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Impressions Gallery

exhibitions: past

The Queen, The Chairman and I

Kurt Tong

16th Dec - 18th Mar 2017

Marking the twenty-year anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty from British rule, The Queen, The Chairman and I is a fascinating journey into the entwined histories of China and the UK, traced through the family history of photographer Kurt Tong.

Described by Tong as a photographic ‘who do you think you are’, The Queen, The Chairman and I was made over four years across three continents. In this multi-stranded saga of love, hope, and tragedy, Tong uncovers family secrets and reveals the impact of political and economic forces on individual people. Drawing on Tong’s Chinese, Hong Kong and British connections, the exhibition combines new large-scale photographs, alongside heirloom photographs and rare colour film footage from the 1940s. Central to the exhibition is a contemporary Chinese teahouse installation where visitors are invited to drink tea, read Tong’s artist book, and share their own family stories.

Tong’s paternal grandfather was a deckhand who arrived in Hong Kong from Shanghai after the fall of the last imperial Chinese dynasty in 1911, lured by better job prospects in the relatively stable British colony. His mother’s family were landlords in Southern China, Tong believes that they ‘came to Hong Kong and probably escaped certain death at the hands of Mao’s advancing Communist armies.’

Tong grew up in Hong Kong, singing the British National Anthem throughout his school years. He came to the UK to continue his education only returning to Hong Kong in 2012.

Tong says, ‘I traced the history of my family in a bid to find out how two of the most influential people in history, Queen Victoria and Chairman Mao, affected my family. Giving equal importance to new photographs, found photographs and writing, this project reconnects me with the Hong Kong of the past, through the recollections of my extended family, humanising the political and social upheaval that took my family to Hong Kong and eventually to the United Kingdom.’

Taken as a whole, The Queen, The Chairman and I connects with themes of multiculturalism and migration, heritage and empire. This will be the first time the project has been shown in its entirety and will coincide with Chinese New Year on 28 January 2017.

This exhibition is part of Views from China, a special six month programme of exhibitions and events at Impressions, taking a fresh look at Chinese culture and the long standing links between the UK and China.

An Impressions Gallery touring exhibition curated by Anne McNeill.

Kurt Tong (Born Hong Kong 1977) is an award winning photographer whose work has been exhibited internationally, including over 15 solo exhibitions and 60 group exhibitions across 5 continents. He gained his Masters in documentary photography at the London College of Communications (University of the Arts) in 2006. Awards include the Jerwood Photography Award (2008); the Troika Editions/FORMAT Exposure Award (2010); and named International Discovery of the Year at Houston Fotofest (2010). His work is held in numerous private collections as well as being held in several public collections, including the Victoria Museum in Liverpool, Cleveland Museum of Art in the USA and being on permanent display in the Chinese Collection at Compton Verney Museum, one of the leading collection of Chinese Artefacts in Europe. Tong teaches at Baptist University, SCAD Hong Kong and at the Hong Kong Art School. He has also been invited to teach workshops by M+ Museum in Hong Kong and Museum of Modern Art in Georgia among others.

Kurt Tong’s contemporary Chinese teahouse and the Chinese cultural events programme are sponsored by The Business Confucius Institute at the University of Leeds. The printing and mounting sponsor for The Queen, the Chairman and I is Spectrum Photographic, Brighton.


Exhibition resources

Click here to download a free information sheet about the exhibition (pdf 476kb)
Click here to download our interview with Kurt Tong (pdf 72kb)
Click here to download an exhibition guide (pdf 750kb)
Click here to download Kurt Tong's family tree (pdf 532kb)

Listen again

Click here to listen to Kurt Tong's Artist Talk, recorded at Impressions Gallery on Saturday 21 January 2017 (mp3 32.8mb)

Aberdeen, Hong Kong

Aberdeen, Hong Kong

Kurt Tong

Click on thumbnail below to enlarge

Aberdeen, Hong Kong Shook Ying, 1911 Anchor, Macau Bunnan's match-making photo Buddha Tree Seaport Bunnan age 11, Hong Kong Blossom