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China Daily (USA) - - LIFE | CULTURE -

hi­ang Yomei is known to many peo­ple as the great­grand­daugh­ter of Chi­ang Kai-shek, the late Kuom­intang leader.

But her first solo ex­hi­bi­tion in Hong Kong, to open onWed­nes­day, will likely un­veil to the pub­lic her lesser-known side as a Lon­don­based artist and a de­vout Bud­dhist whose works are rooted in Asian cul­ture.

Chi­ang Yomei: Other Realms, run­ning at Sotheby’s Hong Kong gallery through Nov 19, shows her paint­ings and in­stal­la­tions. The cen­ter­piece is a large-scale in­stal­la­tion ti­tled Cross­ing that makes its de­but.

Many pairs of white shoes that can be worn by men, women and chil­dren, and­made­out of rice pa­per, are sus­pended to form a “river” of del­i­cacy and slight translu­cency.

The au­di­ence can imag­ine the shoes rep­re­sent­ing peo­ple­whowalk through cy­cles of life and death and across dif­fer­ent spir­i­tual realms.

Chi­ang Yomei, 55, traces the work to the death of her grand­fa­ther, Chi­ang Ching-kuo— the eldest son and po­lit­i­cal heir of Chi­ang Kai-shek.

She re­mem­bers thatwhenChi­ang Ching-kuo died in 1988, an el­derly house­keeper in­sisted on keep­ing a glass of wa­ter and his old slip­pers by his bed for the first 49 days of mourn­ing, a pe­riod dur­ing which many Chi­nese be­lieve the spirit of the de­ceased of­ten re­turns.

“As I never got to say good­bye to my grand­fa­ther, I felt the only thing that con­nected me to the essence of him was the last pair of slip­pers he wore,” Chi­angYomei tell­sChina Daily in an e-mail in­ter­view.

She says shoes and the feet they pro­tect have a sym­bolic res­o­nance: 10 am-6pm, Mon­day to Fri­day, 11 am-5pm on Satur­day, through Nov 19. 5F, One Pa­cific Place, 88 Queensway, Hong Kong. 852-2822-5566. Peo­ple’s feet keep them grounded and trans­port them from place to place. Chi­nese peo­ple of­ten em­broi­der lo­tuses or lad­ders on fu­ner­ary shoe soles to sym­bol­ize the “cross­ing over to the pure realm of en­light­en­ment”.

She has in­scribed the San­skrit word ah, con­sid­ered a sym­bol of tran­scen­dence in Bud­dhism, on the soles of the shoes at her show. And she chose the in­ner sole in­stead of the outer, which sug­gests the cross­ing is an in­ward one. “We come home to our true selves.”

She also re­lates to mem­o­ries and peo­ple’s ex­is­tence in her Cab­i­net se­ries of which sev­eral in­stal­la­tions are part of the same ex­hi­bi­tion.

“I have al­ways been in­ter­ested in doors and in­te­rior spa­ces,” she says.

“A cab­i­net opened is a world re­vealed. Cabinets and draw­ers are places of se­crets and mem­o­ries; with one ac­tion we open up end­less di­men­sions of our ex­is­tence.”

In one work of the se­ries, ti­tled The Cab­i­net of Dreams, she at­tached a pair of pa­per baby shoes, the same as those used in Cross­ing, to a mir­ror in­side an open cab­i­net. The shoes bear im­ages of her as a child, her par­ents and grand­par­ents.

“A dream begets a dream ad in­fini­tum. Mem­o­ries and thoughts are like this.

“But at the end of the day all th­ese mem­o­ries ... have no re­al­ity, they are mere il­lu­sions of the mind, phan­toms that are empty of any iden­tity.”

10 am-6 pm, Mon­day to Fri­day, 11 am-5 pm on Satur­day, through Nov 19. 5F, One Pa­cific Place, 88 Queensway, Hong Kong. 852-2822-5566.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Chi­ang Yomei says she con­sid­ers her­self more Chi­nese than Euro­pean though she’s lived in Bri­tain for decades.

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