A photograph of the Cang Mang exhibition by artist Ma Yujiang.

A photograph of the Cang Mang exhibition by artist Ma Yujiang.

“Cang Mang” is a photo manipulation project (as opposed to a photography project) by artist Ma Yujiang. The artists has taken WWII archival photographs and removed all traces of destruction, death and carnage.

I am not normally a fan of projects that are based solely around image manipulation (photoshopping), in part because many artists don’t have the necessary skill with the tools to seamlessly execute their vision. Ma Yujiang not only has the necessary technical skills to execute his vision but the vision itself is worth the work.

Look at the giant prints that the artist has produced, a beautiful south pacific island beach, some men standing looking at a partially sunken ship, an empty haunting seascape…. now look at the original images and the same scene becomes one of death and destruction. The two versions of the image are the same moment in time, but they could just as easily be 50 years apart, and would that make them separate self contained places, different from each other or are they one place connected through the fourth dimension of time. Do the ghosts of the dead from the original image now seep back into the retouched image?

And what of the calm gallery space I am standing in now looking at these images. Are the ghosts of those who lived here previously standing next to me looking too. Not only don’t I believe in Photoshop, I also don’t believe in ghosts, so the fact that this exhibition was able to conjure some for me impressed me immensely.

The exhibition is on at the Pearl Lam Gallery, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong until 11th July http://www.pearllam.com/city/hong-kong/