Friday, March 22, 2019

“Life’s too short for sad art” // A preview of HKwalls 2019

(As you know from my previous post, I’m in Hong Kong for Art Basel right now. Hello from the true city that never sleeps! Upon my arrival last night, I had a late dinner with my paternal grandma and uncles at nearly 10pm on a weeknight in a food court in Mongkok, Kowloon, and it was still packed. I love it.)

I write this with multiple cocktails* in my system. *(Went with my old favorite: Old-Fashioneds. Thank you to HKwalls for treating us!) Today I had the pleasure of attending the HKwalls Media Preview, in which I, well, previewed the 2019 edition of Hong Kong’s annual street art festival, which has impressively expanded this year to include a multi-floor alternative art space called The Clubhouse—renovated from a traditional tong lau, which had previously fallen into disrepair, to be an inclusive venue where people can view art, make art, and hang out—as well as many other public interactive (also my favorite) art activities that will take place this week; got a [hot and humid (not that I’m complaining considering the brutal winter we had in the Midwest)] guided tour of all the art to come throughout the Wan Chai neighborhood, where the festival will be held this year; and, alongside the participating street artists, was treated to a sit-down family-style dinner (which none of us anticipated, going, “I didn’t know we were getting a full meal…”) and drinks at an Italian American restaurant (said one of the artists to me, “It’s not like there’s any pizza or Italians in Chicago…”).

Waiting on the 3rd floor of The Clubhouse before the HKwalls 2019
Media Preview. Wan Chai, Hong Kong.

In The Clubhouse, we watched artist talks and demonstrations, including a hands-on encaustic painting workshop by Elizabeth Briel, who uses local beeswax. You all know how much I love data and mapping, so Elizabeth’s mention of a project of hers caught my attention; she has encaustic pieces of photos she took all over Hong Kong, each a square foot in size, and she’s selling each one for the same price of real estate per sq. ft. in the corresponding location where she took each picture.

Elizabeth Briel's encaustic workshop, HKwalls 2019 Media Preview
at The Clubhouse. Wan Chai, Hong Kong.

(She herself lives in a 150 sq. ft. apartment in Sham Shui Po, Kowloon. Honestly, though? Despite the size—and despite my admitted initial reaction of “That’s crazy!”—it sounds nice; it’s a rounded building, and her outer wall is all windows. To compare, my dad and his brothers grew up in the famed Shek Kip Mei public housing projects, where multiple families resided in 120 sq. ft. concrete units, with the only window in each one looking out onto a narrow corridor. Like I said in that classic blog post I just linked to, however, they were happy. And now I truly digress.)

Erig Ng, HKwalls 2019 Media Preview at The Clubhouse.
Wan Chai, Hong Kong.

Another talk by artist Eric Ng involved a fun and wholesome little skit featuring “Mr. Bean.” In keeping with all that’s good and pure, around the corner outside, San Francisco-based street artist fnnch was spray-painting one of his Honey Bears. “Honey bears make me happy,” he explained. “Life’s too short for sad art.”

fnnch, HKwalls 2019. Wan Chai, Hong Kong.

Over 30 street artists will be creating colorful murals for the festival this week. One piece that’s already been completed is INSA’s “gif-iti” mural; if you download his app and view his piece through it, the image moves!

INSA, HKwalls 2019. Wan Chai, Hong Kong.

Towards the end of the dinner and drinks, since I happen to be wearing my Logan Square Blue Line CTA station t-shirt and carrying my Block Club Chicago Founding Member tote bag (hey, being Chicagoan and proud is a thing, man), fnnch caught me by surprise when he turned to me and went, “So, Chicago!” and proceeded to tell me he knows Logan and chatted with me about the Chicago places where he’s painted murals. (It’s always wild and beautiful and wild to talk about ­­­the familiarity of home out of context halfway around the world.) I learned something today; apparently, San Francisco doesn’t really have a street art scene (particularly of the under-40 generation), which is good news for fnnch and, like, his four peers so they’ve pretty much monopolized that area. (And that was a tangent about being an artist in San Francisco.)

HKwalls officially begins tomorrow (March 23), with an opening party at The Clubhouse (6 Steward Rd.). Check their website for a mural map, a schedule of events such as workshops, and more. Everything is free and open to the public.

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