A Sense of Homeland

whole 5_s  whole 4 s

red 2_s red detail_s russia_s green detail_s blue 2_s blue detail_s


A Sense of Homeland
Elva Lai
colored glass, inkjet on gloss paper, cherrywood board
size variable

Experiencing a change of residence from Hong Kong to Germany was impactful in ways that I am still digesting. There is a distance between the inspiration brought on by cultural shock and the inspiration of creating an artwork. For me, there is always a delay. Only by looking back on this experience is there a possibly to crystallize the past into an artwork. Therefore, most of my artwork is a retrieval of a memory pertaining to a particular past event. This is not a spontaneous response towards life, but rather a collection of strong emotions and an understanding of the past.

I have spent all my time and energy settling down in a new place. There is not a single idea about making an artwork or even an impulse of doing so. I experience time much faster in Leipzig than when I was in my home city. There were lots of mistakes I have come across in daily life and feelings of unease and loneliness, which hang like clouds over my head. Grocery shopping was the first task I had to overcome when I arrived in Leipzig, and my stomach has been experiencing a change of food to digest everyday. There was a night when I was tired of warming up soup stored in the fridge and I started to miss the snacks of Hong Kong. I went searching for sauce from Asia the next day. There was a brief satisfaction brought on by the familiar sauce to my stomach. But I eventually gave up the idea of satisfying myself with Asian sauce and began dealing honestly with the sense of homesickness using other methods.

This experience gave me an idea about consumer behavior. There is an intention of buying a sense of homeland while consuming this exotic food, from the perspective of the local, in Leipzig. There is a strong stereotype about Asian food with red color packaging. Of course, I understand this bright red color as representing the general idea about China for different customers. I felt a sense of security in buying them. I also realized that royal blue is used in the logo of Indian curry sauce, and green and orange colors are used in Russian food products, often also containing with a young, Russian girl dressed in traditional costume. The production origin of the source is not important. For example, the Asian food I found in Leipzig was all locally made, but this did not affect the comfort I found in consuming it.

The installation work titled A Sense of Homeland is made of brightly colored glass and an inkjet printed logo from exotic food I found in ordinary supermarkets. Colors were chosen according to the main colors used in the logos of the food brands, especially the sauce products, since I believe the sauce from different countries represents different memories of food. The sense of homeland is an abstract concept from which we may experience a song, a smell or a taste. The mentality of migrants is perhaps not so far away from us when we reflect on this. The fragility of glass represents the fragility of migrants who need protection and understanding. Vibrant colored glass, used normally in church windows, is cut into the shapes of product logos and carefully placed upon a piece of cherry wood board. The deliberately painted shadows behind the logos gives them weight. The sense constructed is one of solemnity.

Long distance traveling, or temporary stays in a new place, where our stomach and body directly describe the uneasiness and loneliness associated with leaving our familiar environment. This understanding of longing helps us to understand the mentality of migrants one may meet on the street. The importance of generating ideas inspired by daily life, and transforming them into actual artworks is to open a discussion, not to provide an answer, regarding the mentality of migrants that may be overlooked, and to bring the idea of migrants or displaced people close to our daily lives, and, most importantly, accept them as we accept ourselves.

Elva LAI

This is Elva: www.thisiselva.com

Elva LAI Ming-chu (b.1989) received her Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) and Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A) at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2013 and 2015 respectively. Her work examines the instabilities inherent in the modality of photography and searches for sensitivities of photographic representation.

2013-2015 Master of Fine Arts, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
2011-2012 Exchange at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, USA
2009-2013 Bachelor of Fine Arts of The Chinese University of Hong Kong 




Elva Lai