In the grassy garden where people are relaxing, sunbathing and enjoying drinks on one of the hottest days of the year, a huge heart-shaped hole has been excavated like an archaeological dig to reveal the body and severed head of what turns out to be a giraffe.
Nearly five miles away, the head of the giraffe has turned up in an empty building.
This summer’s trend seems to be for art galleries in north London to have connecting exhibitions in central London, so the Ben Uri Gallery has an exhibition at the 12 Star Gallery and the Camden Arts Centre has taken over one of the empty new spaces in Cork Street for a pop-up exhibition.
For the artist Wong Ping, whose exhibition ‘Wong Ping: Heart Digger’ spans the five miles between Mayfair and Hampstead, the giraffe and the split location is full of meanings on all sorts of different levels. He describes the heart-shaped hole in the earth at Hampstead as a slightly perverse symbol of his future love, yet to be discovered, though he is conscious that holes in the earth have symbolic links to hatred and even to death, while the neck of the giraffe is like a tunnel, which in time will decompose, but out of which, as he excavated, dozens of people appeared, including Hong Kong’s Chief Executive and other officials who seem to have disappeared since the recent demonstrations, and whom he pushed back and sealed up in the fleshy tunnel, so that their place of concealment and escape has now become a place of imprisonment where these officials can taste something of what they have put the citizens of Hong Kong through.
His other works, combining digital and sculptural animations, have similar messages about the struggles of contemporary life, families, ageing populations, morality and politics, including his large tombstone in the large gallery space in Camden surrounded by thousands of pairs of toy dentures, hand-painted with gold enamel representing the Chinese tradition of old people wearing gold dentures as a way of protecting wealth, while the video on the tombstone plays out a story of intergenerational tensions, perhaps reflecting on how the coherence and intergenerational support of the family in China is being eroded by modern ideals and aspirations of the young.
An exhibition with deep meaning within it, and where you really should visit the two locations.