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by Sin Sin Man

It was night. The windows were open. A balmy breeze came in from the ocean and carried on its wings a black butterfly the size of my hand. It sat down on my table. It hovered over my calligraphy brushes. It danced close to my head for hours. A moment like this evokes spiritual closeness; always has in the history of mankind. The abrupt, jumping and unpredictable flight path of an artful insect crossing with a human who is lost in thought, late a night, all alone – and therefore hypersensitive if not vulnerable. A moment like this cannot be coincidence, we think.

And so, I too fell victim to this unprovoked romantic dance, which you could call an interspecies affair of the mind. This pleasurable superstitious feeling also deepened, when unexpected circumstances allowed me the next day to open my gallery. That was ten years ago. Magic was confirmed, meaning assumed and logic put aside. For instance, that a butterfly is only drawn to humans because of their salty skin, as scientists tell us. Or that the insect was awake– because of the storm – since butterflies normally sleep at night as humans do, but on the other hand I was not asleep either.

And how can I accept a scientific explanation only, when 10 years later I was working on my gallery anniversary catalogue and a butterfly visited again: through the window, at night, big and black. Any repeat of a magic moment – true or imagined – confirms that our existence is more than being born, staying alive as long as possible to die anyway after all. In ancient Greek the word for butterfly was “psyche” – soul, spirit. The gracious drifting beauty became a symbol for the vastness of our unconscious universe. This brings me to Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung and art. There is a famous story when he told a patient of his to describe her last dream. It was during therapy session at night and the patient said, her dream was about a beautiful golden scarab – a very rare insect in Switzerland’s cold season. The moment she finished her sentence, a big golden scarab flew against Jung’s glass cabinet. Jung picked it up and later wrote about his concept of synchronicity and how coincidence connects our unconscious world with our perceived reality.

The same goes for art. “10 Years After” exhibits objects, cabinets that enshrine our unconscious. But they let open ways so that an artist’s butterfly or golden scarab can enter reality. In this book I have conceptually visualised a butterfly’s metamorphoses – the various stages of its development: First the artists created cabinets. Then they turned them into drawings. And finally I added my interpretation, made sketches of their drawings and combined them with Chinese titles. Here and then you might discover the contours of a butterfly. It it’s coincidence you can decide for yourself.

Hong Kong, August 2013