“Conflict Geometries” by Elizabeth Briel

Conflict Geometries
by Elizabeth Briel


Bricks glued together across the street from Sham Shui Po police station.

We have an idea, a feeling, of what our urban spaces should look like.

The textures and materials they’re made of are designed specifically of and for that climate, that place.

Drainage, porosity, reflectiveness, everything taken into consideration.

And when there’s a rift or an alien element we are thrown off in a visceral way.

I paint the disorientation felt when I realised the paving beneath my feet glistened but was not wet; there was nothing natural about it.

Beneath my feet was a visible symbol of fear, of mistrust, of violence wanted/desired and halted.

It made me so uncomfortable that though the original glue was clear, I render it in garish colours that ooze and pop from beneath the bricks like the toxic thing it is.

When I look down at the glued paving under my toes I am stunned, it feels like something alien has come to invade the ground beneath our feet.

Artist’s Note: “Violence Contained” is part of the Conflict Geometries series-in-progress. Thanks to Noelle Ng of TongLau Space for participating in the photograph. Description: Lead and bone, metal and cobalt, oil and acrylic on canvas, 20 x 20cm, 2019.  


I walk past gates locked by a city against its own people.

Gates woven with white flowers, memorialising those rumoured to have died there.

Gates to what was once the world’s finest transportation network, pride of the millions who use it daily.

As I walk by, I look at the locked gates which an hour later will witness fires set by protesters, and I decide to paint the deep red visible inside of those gates, that trademark MTR colour.

So at CN Square I choose two shades of cadmium, a brilliant and toxic red. My paintings are not made of oil or acrylic on canvas (though they contain both).

The colours are chosen not just for how they look but for the elements they contain. For me the particles they’re made of hold much of their conceptual meaning, part of the universe is inside of them.

Artist’s Note: “Locked City” is part of the Conflict Geometries series-in-progress. Thanks to Noelle Ng of TongLau Space for agreeing to carry the artwork for the photo. Description: Cadmium and bone, oil and acrylic on canvas, 35 x 50cm, 2019.


The protests reveal many things about our city which usually remain hidden.

Skeletal. They were there all along, waiting to appear.

I’m fascinated by this glimpse at a structure behind the actions of our everyday lives. Every morning and evening signs like this direct millions of us where we need to go.

Now made visible are the complexities, the hundreds of tiny lights inside each of the dozen or more signs like this inside each MTR Station.

Artist’s Note: MTR arrow/direction sign, smashed by protesters near the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Graphite and bone on canvas, 30 x 30 cm. “MTR Arrow” is part of the Conflict Geometries series-in-progress. 

Elizabeth Briel was born in California. She received a BFA in Painting from the University of Minnesota, and has lived and worked over a decade in Greater China. Her prints, paintings, and installations deal with the sensation of belonging nowhere yet being equally (un)comfortable anywhere. They begin with materials imbued with meaning—papers devastated by a typhoon or made of military uniforms, paints of bone and lead—and frequently incorporate architectural elements. She has exhibited in four continents, runs the Creative Kowloon project space, and works as artist-in-residence with the Yew Chung Education Foundation in Hong Kong.

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