Art Radar launches Hong Kong Street Art Series: interview with co-owner of Above Second

HONG KONG STREET ART URBAN ART SERIES

While the street art gallery scene in Europe has been pushed into maturity by world-renowned and highly sought after urban artists such as Banksy, it is only in recent years that it has started to emerge in Hong Kong. In response to the burgeoning street art scene in the city, Art Radar is launching a Hong Kong Street Art Series to introduce to you Hong Kong galleries which show urban art. With the prominence of a number of local street artists and the founding of at least three urban art galleries in the city in the past couple of years, we will observe how street art is being taken into new contemporary art galleries in Hong Kong.

We introduce this series with a brief interview with Jasper Wong, co-owner of Above Second art space, in which he presents his views on Hong Kong street art and the urban art business, and how the Hong Kong scene compares with other more established communities.

Jasper Wong wouldn’t call himself a street artist, as he doesn’t like being restricted to any particular form of art. After studying graphic design in Portland, illustration at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco and manga (Japanese comic books) in Kyoto Seika University, he returned to Hong Kong to work on various art projects. Earlier this year, he started Above Second with his partner May Wong.

Jasper Wong (middle) at Above Second's September show "Nebula". Image courtesy of Above Second.

Jasper Wong (middle) at Above Second's September show "Nebula". Image courtesy of Above Second.

This collaborative work by Jasper Wong and his half-brother Wu Yue was shown in Above Second at the March show "Wham Bam Thank You Ma'am". Image courtesy of Above Second.

This collaborative work by Jasper Wong and his half-brother Wu Yue was shown in Above Second at the March show "Wham Bam Thank You Ma'am". Image courtesy of Above Second.

What do you think of street art in Hong Kong? How is it different from the street art in Europe?

I know a lot of street artists in Hong Kong. They are all doing their own thing in this city, so I really respect that. They get up all over the city and also pursue other creative outlets such as apparel, etc. They have their own styles. It’s not that much different from the rest of the world. The ones in Hong Kong are influenced by their own cultures growing up in Hong Kong, and [they] respond to it. Other artists around the world do the same and respond to their own individual cultures. Hong Kong is very small though. There needs to be more artists out there pushing like SFZ (Start from zero) and Graphicairlines, Invasion guys like Sinic and Xeme. (I meant the Invasion Magazine crew. Invasion Magazine was started by Sinic. They’re one of the few graffiti magazines in Asia and the only one in Hong Kong.)

What about the sticker culture here? Is it a global culture?

Sticker culture is global. It’s an aspect of street art. People do pieces with spraycans, wheatpaste, stickers, and sometimes even create installations by knitting. It’s about taking art to the streets. There are no rules. Look at Invader – he creates art with ceramic tile.

We have been told that in Hong Kong there are lots of limitations for street art. Do you agree with this statement?

The only limitation is yourself. You can do whatever you want, thanks to the Internet. You can get your art to people all over the world. So I don’t agree. I just agree on the point that people in Hong Kong don’t care about art as much, they think of it as useless. But they don’t see that they are surrounded by art from the clothes they wear to the movies they watch and the chairs they sit on.

But shouldn’t street art be in the street rather than the Internet? Or is it changing now?

I’m not talking about art being on the Internet persay. I’m talking about getting people to know about your art. You use the Internet as a tool to get the word out so people can learn about Hong Kong street art through the use of the Internet. The Internet changed the game  for everything.

How would you describe the status of street art in Hong Kong?

Street art is up and coming out here. There is a small group of individuals seeking to get the word out about it and they get up strong around the city. It’ll take some time for it to be[come] bigger but it’s definitely happening.

What do you think about the street art business in Hong Kong?

Street art can’t be thought of as a business. The words together are an oxymoron. Street art is for the people. That’s why it’s on the street; you can view it for free. Some artist segway their art into products and that is a way to get the word out, an additional channel to inform people about your art. In that case, the business plays a role in supporting the art.

So apart from the street, street art business and the Internet, can you identify other channels for showing or promoting street art?

Everything can be a channel if you’re creative. Of course, there are the traditional ones like magazines and television, but there are no rules.

Who are the important street artists in Hong Kong?

Start from zero and Graphicairlines. Those are the two I know personally and they work hard here in Hong Kong.

Over the coming weeks we will be presenting a number of interviews with urban art gallery owners in Hong Kong. With these we hope to provide an in-depth study of the current and future aims of this constantly evolving community.

CBKM/KN/KCE

Related Topics: Hong Kong venues, street art, interviews

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