Past Events

London, Asia, Art, Worlds conference: Circulation & Encounter

Conference, Lecture – Hew Locke, Timothy Barringer, Michelle Wong, Sophia Balagamwala

  • 4 June 2021
  • 1:00 – 4:15 pm
  • This event is part of London, Asia, Art, Worlds, a multi-part programme of online events taking place in May and June 2021. It is envisioned as a murmuration, a series of interconnected papers, conversations, performances and interventions.
  • Zoom webinar

The Circulation and Encounter panel considers the modes through which we are invited to look, and the cultural consequences of our encounters.

Chair: Hammad Nasar (Senior Research Fellow, Paul Mellon Centre)

13.00-13.15 Welcome & Introductions

13.15-14.00 Keynote: Hew Locke (Artist) and Tim Barringer (Paul Mellon Professor in the History of Art, Yale University) in Conversation, ‘East Indian West Indian’

14.00-14.15 Discussion and Questions

14.15-14.30 Break

14.30-14.35 Welcome back/Introductions

14.35-14.55 Michelle Wong (PhD Candidate), ‘Overlay Pages, Stitched Worlds: On Ha Bik Chuen’s Creative and Archival Practice’

14.55-15.05 Sophia Balagamwala (Artist) 'Whereabouts Unknown / Ata Pata Maloom Nahin'

15.15-15.45 Discussion & Questions

15.45-16.15 Optional breakout rooms for continued discussion


Circulation & Encounter

Papers by Hew Locks, Tim Barringer, Michelle Wong, and Sophia Balagamwala.

Paper Abstracts

Hew Locke

Growing-up in multicultural, non-aligned Guyana (formerly British Guiana) meant dealing daily with the cultural, political and religious complexities of a post-colonial society. Here the largest ethnic grouping consists of Indo-Guyanese descendants of indentured servants, followed by Afro-Guyanese. I grew up in the 1970s – a world of Flying Pigeon bikes from China and Tata school buses from India. I saw the Chinese State Circus and Opera. In the cinema, Bruce Lee, Clint Eastwood, Mera Naam Joker and Haath Mere Saathi were hits – Amitabh Bachcan came to visit. Everybody celebrated every national holiday; Christmas, Paghwah and Eid. This is the soup out of which my practice has emerged, and my presentation will look at how these influences have impacted on my work.

Since I arrived in London aged twenty, it’s the international nature of this city, with its many ‘nations’, and its grouping of world-museums, that has been essential to my practice. London has been the place to process and understand the many aspects of my identity.

I explore the languages of colonial and post-colonial power, and how different cultures fashion their identities. Artists with complex, hard-to-label identities have until recently been overlooked by the Art World. We were not an easy sell – we didn’t fit into any box.

Michelle Wong

This paper forms part of my ongoing PhD investigation into the art and archive practice of the late Hong Kong artist Ha Bik Chuen (b. 1925, Guangdong, d. 2009, Hong Kong). A self-taught artist who never received academic training, Ha created a vast personal archive of Warburgian quality that functioned as a world of visual references informing his oeuvre across print making, sculptures and book collages.

I argue that the position of Hong Kong as a port city and British colony until 1997, and its proximity to other regions within Asia, played a key role in shaping Ha’s visual world. This paper focuses on Ha’s expansive library of books and periodicals that date from the 1950s to the 2000s, and considers how he positioned himself in the world through the consumption of publications and images. I will look at how through looking, archiving, and collaging across disciplines, Ha consumed and internalised an expanded world of art and visual culture that converged upon Hong Kong. Ha’s archive becomes a case study that shows how for artists in mid-twentieth century Asia, especially those who were self-taught, being interdisciplinary was an important strategy at a time when art traveling and art school training opportunities were scarce.

Sophia Balagamwala

Whereabouts Unknown / Ata Pata Maloom Nahin merges real and fabricated events, to explore questions of nationhood, histories, and the museum complex in South Asia. The animation is part of a wider project that looks at how language, monument-making, and systems of archiving and display were used as tools of shaping and understanding identity in the Indian subcontinent during the British Raj and continue to do so today.

The script and language is based on broadcasts, memos, and fiction, reflecting on the state of imperial and national histories in museum making projects, and negotiations and considerations of colonial legacies in such spaces. A combination of fictional and authentic happenings present ambitions, bureaucracy, a desire to modernise, and confusion. Some things get lost in translation and representation, while simultaneously allowing for the possibility of new conditions and ways of being to emerge.

London, Asia, Art, Worlds is convened by:

Hammad Nasar, Senior Research Fellow, Paul Mellon Centre
Ming Tiampo, Professor, Art History, and Institute for Comparative Studies in Literature, Art and Culture, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada
Sarah Victoria Turner, Deputy Director for Research, Paul Mellon Centre

About the speakers

  • Headshot of Hew Locke.

    Hew Locke was born in Edinburgh, spent his formative years in Guyana before returning to the UK, eventually completing an MA in sculpture at the Royal College of Art in 1994. He has exhibited extensively internationally, and his work has been included in Prospect New Orleans Contemporary Art Biennial, New Orleans, LA, USA (2014) and Hangzhou Triennial of Fiber Art (2016). In 2010, Locke's work, Sikandar, was shortlisted for the Fourth Plinth, London and in 2015, he was commissioned to create The Jurors, a public artwork commemorating the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta, for which he was nominated for the 2016 Marsh Award for Excellence in Public Sculpture.

    Locke’s work explores the languages of colonial and post-colonial power, how different cultures fashion their identities through visual symbols of authority, and how these representations are altered by the passage of time. Public statues, trophies, weaponry and the costumes and regalia of state are appropriated in his sculptures, wall-hangings, installations and photographs in a continued deconstruction of state powers and histories. He is known for his portraits of the British royal family and traditional symbols of imperial authority. He uses ships as images, objects and physical sites for artistic intervention, discovering in them a potent symbol as an instrument of control in warfare, trade and culture. He has also initiated a series of altered share certificates, now-obsolete documents referring to this same violent, turbulent history of colonial trade, ownership and power, as well as subtly referencing the contemporary art world’s participation in commodity culture.

  • Tim Barringer headshot.

    Tim Barringer is Paul Mellon Professor the Department of the History of Art at Yale University, of which he was Chair from 2015 to 2021. He specializes in British art and art of the British Empire. Books include Reading the Pre-Raphaelites (1999) and Men at Work: Art and Labour in Victorian Britain (2005). He co-edited Frederic Leighton (1998); Colonialism and the Object (1998); Art and the British Empire (2007); Victorian Jamaica (2018) and On the Viewing Platform (2020). He was co-curator of American Sublime (Tate, 2002); Art and Emancipation in Jamaica (Yale, 2007); Before and After Modernism (2010); Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde (Tate, 2012); Pastures Green and Dark Satanic Mills (2015); Thomas Cole’s Journey (Metropolitan, 2018) Picturesque and Sublime (Catskill, 2018) and Radical Victorians (2019-22). He gave the Paul Mellon Lectures at the National Gallery, London, in 2019, on Global Landscape. He is currently completing a book Broken Pastoral: Art and Music in Britain, Gothic Revival to Punk Rock.

  • Headshot of Michelle Wong taken by Luke Casey

    Michelle Wong is a PhD student in art history at the University of Hong Kong. From 2012–20 she was a researcher at Asia Art Archive, with a focus on Hong Kong art history and histories of exchange and circulation through exhibitions and periodicals. Her projects at AAA included the exhibition Portals, Stories, and Other Journeys at Tai Kwun Contemporary (2021), the Ha Bik Chuen Archive Project, and the Salima Hashmi Archive in Pakistan amongst others. She was Assistant Curator of 11th Edition of Gwangju Biennale (2016), and she independently runs the long term curatorial/collective project Sightlines with artist Wei Leng Tay. She was a 2019 Pernod Ricard fellow at Villa Vassilieff & Bétonsalon, Centre for Art and Research, Paris. In 2020, she developed a series of episodes around the deliberation of discursive justice with Lantian Xie and Kabelo Malatsie, as part of Afterglow, Yokohama Triennale 2020, artistically directed by Raqs Media Collective. Her writing has been published in Ambitious Alignments: New Histories of Southeast Asian Art, 1945–1990 (2018), the journal Southeast of Now (2019), Oncurating and Ocula Magazine.

  • Sophia Balagamwala in front of neon ligting

    Sophia Balagamwala is a multidisciplinary artist and curator based in Karachi. Her practice explores the space where history meets nonsense, and questions how histories are written and disseminated. Her work verges on satire taking inspiration from museum building, archives, current politics, and children’s books. The context of her practice arises from the Indian subcontinent, and is concerned with a wider exploration of how national narratives are constructed.

    Balagamwala has a BA from the University of Toronto and an MFA from Cornell University. She has previously worked as the Lead Curator of the National History Museum in Lahore, and is currently an advisor for the Citizens Archive of Pakistan, a non-profit which she has worked with for over 8 years. Recently Balagamwala founded Kurachee, a platform that facilitates animation, illustration and design collaborations and workshops. As a part of this project, she is curating a reading room at the COMO Museum, Lahore, to encourage research and create dialogue around local artist publications. She is an adjunct faculty member at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture.