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Your Guide to Appreciating ArtisTree Selects: Urban Rocks


This March, a dozen human-size sculptures are taking over ArtisTree. They are the works of renowned Hong Kong-based French artist Polo Bourieau – you may have seen his monumental masterpieces, such as the Reflection, which toured around the city back in 2014, as well as Wishing Well, Walking East, and Great Wall across Tseung Kwan O, Kwun Tong and Central. This time, he has created a series of original sculptures exclusively for ArtisTree Selects: Urban Rocks.

A stone sculpture exhibition is a rare event in Hong Kong, and this collection by Polo will be presented here for the very first time for Hongkongers to enjoy. Some of these sculptures resemble landscapes and maps; others are reminiscent of futuristic architectural features. You may find the artworks a little abstract at first – but with all abstract work, that’s what makes them worth your contemplation. Our guide shows you how to do this, in just four steps.


1. Observe: how do the sculptures look?

Appreciating sculptures is first and foremost a visual experience, so start by just looking. Take in your surroundings and observe the collection as a whole.


Think about this:

How are the artworks placed around ArtisTree?

What do the sculptures remind you of?


Now, inspect the sculptures individually. They are all made from different types of rock, so each has a distinct texture and pattern. Thin City, for example, is made from the Titanium Travertine, one of the luxurious marbles from Iran; while Vertical Vessel is made from Bianco Carrara, the same refined white marble as Michelangelo’s Statue of David. Take your time to appreciate the beauty of each stone from different angles.


Take a closer look…

Are they grainy and sandy, or smooth and shiny?

How about their unique colours, veins and swirls?

2. Discover: how were they made?


Video Credit: Alexandre Biondo


Understanding an art piece’s history and how it was created can deepen our appreciation for it.


So, how did these blocks of rock turn into incredible works of art?

•  The rocks were first excavated from a number of quarries around the world, including Italy, Spain, France, Kurdistan region, and Iran.

•  Polo then moved them to his workshop in Pietrasanta, a beautiful town in Italy best known for marble processing.

•  There, the artist spent months sculpting and carving these sculptures using various tools such as abrasive saws, chisels and hammers, and cutting-edge technology.


It takes a complicated process for the sculptures to become what they look like now, and the artist was involved in every step, including visiting the quarries in Italy to select and extract the rocks. The videos at our exhibition will show you how Polo brought each of them to life.   

3. Reflect: what do they mean?

Now that you’ve had a close look at the sculptures and learnt how they were made, let’s dive deeper and apply meaning to what you see. What do you think the artist is trying to say through his creations? Perhaps their shapes remind you of gongshi, or scholars’ rocks – naturally formed rocks that have been collected and appreciated by Chinese literati since the Tang dynasty. In fact, gongshi is what inspired Polo when he created this particular collection, spurred by his love of stone and passion for literature such as Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities.

Traditionally, scholars’ rocks represent the universe  to the viewer, they resemble natural landscapes, animals and sometimes even human figures. Polo’s Urban Rocks sculptures, on the other hand, take the forms of oneiric, dream-like landscapes. With architectural features that evoke the urban terrain, the sculptures symbolise our modern existence and our relationship with both built and natural environments. To contemplate the dialogue between the nature-made wonders and man-made art, it is a powerful experience traversing the dimension between fantasy and reality, and to ponder the footprint we as humans create to places that we call home.

With this understanding, take a look at the sculptures again:

How do the sculptures make you feel?

Which elements of modern life do these sculptures evoke from you? How?

4. Contemplate: what do you feel?

Art, especially abstract art, is open to interpretation, so appreciating art also means finding meaning in your own experience with the art piece. For Polo, these sculptures may represent modern life, and sculpting is a way for him to initiate dialogues and encourage viewers to explore the connection between sculptures and architecture. But that’s not the only way to interpret the artworks.


Ask yourself:

How do the sculptures make you feel?

What’s your favourite feature about them and why?

How does this particular experience with ArtisTree Selects: Urban Rocks differ from the ones you had with other artworks in the past?


It’s all about finding that personal connection. Through your gaze and contemplation, your interaction with the artwork not only becomes entirely yours, but the experience also evolves each time you return to them from a different perspective. Perhaps, this is what makes abstract art so exciting – even though the sculptures don’t change on their own, your experience with them is never the same.

Photo Credit: Pak Chung

Tickets to ArtisTree Selects: Urban Rocks are available now! Be sure to book your spot and stay tuned for our exclusive interview with Polo Bourieau.   

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