JANUARY 2013
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João Vasco Paiva
A decoder of urban spaces, João Vasco Paiva (b.1979, Portugal) is a Hong Kong-based artist who observes the complex and predominantly chaotic characteristics of metropolises.The sounds and systems of bustling streets, rushing metros and densely constructed spaces are the core subjects of Paiva’s work, which he systematically documents, analyses, abstracts and reduces to create a codified interpretation that is simultaneously an artwork. At the heart of Paiva’s practice is an interest in finding an order and inner logic to urbanity’s intrinsic complexity.

A graduate from the Porto Arts Institute, João Vasco Paiva moved to Hong Kong in 2006 to complete a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Media. Upon graduation with distinction in 2008, Paiva set to create works in multiple mediums, which consistently explore how urban spaces may serve as catalysts for aesthetic production. While Paiva’s work is intrinsically tied to Hong Kong, his work resounds with dense urban environments around the globe: it suggests that cities, regardless of location, share certain visual and physical characteristics that, following a process of documentation and abstraction, may be reduced to readable and informative truths.

At the core of Paiva’s practice is therefore an interest in deconstructing complex urban environments to create a set of identifiable codes: a universal urban alphabet, one may say. The aim of Paiva’s artistic process thus extends beyond mere simplification; it is about identifying a common language that reverberates both on a local urban level as well as on an international cosmopolitan level; it is about unveiling a linguistic system, which is shared by multiple countries and is intrinsic to our current age of hyper-modernity.

Paiva’s previous solo exhibition Palimpseptic (2011), for example, presented a series of works, which set to provide an understanding of everyday commuter’s use of Hong Kong’s rail system. At the heart of the exhibition was an installation of turnstiles, which moved to the frequency of passenger use, and oscillated in frequency depending on the time of day. This ghost-like system was supplemented by videos and paintings that reduced human crowds and their motions to blocks of colour, thereby converting the largely illegible into an algorithmic rendering, which could equally be used to understand the workings of the metro in Paris, the underground in London or the subway in New York.

João Vasco Paiva is considered one of Hong Kong’s leading emerging contemporary artists and has been exhibited widely in museums as well as galleries from Hong Kong and Portugal to the UK, Australia, Hungary and New York. Recently, Paiva was featured in the seminal ‘Hong Kong Eye’ exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery in London. Upcoming activity includes a solo show at the Goethe Institute in Hong Kong as well as an artist’s residence program at Residency Unlimited in New York. Furthermore, Paiva is the recipient of multiple awards, including the Hong Kong Emerging Artist Grant and the International Artist Support Grant awarded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Portugal.