Installation view of ADRIAN WONG and SHANE ASPEGREN’s “Cromniomancy” at Rossi & Rossi Hong Kong, 2016. 


Rossi & Rossi Hong Kong
Hong Kong

Upon entering Rossi & Rossi’s Hong Kong gallery, one is welcomed by a combination of ambiguous, low-pitched sounds that seem to allude to a world of tranquility and spirituality. Indeed, these sounds are fitting to the exhibition on display, “Cromniomancy,” as the featured artists, Hong Kong-based artists Adrian Wong and Shane Aspegren, are inspired by Cymatics—the study of wave phenomena—and the sacred practice of divination. It is undeniable that the visual and audible attributes of their artwork accentuates the metaphysical exploration of cymatics, as vibrant hues of pinks, blues and purples depict the geometric patterns extracted from sound waves. One can also draw spiritual parallels between the imagery formed by waves to the exhibition’s name “Cromniomancy,” a term used to describe the ancient practice of prophesizing through onions, which, like sound waves, possess a natural repetitive pattern that is at times used to symbolize the eternal. Through the themes of cromniomancy, cymatics and divination, Wong and Aspegren invite visitors to explore their whimsical visual articulations of the intangible and spiritual.

While viewers’ auditory senses are heightened upon first entering the space, they are simultaneously stimulated visually by a series of psychedelic prints. The artists’ direct and scientific labeling of works by its sound frequency clearly illustrates how different ranges of pitch produce a particular sound wave and, thus, a unique visual pattern. Here, one cannot avoid the reference to German physicist and musician Ernst Chladni (1756–1827) and his technique for visualizing the vibrations of sound. Known as “Chladni Plates,” a metal surface is lightly covered in sand and bowed on its edge to show various modes of vibration. Whilst Chladni’s technique illustrates the invisible force field of vibrational energy through sand, Wong and Aspegren heightens this intangible quality by using hypnotic colors to depict the sound waves. This can be seen in 1236 Hz – 4695 Hz (2016), which uses a combination of a purple, electric-blue and a striking hot-pink to illustrate the sound wave created by the eponymous frequency.

ADRIAN WONG and SHANE ASPEGREN, 1236 Hz – 4695 Hz, 2016, archival pigment print, 70 cm x 50 cm. Courtesy the artists and Rossi & Rossi Hong Kong. 

ADRIAN WONG and SHANE ASPEGREN Ceremonial Doily, 2016, archival pigment print mounted on aluminum, wood, speakers and electrical components, 91.5 × 91.5 × 13 cm. Looped sound recording: 15 min 28 sec. Courtesy the artists and Rossi & Rossi Hong Kong. 

Building upon the visual representation of sound waves, another group of prints sharing similar aesthetic values appears in the next room of the gallery. With these works, however, a continuous, low-frequency sound recording accompanies each work. One would expect an overwhelming mesh of incompatible noises, but, surprisingly, the collection of melodies come together to create an audible harmony and is reminiscent to mantric chants one can hear at religious temples. In Ceremonial Doily (2016), Aspegren and Wong seem to successfully overlay two different patterns emitted by sound waves. Complimented by the bellowing sounds within the exhibition, the ethereal prints present a hypnotic and mystical environment for the viewer.

Installation view of ADRIAN WONG and SHANE ASPEGREN’s “Cromniomancy” at Rossi & Rossi Hong Kong, 2016. (Center) Gong Rack, 2016, 37 painted gongs, rope, steel frame, h: 153 cm, d: 168 cm. Courtesy the artists and Rossi & Rossi Hong Kong. 

Divination and cymatics are also explored in sculptural forms, such as in Gong Rack (2016), which presents variously sized gongs, held and positioned by a circular metallic structure. Whilst the gongs may be interpreted as the instrument used to create the bellowing sound waves, it seems to additionally allude to their purpose in temples, where they are utilized for announcements, ceremonies and worship. Therefore, the use of the gong unwittingly links to the exhibition’s cymatic theme and the idea of seeking knowledge through spiritual means. 

Dotting the gallery floors are thick woven rugs pieces—Standing WaveSolfeggio and The Progenitor of Modern Onions (all 2016)—which entice viewers to examine the playful patterns on them more closely. While two of the rugs are reminiscent of patterns that sound waves create, The Progenitor of Modern Onions links more literally to “Crominancy,” as it mimics the form of an onion’s cross section. Despite it having obvious associations to an onion, the imagery on the rug can also be interpreted as outward ripples of sonic vibrations.

Wong and Aspegren successfully create an immersive experience that visually articulates such esoteric subjects as divination and cymatics. Their documentation of sound and sound-wave patterns, transform into mesmerizing images, which generate their own spiritual and supernatural elements. What makes “Crominancy" stand out is how the artists are able to take cymatics, a scientific and factual subject, and translate it into something rather beautiful, while simultaneously inducing an experience that heightens our senses—perhaps into the realm of the spiritual.

ADRIAN WONG and SHANE ASPEGREN, Solfeggio, 2016, wool, d: 300 cm. Courtesy the artists and Rossi & Rossi Hong Kong.
ADRIAN WONG and SHANE ASPEGREN, Solfeggio, 2016, wool, d: 300 cm. Courtesy the artists and Rossi & Rossi Hong Kong.