Vale Hiram To – Beloved artist, writer, designer, Barbara Streisand fan and friend, Hong Kong’s Oscar Wilde, Brisbane’s Morrisey

Hiram To

B. 11 July 1964 – D. 12 March 2017.

Sadly artist, writer and friend Hiram To has died in Hong Kong 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.

Hiram TO, Club World.
PHOTOGRAPHER: Unknown, Artist Hiram TO, 1986 John Mills National, Artist-run, Brisbane

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…

Download HIRAM TO - CV (PDF)
Installation View, Hiram To and Diena Georgetti, Umrib Envoy, That  Contemporary Art Space, One Night 1987 PHOTO Hiram To
Installation View, Hiram To and Diena Georgetti, Umrib Envoy, That Contemporary Art Space, One Night 1987, Charlotte Street Precinct, Brisbane PHOTO Hiram To
Breathing Concrete, Artist-Run, Public Art, 1986, Brisbane (L-R) Hiram To, Adam Boyd, Paul Andrew PHOTO: Hiram To and his trusty tripod -Breathing Concrete, The Andrew Warhola Memorial Show, Victoria Bridge, South Bank, Brisbane, Australia (curator)
Isn’t artist-run,artist Hiram To with artist Lucinda Elliot, circa 1993 Brisbane PHOTO: Unknown
(L-R) Writer, editor Sarah Follent and Hiram To, Fortitude Valley 2014
Imagine THAT, M.O.C.A (L-R) Artists John Waller, Hiram To and Brian Doherty looking at a work by artist Wayne Smith, 1987, Brisbane
Hiram TO; "A batch of Polaroids from early 1994, working images for my show at Camden Arts Centre in London, with Alice-Ann, Sarah Follent, Brian Doherty, Lucinda Elliott and others"
Artists Hiram To and Paul Andrew, That Space, 1997
Artist Hiram To and author academic artist Urszula Szulakowska, Leeds UK, 1991
Belles Lettres, Curators Hiram To and Urszula Szulakowska, John Mills National, Artist-Run, 1986 - and this would be a fabulous project to re-iterate as a tribute memorial show
Drained (Compulsive Surveillance) Hiram To, 1987, to live in Brisbane during the 1980s was about being as tough, resilient and durable as paper cement…
Aglassofwater at Milburn, 1990 Respect, Milburn + Arte, Brisbane (curator) VACHE for AIDS, AGLASSOFWATER at Site, Brisbane, Australia with artists Scott Redford, Luke Roberts and others
Hiram To, quote 24 August 2013 about this wee work – Miss You Terribly: 1995 “On my last Australia Council meeting trip for the Young People Art Project in Adelaide. Cards created from the DIY business cards machine at the hotel.”