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[News from Institutions] Hong Kong Design Institute and Hong Kong Palace Museum jointly present Unseen: The Making of Traditional Chinese Furniture

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    The Intertwined Chair designed by Freeman Lau blends traditional craftsmanship and contemporary design approaches through the collaborative works by Tse and Ng

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    A geometric structure that creates a sense of order. Visual simplicity and harmony are achieved through the repetition of a complex wood joint (mortise and tenon), which requires the technical expertise of a master craftsman

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    Tse Shing-luen

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    Roy Ng

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    Tse and Ng examining components during the production of Intertwined Chair

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    Tse and Ng assembling components by using traditional techniques

Affiliated to Hong Kong Design Institute (HKDI) and Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education (IVE) (Lee Wai Lee), the HKDI Gallery along with the soon-to-be-opened Hong Kong Palace Museum (HKPM), are pleased to jointly present the exhibition Unseen: The Making of Traditional Chinese Furniture. The exhibition features collaborative works by TSE Shing-luen and Roy NG, two craftsmen from different generations, with the aim to explore the intersection between traditional Chinese furniture craftsmanship and contemporary design philosophy. By reimaging the iconic designs of Samuel CHAN and Freeman LAU through the lens of traditional woodworking techniques, Tse and Ng’s works seek to further deepen the understanding of Chinese traditional arts and crafts, as well as the inheritance of Chinese culture among schools and the public.

As the first pre-opening public exhibition of the HKPM, the show will be held at the Experience Centre at HKDI and IVE (Lee Wai Lee) from 14 May 2022 to 13 June 2022. Visitors are provided with a unique opportunity to preview two pieces of furniture, namely a display cabinet titled Memory designed by Samuel Chan and the Intertwined Chair designed by Freeman Lau, which will be featured in the Scholars Commons in HKPM. To provide context for visitors to better understand the sophisticated craftsmanship behind traditional Chinese furniture-making and shed light on the intricate relationship between designers and craftsmen, the two pieces made by Tse and Ng will be shown alongside a video that explores the design and creation process as well as various disassembled furniture components.

“It is a great honour to organise this exhibition in collaboration with HKPM,” said Dr. Lay Lian ONG, Principal of HKDI and IVE (Lee Wai Lee). “This exhibition provides a platform for our students as well as the public to learn more about traditional Chinese furniture making, craftsmanship and the history. Collaborations with internationally renowned museums is a key part of HKDI’s extended learning programme. It provides our students more opportunities to hone their skills outside the classroom while enabling the institute to grow design talents.”

Mrs. Betty FUNG Ching Suk-yee, Chief Executive Officer of West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, said: “HKPM is committed to becoming an incubator for emerging design talents, allowing artists and designers from different backgrounds, industries and generations to collaborate and push the boundaries of their creativity. This collaboration with the HKDI is just one of the projects that will showcase the museum’s commitment to conserving, inheriting and promoting Chinese arts and culture. With the imminent opening of HKPM, more activities are in the pipeline that will help to deepen the understanding and appreciation of Chinese arts and culture among the younger generation.”

Dr. Louis NG Chi-wa, Museum Director of HKPM said, “We are delighted to host this exhibition in collaboration with HKDI. By showcasing craftsmanship from different eras, the exhibition allows the public to appreciate cultural traditions that are at risk of fading into history. It also demonstrates HKPM’s vision of promoting the inheritance of Chinese culture to future generations. We look forward to the exciting furniture project from Freeman and Samuel, coupled with the meticulous craftsmanship of Tse Shing-luen and Roy Ng, which creatively transformed valuable raw materials into practical yet innovative furniture, but added a stylish twist to the Scholars Commons at HKPM.”

Reinterpreting traditional craftsmanship with contemporary approaches
The Intertwined Chair, one of the highlighted exhibits, perfectly encapsulates the intersection between the traditional and the contemporary. The chair’s daring design allowed Tse, a craftsman with nearly 45 years of experience, and Ng, a woodworker in his thirties who represents a younger generation of craftsmen, to explore new ways of combining techniques from different eras during the production.

The creation of the spiral chair leg is a great example of the duo’s unique approach. Tse initially wanted to build the part with mortise and tenson joints, a traditional technique that connects two components without the use of glue. However, he quickly found that the design was too intricate to achieve by using traditional methods alone. To overcome this challenge, Ng adopted an innovative means via computer programming analysis, to deconstruct the spiral design step by step - which gave Tse new inspiration in the process. The collaboration showcases of how traditional craftmanship and contemporary designs are blended perfectly, and how Chinese traditional culture can be carried forward through innovative means. Visitors can learn more about the exquisite craftsmanship through the disassembled furniture components.

“The craftsmanship of traditional Chinese furniture is exceptionally rich and there is still a lot to learn and explore,” said Tse. “It is truly my honour to collaborate with such a dynamic group of young designers and craftsmen for the first time. This project allows us to bring our respective expertise to the table and push the boundaries of furniture design while paying homage to traditional craftsmanship. It also added a stylish tone to this series of furniture.”

Breathing new life into endangered wood
The HKPM, scheduled to open to the public in July, feature the Scholars Commons - a space dedicated for different kinds of cultural activities and gatherings. The space features 12 sets, a total of 24 Intertwined Chairs, which carry the same design and production methods as those displayed in the HKDI exhibition. These batch of chairs are made from endangered wood donated by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, to HKPM, including Malagasy Rosewood from the United Republic of Tanzania and Red Sandalwood from Malaysia. To make the most of the unique materials, Tse and Ng employed precise calculations which transformed the raw materials into components to assemble using traditional techniques. The process, which took over half a year to complete, allowed the duo to breathe new life into the endangered wood and showcase the timelessness of traditional craftsmanship.

In accordance with social distancing measures, there will be a limit on the number of visitors allowed into the exhibition at each session. Visitors will need to book their preferred timeslots in advance at before visiting. For the latest arrangements of the exhibition and other COVID-19 preventive measures, please refer to HKDI Gallery’s website.

“Unseen – The Making of Traditional Chinese Furniture” (Free Admission)

Exhibition Period: From 14 May 2022 to 13 June 2022
Opening Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. (Closed on Tuesdays)
Venue: Experience Centre, Hong Kong Design Institute and Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education
3 King Ling Road, Tseung Kwan O, New Territories, Hong Kong
(Tiu King Leng MTR Station Exit A2)
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About Hong Kong Design Institute (HKDI)
Hong Kong Design Institute (HKDI) is a member of VTC Group. HKDI was established in 2007 with the mission to be a leading provider of design education and lifelong learning, including architecture, interior and product design, communication design, digital media and fashion and image design. With a view to providing professional designers for the creative industries, it promotes the “think and do” approach and encourages interdisciplinary synergy in its broad range of design programmes that cultivate students’ cultural sensitivities and sense of sustainability. HKDI maintains a strong network with industry and provides its students with essential practical experience. Overseas exchanges are actively arranged for students to broaden their horizon and international perspective.

About Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education (IVE)
The Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education (IVE) is a member of the VTC Group. The nine IVE campuses provide vocational and professional education and training for secondary graduates as well as people in employment. IVE programmes leading to the award of Higher Diploma and Diploma of Foundation Studies cover various academic disciplines including Health and Life Sciences; Business; Childcare, Elderly and Community Services; Design; Information Technology; Engineering, as well as Hospitality. Interdisciplinary Programmes are also offered to nurture a diversity of talent with professional knowledge.

About HKDI Gallery
Affiliated to Hong Kong Design Institute (HKDI), HKDI Gallery is a dynamic exhibition space with a unique vision and a track record of collaborating with internationally acclaimed museums, designers and curators. With contemporary design as its cornerstone, HKDI Gallery hosts boundary-pushing exhibitions every year in a wide range of disciplines, including graphic design, architecture, fashion, product design, multimedia. Notable past exhibitions include the Zaha Hadid Architects exhibition, a retrospective on the Pritzker Prize-winning Spanish architect Rafael Moneo, Japanese designer Dai Fujiwara’s solo exhibition, Oscar-winning artist Tim Yip’s solo exhibition, German industrial designer Konstantin Grcic’s first solo exhibition in Asia, and the Red Dot design exhibition. Building on the design expertise of Hong Kong Design Institute, HKDI Gallery aims to cultivate future creative talent and make design education accessible to everyone through exhibitions and workshops.

About the Hong Kong Palace Museum
The Hong Kong Palace Museum aspires to become a leading cultural institution committed to the study and appreciation of Chinese art and culture, while advancing dialogue among world civilisations. The Hong Kong Palace Museum is a collaborative project between the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority and the Palace Museum, which is funded by The Hong Kong Jockey Club with a donation of HK$3.5 billion for its establishment.

Embracing new curatorial approaches, the museum offers a Hong Kong perspective and a global vision, presenting the finest objects from the Palace Museum and other important cultural institutions around the world. Through research, exhibitions, and educational and professional exchange programmes, the museum will build international partnerships and help position Hong Kong as a global hub for arts and culture. At heart a resource that belongs to the community of Hong Kong, the museum will inspire community engagement, foster dialogue, and promote creativity and interdisciplinary collaboration.

About Samuel Chan
Samuel Chan’s career in design began through his love of woodworking as a schoolboy. Born in Hong Kong and educated in the UK, his training culminated in a Master Degree in Furniture Design from Buckinghamshire University.

In 1995, he set up his company, Channels, with a studio-showroom in London and a workshop in Midlands of England. Visual purity, proportion, and superb craftsmanship define his work. Professor Jeremy Myerson of the Royal College of Art observes: “Chan focuses on the inherent value of the furniture artefact in a calm and deeply considered way, refusing to be rushed or distracted by the market. His work is of the highest order.”

In 2013, Chan founded a second furniture brand, Joined + Jointed, exploring “creation through collaboration” to make good, well-crafted furniture accessible to more people.

Chan was named British Furniture Designer of the Year 2015; the judges remarked on his ability to “make wood sing”. He is a Freeman of the British Furniture Makers Guild, and holds an unprecedented 18 of its Design Guild Marks.

Chan launches new designs annually. His commissioned work ranges from bespoke design for private clients to commercial projects, including an extensive furniture scheme for the Jumeirah Himalayas Hotel Shanghai.

About Freeman Lau
Freeman Lau is a renowned designer and artist with over 300 awards under his belt. He is the founder of KL&K Creative Strategics and serves as Vice Chairman of the Design Alliance, Asia as well as the Chairman of the Hong Kong Federation of Design and Creative industries.

In 2015, Lau hosted a solo exhibition at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum. In 2020, he published a book on the exhibition, which also included stories from his 40-year-long career. The book was recognised in the Art and Design category in the Hong Kong Publishing Biennial Awards 2021. In 2021, Lau also won the DFA World’s Outstanding Chinese Designer award.

About Tse Shing Luen
Tse Shing Luen was born in 1959 in Hong Kong. After completing year three in secondary school, Tse became a mahogany carving apprentice. Influenced by his family while also realising that he did not have talent for wood carving, he switched to Chinese furniture production two years later. Tse worked his way up from apprentice to technician, eventually founding his own company and began training and managing his team of craftsmen.

Tse is a passionate advocate for traditional Chinese furniture craftsmanship. For decades, he has set high standards for his own work. His creations are not only popular among local customers but are also well received by international clients. In 2015, Tse began working with Hong Kong designer Freeman Lau. The duo created multiple series of chairs, including the iconic Ming Intertwined and Commemorative Chairs. His works have been exhibited internationally and feature in various museums and private collections.

About Roy Ng
Roy Ng was born in 1985 in Hong Kong. After graduating from the Department of Fine Arts at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2008, he set up a woodworking and mobile installation studio in Fo Tan to help artists create 3D works. In recent years, Ng has been recycling wood native to Hong Kong and transforming them into outdoor furniture. From raw material processing to design and production, his approach puts local manufacturing into practice. His works can be found in various public spaces in Hong Kong.