Vale Hiram To – Beloved artist, writer, designer, Barbara Streisand fan and friend, Hong Kong’s Oscar Wilde, Brisbane’s Morrisey
B. 11 July 1964 – D. 12 March 2017.
Sadly artist, writer and friend Hiram To has died in Hong Kong from asthma related causes at age 52.
Hiram spent many happy topsy-turvy years living in Brisbane during the 1980’s and 199os in the company of friends and family. Hiram was an active participant of the artist-run scene that proliferated during that time where he formed many life long friendships. This period was a time of feeling conflicted, living between cultures in Hong Kong and Brisbane and coming out in Brisbane as an artist and as a sensitive emotionally intelligent young gay man in an oppressive racist homophobic redneck culture at the height of the global HIV AIDs pandemic.
Hiram’s life long passion for style, grace, design, fashion and the art of dress was also a recurring theme throughout his work, and in this work above, Comme, 1987, a monochromatic paean to the Japanese fashion label popular during the 1980s and a part of the post-apocalyptic east west fusion unfolding at the time.
Hiram’s work was erudite, witty, playful, queer and at times obscurantist. In this work the topsy-turvy image, the glossy zine advertising is subverted and is both a reference to his sense of place and of belonging to both Hong Kong and to Brisbane Australia and a subtle reference to the gay gaze and the myriad ways it was contesting ways of seeing, being and knowing in zine culture, in popular culture, music and in contemporary art.
In this photograph, Hiram is at an opening at John Mills National, a fabulous artist-run space in Brisbane in 1986-1987 in the vibrant Charlotte Street arts precinct.
When Hiram and I spoke recently he said of all the photos of him circulating in the last few years from the 1980s and 1990s that he really loved this one because to his way of seeing he looked like the musician Morrisey; an Irish migrant with a passion for kitchen sink realism, punk and celibacy and who formed the Manchester-based band The Smiths with friend Johnny Marr before he went onto a long solo career, Hiram loved The Smiths and in particular the way Morrisey used both an ethereal baritone voice and an alluring falsetto to great effect.
We will grow this humble tribute page over time with commentaries, memories, photos and images to remember the significant contribution Hiram made in both Australia and in Hong Kong and the dance between these two places that formed the foundation of so much of his astonishing life’s work.
Kindly add your memories and tributes here below this cascading photo essay tribute in the commentaries thread…