© 2022

Temporality And Harmony: With Henry Hu

Artist, Images HENRY HU / HH
Series shading port, BEAMS and passing parade

Location CHINA


Series shading port, BEAMS


HH Much of this series is a mediation on the feeling of shared comfort. For instance, say, we visit a forgein country. We take a tour of — a church, a temple, a shrine, a chapel, a sanctuary, a cathedral, a monastery — whatever places of worship. We walk around, look about, and, slowly, by degrees … this faint flare of calm, of relief. To be in the presence of the locals, their reverence, their belief. A tender regard of faith. Sometimes that’s enough, to share the comfort, share the actions. It should not matter very much what culture or religious background we have. It is truly a human thing. A companionship. A resonance. You feel expectant, warmth. A mutual understanding. A genuine sense of reassurance, contentment — among the believers.

Similarly, the sky. Our ancestors looked upon the sky for comfort, for answers. Afar and beyond. We still do. A tendency to gaze up high. We stare at the night sky. The stars. The moon. We are literally seeing the past. We see the sky not as it is tonight, but as it would have looked years ago, from a few to a million. In our wakeful hours. Under the light, under the sky. There is always a blessing. A mental fulfillment. In accordance with nature.

These photographs are also a nod to the universal notion — as a child, if we were to wish for something. Wishing for gifts, fortune, the future. We were taught to an extent, be still, be quiet — in the form of a prayer. An Inner voice. It is a spiritual projection of sorts. This act of belief, I think, has quite the consoling effect on a child. A primitive expression of caring. Self care. The care of others. A goodwill gesture.

I am very much drawn to the divine, the sacred, the ethereal. It is an agreed upon sentiment, I suppose, that a life is richer with some sort of spiritual existence. In one form or another. It is an essential front of our being. But ultimately, it is the pursuit of it that has meaning. Any belief we choose to accept, we choose to acknowledge. Will have an impact upon the life that we live, the life that we decide to live or struggle to live. Constitute our whole psychology, the mechanisms that regulate our lives. I just find nothing is more interesting. The course of life. Death. Grief. Senility. The inevitables. So I cling to it. They are a predominant, recurring theme in the works I do. Books I love. Films I adore. Music I enjoy.


HH This whole series was shot in Mount Wutai, Shanxi Province, China. I was with my family on a group tour in China. We were visiting selected Buddhist sites, the sacred mountains. Mount Wutai was one of our destinations. But yet, in truth, I brought a camera and had wanted to simply document the journey. I didn’t much like having to prepare. I did no research. I wasn’t sure what the places would be. I had no idea what images I was going to get, or the ‘subtext’ they could have, if any. Even while we were there. I did not consciously think about it at all. It was only afterwards, finally, seeing the photographs altogether. I had a very clear fix on the sequencing, for it all to be fully realized as a set of visuals.

On top of it, I think, the fact that these photographs were all taken in the span of a day. Made it more logical to present them as a whole. Instead of strings of related pictures. We were in this van travelling from one ridge to another in such haste. We were very much pressed for time, rushing to make all the stops within daylight. It was a grand day, exhausting, really rather hectic. And, I guess, there was also a certain interval of anguish about this location I thought I would never see again. It was a unique occasion, a precious chance to capture these scenes. I wasn’t anxious, didn’t want to be anxious. But there were still these slight intimations that I hadn’t been sufficient. That I couldn’t sustain it. So it was satisfying to see the end results.


HH Light in colour. In tone. Light-filled. An air of lightness. Brisk. Bright. Easy on the eyes, ‘pretty’ in a sense, aesthetically pleasing. Or appears to do so. I don’t know really. I suppose what I was after — something good-natured, plain, pure, without the intrusion of a destructive voice. It is an abstract form of resolution, I feel, an attempt at clarity.


HH I can’t say it was completely intentional, partly because, well, that was all there is. But it did dawn on me very quickly — this value of contrast. The dramatic shift in the weather, in the environment. We were high up on these convoluted mountain roads. Nature and earth in all their glory. Hills and rocks. Animals. Wildlife. Then we have all these man made structures which were all beautifully sculpted. Exquisitely carved. Really quite remarkable. I have always been very fond of construction sites. The actual building process. The assembly of a structure. The workers — active, engaged. We are building things for the time to come. There is a subtle splendor in anticipation. Something freeing about it. And I wanted to show the wonder in all that.

Now, in retrospect, taking stock of it all — it was a very stimulating, very sensory experience. We would go from the sweep of fresh winds. Smell of meadows. Incense. To dust. Smokes. Drills and bangs. Swirling engines. Buzzing machines. Then back to the murmurs of birds. Humming breezes. Landscapes. We were flooded with sensations, sights, smells. And really, there was such a delightful charm in all that co-existing. It was a profound journey. I am glad to have these pictures to keep. Photographs are enthralling that way. A safeguard of memories and feelings that we can’t really paraphrase. And they last ... at least, a good bit after it all went down.

Series passing parade
Location CHINA


HH It is no mystery that our consciousness grows, matures, evolves. The poignancy of time passing is often felt by us in life. Passions. Goals. Dreams. Relationships. They fade. They sink. They adjust in new realities. Eventually, in years, decades later. This past we own. Encounters, recognitions. All that history. Our fragile existence. They become invalid, incomplete if not fabricated. Only a few traces of it all even survive. Much of what we remember is probably not so true anymore, yet we stick to it, we insist. To keep our bearings. This sense of belonging. As if our very identities are tied up with it.

But still, every once in a while, a memory hits — here a train ride, there a conversation, there the old apartment. The old bedroom. The old kitchen, and so forth. Forgotten spaces. There are no memories without a place. We are always situated somewhere. The movements of things stay. We change houses. We settle in different countries. These big, overwhelming choices in life. But we remember the floorboards. The sofa. The wallpapers. The driveway. The returning car ride. Small bits here and there. They remain. And truthfully, these recollections might not be accurate. Who knows? Who cares? And that’s all right. As long as they still bring us joy. It’s not so bad, there’s no harm. After all, in time, at last, it is these little moments that make it all worthwhile. They are the little reminders that, hey, it is going to be just fine.

That’s what these photographs are really — taking a step back, just to appreciate it all, what we have, what we had. A little nostalgia isn’t so awful.


HH These pictures were shot all over China. I don’t recall very well the exact locations. But I suppose, with this series, it could have taken place anywhere in the world. The actual setting had no significance. Again, the feelings are collective, the emotions that connect humanity. Perhaps not in the particular, but at least in the universal. It is the raw human experience, the familiarity — not bound by any culture, not specific to any single race. There are no social or political commitments. It might not be an exact rendering of reality. Naturally living in a certain civilized society, we are influenced by the daily occurrences. The qualities of people. Appearances. Their clothing. Their means and manner. Considering that, I do try to avoid being conditioned by it all.

There are more to this series. There are more photographs from both series actually. My original idea was to release a smaller, more concise version of both digitally. Which very much stand on their own. Their own complete body of work. It’s just there is more. A wider outlook. A broader perspective. This rhythm of life. Occasionally subdued. Then everything comes blaring down, with no way of comprehending. It is my intention to produce a book featuring the entire extended sets of visuals. In print form.


HH The ‘dead’ moments in life. All those pauses, transitions, silences. Which, I feel, are the most authentic part of us being human. Languishing in the afternoon. A stroll in the park. Resting on a bench. By the river. By the ocean. The endless bus rides. The wait for transports. The plane. The train. At a restaurant, waiting for the meal, for takeaways. Staring into the distance. The mind just sort of slipped away, drifted off. We are greeted with apprehensions. Lingering regrets. We get these brief moments of refulness, remoteness. Visions, memories — then we carry on, we go on. The daily routine. The life we lead.  

It was my desire to seize this ‘vanishing’ into still images. This blank, hollow void. Seemingly nothing happens. Oblivion. Emptiness. And, well, I do feel it now that some of these photographs are pictures of nothing. Very suggestive pictures of nothing. None of them have any narrative drive. They are just existing. Passive existing.


HH A bit of both really. In dreams, we never really grasp the faces clearly. More so just the atmosphere, the scenery and so on. The human presence is mostly in disguise. Shapeless figures, present but unrecognizable. This very feeling of incoherence and vagueness.

In this case, people are not the center of attention. Merely an element. I do have great sympathy for objects and buildings. Their relation to a person, a surrounding. So it was very much organic. I made no deliberate effort to frame things in a specific way. And, at times, the community, an individual, they just don't appeal to me. It gets tiring. Same old gestures. Has become a rather aimless thing — a thing of regularity and formality. I haven't much sense of, or interest in portraits. I mean they do intrigue me vastly, the study of faces, and such. I will get around to it someday, I guess.

Henry Hu was born and raised in Hong Kong, moving to Sydney, Australia at fourteen to study, but without a definite passion or career path. After an intuitive calling of sorts, an impulse almost, there became a necessity to pursue arts and film - a calling that has since continued and expanded over time.


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