Ka-Man Tse: narrow distances – Winner of the 2018 Aperture Portfolio Prize

Art Scene

Ka-Man Tse: narrow distances – Winner of the 2018 Aperture Portfolio Prize

Ka-Man Tse’s photographs in the exhibition narrow distances could be characterized as performative portraiture. Made collaboratively with her subjects, the images also appear to be sculpted, embodied still life. Mobile aspects of the body—arms, legs, necks, fingers, feet—are intricately arranged to maximum compositional effect.

Ka-Man Tse, untitled, 2017; from narrow distances. Courtesy of the artist.

However, the primary use of the body within Tse’s photographs serves a far more complex purpose than elegance. The visibility of Asian Pacific Islander LGBTQ communities and their presence within landscapes—or, more simply, within the spaces of everyday life—is at the root of her work. Tse, also a member of this community, brings an insider perspective to the work and imbues her friends and subjects with emotional interiority and three-dimensional personhood.

Ka-Man Tse, untitled, 2015; from narrow distances. Courtesy of the artist.

Within each of Tse’s photographs, the interplay of foreground and background is expertly executed to support and amplify the humanity of her subjects. Photographed in Hong Kong and New York City, most of the images utilize hues of gray found in the built environment of urban landscapes as a backdrop. In one image, the linear qualities found in a wall give structure to the bald and round head, curved back and shoulders, and languorous legs of a seated subject dressed in red. Shot front-lit at night on a rooftop, the shadow of the figure bouncing off the gray wall adds another layer of complexity to the image. It reinforces Tse’s assertions around visibility and invisibility.

Ka-Man Tse, untitled, 2017; from narrow distances. Courtesy of the artist.

In another image, a shallow depth of field is used to soften and blur a distant grey cityscape, echoing the gentle embrace of two men. Situated in the foreground at the center of the image, one man faces the camera with an expression of care and empathy on his face. The other figure faces toward the cityscape with his back to the viewer. Again, the metaphor of visibility and invisibility as it relates to the Asian Pacific Islander LGBTQ community is apparent.

Ka-Man Tse, untitled, 2017; from narrow distances. Courtesy of the artist.

All of the photographs in the exhibition feature people, except for one. An image dense with vertical apartment towers taken within a cityscape at what looks like twilight eloquently showcases Tse’s acute attention to formal qualities. Shot looking up at a series of buildings that fill the image frame, the luminescent blue sky, a few flashes of green from lone weeds, rising whitish-gray buildings, and a loose jumble of wires and antennas all form an eloquent meditation on city life. Apartments filled with tungsten lighting rise like ladders to the sky, hinting at their human inhabitants who are not visible to the eye.

Ka-Man Tse: narrow distances – Winner of the 2018 Aperture Portfolio Prize is on view at Aperture through February 2, 2019.