Kai-Oi Jay Yung对采的答复

1. 您在作的程中采访了一百多个海口人的回答有什么





2.   海口未来的艺术发展前景有怎



Haikou Reflections

The wider festival included small-scale performances, such as dance, theater, music, film, and art exhibitions and took place mainly in the old quarters of Haikou. The architecture is of distinctive Nanyang style – shophouses with European baroque and rococo details.

The theme of the exhibition centers on the city of Haikou. The exhibition will invite outstanding young female artists to create works that touch upon the history and actuality of Haikou, as well as the relationship between local residents and the city. There are no restrictions to the format and materials of these works.

The reason why female artists are invited is because of the relatively subordinate role of women in society. Hainan Island has always had a subordinate status in the history and geography of China. “Feminine” qualities, such as passivity, sensitivity, and balance, like water, have great virtue. These qualities will be brought into play in such an exhibition centered on the city of Haikou.

Click here to see Individual Portraits

See the Trio Portraits here

See the Books here and  Notes &  Tags here 

Click here for Exhibition view

Click here to see Drawing Process

Click here to see Viewers

Click here to read my interview with Hainan Morning Post

Click here for Installing images