Ming Intertwined by FREEMAN LAU
Furniture in the style of Ming Dynasty is famous for its elegance and smoothness. The furniture is mostly made of fine materials and with exquisite techniques. It is always gorgeous like those scholars in the past who held magnificent spirits by being magnanimous and knowledgeable. The legs of the “Intertwined in Ming Style” symbolize how scholars communicate with each other. They usually have spiritual communication. They may not talk to each other but they could gain understanding of the others through their writings and pieces of works. By this way, it is possible for them to even communicate with the great people in the past.
THE ARTIST: Lau Siu Hong Freeman
Born in Hong Kong in 1958, Freeman Lau studied at the Hong Kong Polytechnic, now the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, which is highly reputed for design. He started his career at SS Design & Production. Later on, he founded Kan & Lau Design Consultants with Dr. Kan Tai-keung. In 2013, Mr. Ko Siu-hong was promoted to be another partner and the company was renamed as KL&K Creative Strategics.
Having been working in the creative industry for over 30 years, Freeman has been doing a wide spectrum of creative works and achieved over 300 awards in different streams.
Freeman has been participating in the curatorship of numerous exhibitions. He tries to promote creativity via his shows. In 2011, he curated two significant exhibitions in Asia. They are “Ingenuity Follows Nature” and “Rethinking Bamboo”. The first one was held in Taipei World Design Expo. 40 designers from Taiwan and other parts of Asia were invited to create posters inspired by the calligraphy works of Ms. Tong Yang Tsz, the renowned Taiwanese calligrapher. 240 pieces of posters were made and over a million of visitors attended the show. “Rethinking Bamboo” was held in National Museum of China in Beijing and it was one of the most important shows of the first Beijing International Design Triennial. Freeman did a research for 2 years for the exhibition and borrowed over 200 pieces of exhibits including design works, images and installations from 20 districts of 11 countries from all over Europe, the Americas and Asia.
2012 was the Year of Design for Hong Kong and Freeman curated 3 programmes for the city. They were “Tian Tian Xiang Shang Finale Exhibition”, “Creative Ecologies+” and “Colours of Asia”.
Freeman was invited by Mr. Danny Yung and curated the show “Tian Tian Xiang Shang Finale Exhibition”. He invited 108 cross-disciplinary creators to work on the 50cm tall Tian Tian Xiang Shang sculpture. Through “Creative Ecologies+”, Freeman tried to investigate how the internal and external factors triggered the development and the infrastructure of local creative design industry since the 20s. Moreover, the exhibition also focused on the relationship between corporates and brands, and the continuous development of social innovation. Great design masters and talented young designers, as well as their works were also introduced in the show. “Colours of Asia” was a project by the Design Alliance Asia. Through the research on how colours were interpreted and applied in different Asian districts, an exchange of creativity and a cross-culture comparison were achieved.
Freeman has considerable passion for and strong insistence on fine arts creating. At first, his works were loaded with his own philosophy of life. He was awarded the “Fine Prize in Sculpture Section” in Philippe Charriol’s Modern Art Competition (1992) with “At the Beginning of Another End”. Later on, he started to shift his focus to study inter-personal relationship and other issues about human beings and objects. He did a range of art pieces since then, including “Message Case I, II, III” as well as “Searching for Position I & II” and they were awarded “Urban Council Fine Arts Award and “Urban Council Sculpture Design Award” (1994) respectively. In 1995 & 1997, he was awarded the sponsorship for trips to Venice Italy and Oregon the U.S.A. to exchange with artists there. Through the visits, he did numerous works. Those works were later on collected by the museums of the cities.
Being a professional designer, Freeman is an expert in dealing with audience from different sectors when he conveys his ideas. Throughout the years, he has been being commissioned to create artworks for public spaces - “Inner Communication” created in 1999 for the Housing Department for Tin Shui Wai; “Circle” also in 1999 for the Provisional Regional Council via “Public Art Scheme 1999”; “Nine Pieces” in 2000 for Hong Kong Heritage Museum via “Public Art Design Invitational Competition”; “Enlightenment” in 2001 for Hong Kong Central Library via “Competition on Design of Decorative Works of Art for the Hong Kong Central Library”; “Link” in 2001 for Tung Chung MTR Station via “Art in MTR Station Architecture Programme”; “Miracle Horse” in 2008 for Sun Hung Kai Property; so on and so forth. All these public art works were loaded with Freeman’s style and they all got very clear themes which were easy to understand. They all became the most significant icons of the venues.
During the period of Chinese New Year 2017, Freeman was invited by Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, San Francisco to build a set of public art works for the celebration of the 20th Anniversary of Hong Kong Special Administration Region. He created the set of 6 gigantic bamboo lanterns “Sui Sui Ping An”. The structure of the lanterns was completely built with bamboo strips by a team of Hong Kong craftsmen. The most popular common surnames of the Chinese migrants in San Francisco and their English translations were printed on the lanterns. He tried to explore the stories and history of these Chinese migrants through his works.
Ever since the 90s, chair has been being an important medium for Freeman’s creations. He started to use chair as a metaphor for the exploration of different issues about human beings. In fact, chairs keep appearing in all sort of works by Freeman, including public art, graphic design, furniture design, product design and sculpture. Gradually, chair has become a signature of Freeman’s works. After the millennium, Freeman started to call his range of works about chair - “Chairplay”.
The “Chairplay” series includes a range of furniture and sculpture. For furniture, he got the “Duo” which refers to the relationship between men and women; “Intertwined” the interpersonal relationship; “Chairligraphy” the artist’s affection of calligraphy; and “Chairfun” the relationship between human beings and the nature. For sculpture, he got “Chairplay I & IV”, “City”, “Agenda” and “Equilibrium”, so on and so forth. Through these works, he tried all sorts of materials and techniques through the collaboration with different production teams. He also kept pushing for the best of the traditional craftsmanship via his designs in order to enhance the production techniques.
“Chairplay” had been shown around the globe via the invitations by different exhibitions, such as “The 8th International Mini Sculpture Exhibition(2003)” held by the University of Hawaii Art Gallery in USA, “Artists in the Neighbourhood Scheme II: People • Chair(2003)” organised by Art Promotion Office of Hong Kong Leisure and Cultural Services Department, “Of Ink and Chairs—Kan Tai-Keung + Freeman Lau, Art and Design Exhibition(2003)” taking place in DDD Gallery and Shizuoka University of Art and Culture in Japan, “X beyond O Calligraphy–Sign–Space” exhibition (2009) in Taiwan, “The New Aesthetics of Crafts – The Nomination Show of Chinese Contemporary Craftsmen (2010)” in Shanghai”, “Art Basel (2013)” in Hong Kong, “The 5th Gwangju International Design Biennial(2013)”in Korea, so on and so forth.
Besides, in 2005, Freeman was invited by museums and galleries of different regions to curate the “Chairplay” exhibitions in their venues, including Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business in Beijing China, Design Tide in Tokyo Japan, Shizuoka University of Art and Culture in Shizuoka Prefecture Japan, Eslite Bookstore in Taipei Taiwan, Art Beatus Gallery in Central Hong Kong. In 2007, he did the “Chairplay II” again in Art Beatus Gallery and a wide spectrum of new works was launched in the show. In 2011, with the curatorship of Professor Hangjiang of Tsinghua University, the exhibition “Chair Affection – Chairplay”, which was one of the satellite shows of the First Beijing International Design Triennial, was held at the Museum of the Central Academy of Art in Beijing. A new range of furniture designs by Freeman was introduced in the exhibition.
Freeman is not only an artist. As mentioned before, he started his career as a designer over 30 years ago and he did a wide spectrum of design works, including graphic, packaging, branding strategies, etc.
Freeman had created numerous posters since he was a student. His style was first established through those works. With his personal background and under the impact of Dr. Kan Tai Keung, most of his works were strongly loaded with Chinese cultural elements, for instance, he applied the concept of nine-dragon wall with a simplified human figure outline to his poster, which thereafter earned him the First Prize in poster design competition of “Beijing's Bid for the 2008 Olympic Games” in 2001, for its great presence of new China. It was then selected and printed as the official propaganda material. Meanwhile, Freeman was was presented the “Best Sport Poster” Award in Lahti Poster Biennale in Finland with the same poster design. Furthermore, Freeman often incorporated Chinese calligraphy and characters into his works. A recent example includes the “Ingenuity Follows Nature” design series, which won him the Silver Award of the “Hong Kong Designers Association Global Design Awards 2011”. Freeman’s works also revolved around Chinese calligraphy and chairs, as in “Chairligraphy I & II”, with which he was awarded the Judges Award” and “Bronze Award” in Hong Kong International Poster Triennial, and “Communication Design” of Red Dot Design Award in Germany.
Having become a professional designer, Freeman started to dedicate himself to packaging design for a wealth of branded products, among which the bottle design of Watsons Water receives the warmest welcome from the public. On top of aesthetics of the exceptional bottle design, Freeman in fact laid greater emphasis upon its practical function, striving to produce a more user-friendly structure in accordance to ergonomics. The release of the bottle design not only signaled a critical breakthrough in the history of local bottled water, but it also boosted the market share of the brand. In 2004, Freeman was granted “International ‘Bottlewaterworld’ Design Award”, which marked a significant milestone in his design career. Moreover, Freeman has contributed to packaging design for various brands such as “Two Girls”, “Geow Yong Tea Hong”, “Hong Kong Wing Wah Cake Shop” and “Garden”, and all the designs served to enhance the corporate images.
Besides traditional design service, Freeman also offered brand strategy business to different brands and region. “Kavon”, “Jie Yi Tang” and “Erdos” are examples of success. Recently, Freeman has worked with a Dutch designer, Michel De Boer, and Prof. Chan Yuk Keung from the Department of Fine Arts, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, to develop “Public Creatives”, an innovative system which fosters production of regional brands. It has now been applied to Kai Tai Development (KTD) and The MIXC in Shenzhen, opening up a brand-new territory for the design industry in Hong Kong.
Being the Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of Hong Kong Design Centre, the Secretary General of the Hong Kong Federation of Design Association, the Vice Chairman of the Design Alliance Asia, etc., Freeman has been endeavouring to push the industry forward. Since 2002, Freeman has been co-organising the Business of Design Week (BODW), with Hong Kong Design Centre. He also hosted “Creative Ecologies” Exhibition in 2010 and 2011 respectively and sought to introduce the most representable works of the design industry to the public. In 2014, Freeman, as the Secretary General of the Hong Kong Federation of Design Associations, initiated the first HK-SZ Design Biennale with a total of 39 design associations from Hong Kong and Shenzhen. 8 massive exhibitions and 8 public activities addressing graphic design, new media design, fashion design, interior design, industrial design, and so forth. The event was a resounding success that numerous sectors had shown their full support to it. In addition, Freeman also devoted himself to the educational discipline. As the Vice Chairman of Hong Kong Design Institute Advisory Board and Member of Jockey Club Design Institute for Social Innovation Management Committee, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. In 2006, he founded HKICC Lee Shau Kee School of Creativity with the members of the Hong Kong Institute of Contemporary Culture (HKICC), nurturing potential talents in the field.
As a designer as well as a promoter in the field, Freeman’s great contribution is widely recognised in society, which therefore brings him a myriads of awards such as “Ten Outstanding Young Persons” (1997), “Gold Award” by Hong Kong Designer Association, Hong Kong (2005, 2007) “Ten Outstanding Designers Awards” (2005), “Bronze Bauhinia Star” (2006), “Lifelong Design and Art Achievement Award” of the 3rd (Jiajun) International Exhibition of Design and Art in China (2008), “Achievement Award” by Art Design Institute of China Academy of Art (2010), “University Fellow” by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (2011) and “The Best Asian Designer” Award of 2014 Asian Designers’ Invitational Exhibition in Korea (2014).