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In a perfect world

Have you found paradise? Or are just looking for a little happiness? If so then Paradise Stories, might be for you, says Vinny Lawrenson Woods

Published on March 4th 2008.


In a perfect world

Kai-Oi Jay Yung has always had an affinity with Liverpool. Born in Chester, she developed her lifelong affection for the city during her weekly visits to Liverpool’s Chinatown with her father, as a child, and the three years she spent attending a Liverpool Chinese school.

Now, with the help of eight other artists, Kai-Oi Jay Yung is investigating mankind’s modern day pursuit of happiness and utopia. The exhibition is a philosophical exploration into paradise and the everyday struggle. Held in two galleries simultaneously, and using art, sculpture, video, audio, photography and performance, Jay is searching for paradise and what that means to us all.

A huge duck with a fox's head, a Scouse Buddhist monk, an interactive wigwam-igloo and a water feature are some of the many exhibitions pieces. Described as an assault on the senses, Paradise Stories brings us, among other things, a cabbie's daily encounters, a feng shui expert, and a mother and daughter's insights into integration.

Jay graduated from The University of Dundee with a first in fine arts in 2006. In just two years, her art has already taken her to Berlin, Libya and Hong Kong. Now working in a studio on Victoria Street, Jay is an interdisciplinary artist, which essentially means anything goes from painting to performance.

Taking some time out from preparing for the exhibition I met Jay for a coffee on Bold Street. Asking how the exhibition was getting on, she replied “It feels like I’m giving birth to 60 babies.”

Passionate about her work, Jay has worked tirelessly on the project since receiving funding and support from the Liverpool Culture Company and RIBA. This support also allowed her to invite other artists to contribute to this project.

Setting eight themes Jay made an open call to artists from around the world to forward their ideas on paradise. Following this request the work of artists Chong Boon Pok, Didi Dunphy, Chris Eckersley, Tim Maslen & Jennifer Mehra, Laurel Kurtz & Steven Beatty, Faye Peacock, Sari Lievonen, and Kasper Wimberley have been included in the Paradise Stories exhibition.

Jay believes art has a social value, challenging people to comment and think about their own lives as well as raising awareness about the world we live in. This description fits perfectly with Jay’s own work. She’s an artist who requires an audience.

“I can’t make art unless people are going to see it. People are the source and materials for my art as well as the audience. The Paradise Stories exhibition relies on the contribution of many people”.

With recent research suggesting that increased wealth does not necessarily increase happiness, the exhibition is also very timely, which led me on to a question about the connection to Liverpool’s very own Paradise Project. Although the connection was somewhat coincidental, Jay was aware of the Paradise Street development and how this tied into her art.

Paradise Stories challenges the idea of paradise in Liverpool and how regeneration, development and architecture affect us and our daily lives. Or as Joni Mitchell once said "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot".

RENEW Rooms, 82 Wood Street, Liverpool, L1 4DQ: 4th-28th March 2008
International Gallery, 34A Slater Street, Liverpool, L1 4BX: 4th-21st March 2008

Culturepool will be meeting Jay on Saturday 15th March 08 at 1:00pm. For further details see www.culturepool.org.uk

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