• Inspirations

Sin Wai Kin

Artist, video and installation performer who uses science fiction, drag and fantasy

Frida Kahlo painting among the reference works-of-art in Sin Wai Kin "Portraits" works

Five character portraits in moving images by Sin Wai Kin (born in Toronto, Canada in 1991) were shown in the exhibition "Portraits", at Soft Opening Gallery, London ,27 October - 16 December 2023 . The artist's use of storytelling to challenge binary thinking and produce fantastical stories that subvert accepted notions of desire, identity, and objectification is continued in Portraits. Sin's practice revolves around performance, moving image, writing, and print to challenge idealized images, constructed identities, and binary conceptions of consciousness. Sin draws on personal experiences of existing beyond categories.

He presents five characters in nearly life-size filmed portraits, drawing on traditional roles in Cantonese and Peking Opera: "The Universe," a warrior god that personifies the binary of an individual and their context; "Change," which represents constant change; "Wai King," which explores unbridled masculinity; "The Construct," which represents the binary of good and evil; and "The Storyteller," Sin's iconic personification of the role of storytelling in culture. When examined closely, these living portraits highlight the difficulty of maintaining a single identity or position.

Elevating the gallery's walls, delicately pleated white velvet curtains cascade down each of Portraits' three walls, reaching the ceiling. Every one of these new silent films plays backwards and forwards. By raising the screens onto the walls, the artist places them in the context of painting history, historicizing new stories and identities through a cast of characters that keeps growing and changing. Each of the films itself makes reference to a well-known piece of historical art, such as Man Ray's Kiki with African Mask (1926), Caravaggio's Narcissus (1597–1599), Frida Kahlo's Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair (1940), Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa (1503), and Lu Zhi's Chuang Tzu Dreaming of a Butterfly (Ming Dinasty). By situating their characters within an art historical lineage, Sin is able to critically examine the positionality of the storyteller as a historian and self-historicize their own practice. The artist claims that image-making offers both the representation and creation of reality by obfuscating the lines between fantasy and reality in this way, challenging the hegemonic narratives of history.
Immersed in a recognizable shade of chroma green, which is used in filmmaking to allow actors to be removed from their original context and placed in a different one during post-production, the exhibition's second room takes on the meaning of a potentiality space. Five faceless portrait busts peer outward, opulently flaunting the wigs worn for the filming. The spectator finds themselves both everywhere and nowhere as a result of the artist's recognition of a person's relationship and reflection of their changing environment.

“My characters exist in multiple lives, emerging in different projects, in relationship to each other to put different ideas or concepts in relationship to each other. Together, they create a series of interacting relationships,” Sin said. “Each of the characters is a kind of embodied speculative fiction, a way to think through issues I’m grappling with. We embody narratives and these characters offer alternative storylines than what we are familiar with”. “As a transgender person, I’m always trying to find myself in the binary of masculinity and femininity.” (quote taken from the review article by Artnet News).


Images and other info at the Soft Opening website below.