Root & Branch is a collaboration between Linda Norris and Hong Kong based artist, Wai Kit Lam. The work was supported by Wales Arts International. Linda and Wai Kit met online during the first Covid19 lockdown in 2020. They decided to develop some work together and settled on the theme of ‘trees’ as a symbol of resilience, networking and growth. This work forms the basis of Root & Branch. At a time of great tumult and division globally, the aim of this project is to reach out and physically exchange handmade artworks in order to form a creative network linking artists in Wales and Hong Kong with practitioners in other countries. Although the handmade and haptic is important to Linda and Wai Kit when making connections and in their own interaction with materials, they have also welcomed digital artwork.
Root & Branch is an idiom roughly meaning “completely” i.e. affecting both the roots and the branches of a tree. Linda and Wai Kit have chosen it more because of its association with the different parts of a tree than for its idiomatic meaning. They are interested in how trees network and communicate with each other and how the, often hidden, roots directly feed the more visible branches. The artists are trying to combat cultural and geographic divisions by linking with other artists to make networks and spark new connections that come from the roots of their practice and it is an experiment to see what arises from that.
For Root & Branch Linda and Wai Kit invited a number of artists who use trees or wood in some way in their work to contribute an A6 postcard artwork. In return Linda and Wai Kit have each hand-made a series of original A6 postcards one of which which they have sent to each of the participating artists. The artists appreciate there is an act of generosity involved from all participants and have reciprocated by sending an artwork and offering their time and resources to organise the project. To Linda and Wai Kit the act of generosity is also important element. The resulting works are shown below and formed the basis of an online exchange and exhibition, and a physical exhibition which was on show at Karin Weber Gallery, Central Hong Kong from 13 November to 18 December 2021.
The exhibition is now touring internationally and will be open in Taiwan until April 25 at 這不是咖啡店 No. 1, Alley 8, Lane 96, Chongxue Road, East District, Tainan City, 701, Taiwan.
About the work
Wai Kit has produced 14 postcards entitled Missing Ivy. Each postcard shows a map of Tai Kok Tsui, Hong Kong. In each postcard, one street is cut away. Each postcard has a different cutaway street. On the back of the postcard, the name of the missing street is written next to the cutaway. The concept comes from the Tai Kok Tsui streets’ names with the names of British trees; they were named during colonial times by British officials. The first one, next to the coast, was named Ivy Street, of which once there were ivy trees. As time went by, that area was reclaimed. The new streets were named Oak Street, Beech Street, Sycamore Street, Larch Street, Fir Street, Walnut Street, Ash Street, etc. But none of these streets had ever had any British trees. Furthermore, no more ivy trees at Ivy Street since then. “This historical naming provokes my perception of identity. What if an identity is forced to abolish or vanish by the passage of time? Moreover, identity may also be imposed, even if it is forever never an authentic self.” – Wai Kit Lam
Linda’s 15 postcards are also inspired by the fact that many streets in Hong Kong bear the names of British trees: Ash St, Sycamore St, Oak St, Walnut St, Hawthorn Rd, Beech St and Willow St etc. and each of these is represented in Linda’s work alongside some special Welsh trees including a 5000 year old yew tree and a Bardsey Apple Tree. The postcards are made using a combination of paint and cyanotype to create images using leaves Linda has gathered from trees mostly local to her home in Wales and overlaying these onto text from a vintage botanical book roughly dating to the time most of the streets were named and which Linda found in a second hand book store.
The participating artists are: Janice Affleck (Scotland), Patricio Álvarez Aragón (Chile/Germany), Inguna Audere (Latvia), Olga Blokh (Finland), Evy Cohen (France), Irma Collective (Latvia), Robert Davies (Wales), Madeleine Doré (Canada/France), Michele Dovey (Wales), Winnie Tak Kwan Fung (Hong Kong), Kim Dotty Hachmann (Germany), Kenneth Hay (UK/France), Juliana Neves Hoffmann (Brazil), Nung-Hsin Hu (Taiwan/USA), Herbert W.H. Hundrich (Germany), Rachel Hiu Yin Ip (Hong Kong), Robert Jakes (Wales), Agnes Ku (Hong Kong), Wai Kit Lam (Hong Kong), Joe Lau (Hong Kong/Taiwan), Danny O’Hara (UK), Sian Lester (Wales), Susana López Fernández (Spain), Bim Mason (Wales), Helen Maurer (UK), John Merrill (Wales), Penka Mincheva (Bulgaria), Moorland Productions (France/UK), Kika Nicolela (Brazil/Belgium), Linda Norris (Wales), Danny O’Hara (UK), Rachel Phillips (Wales), Nia Pushkarova (Bulgaria), Francoise Rod (France/Switzerland), Michael Rogers (USA/Latvia), Ruth Sargeant (Wales), Erika Tan (Singapore/UK), Annette Townsend (Wales), Ming Chong Tse (Hong Kong), Marcos Vidal Font (Spain), Ian Wieczorek (Ireland), Karin Weber Gallery (Hong Kong), May Ming Yu (Hong Kong).