Penticton ancestors is a wonderful sculpture of three large figures on the shore of Okanagan Lake in the small city of Penticton, British Columbia. It was created by sculptor Michael Dennis and was installed in 2009. The figures represent the spirits of the past, and they do indeed make me think of benevolent ancient spirits that are there to guide and protect.
The sculpture is a good example of public art that perfectly matches the surroundings. The figures are large enough that they aren’t dwarfed by the lake and hills in the background and the material—wood—is a good match for the natural scenery. Because they are carved from cedar, the figures will eventually change from brown to grey as time passes.
The artist, Michael Dennis, lives on Denman Island BC. His sculptures of human figures—like the ones shown here—are smooth, flowing and minimalist. He originally worked in academia in the field of physiology before devoting himself to sculpting, so it is interesting that someone so familiar with the intricate details of the human form would adopt such a minimalist approach to sculpting that form. His brief artist’s statement sums up his approach well
SCULPTING THE SHADOWS OF ANCESTORS
I try to capture the essence of human gesture
from a tree
using only the minimum definition required
That in one piece the viewer may see
both human form
and form of tree
We do not need details of feature to respond
Consider the essence of the female form
the mother we know
the lover we seek
How few lines it takes to see her
The colors and light in the photographs are a little unusual. That is because there was a lot going on in the sky when I was taking the photos—a sunset, a slight haze from a distant forest fire and the sudden appearance of storm clouds over the city. The sky over the lake looked like this:
Here are some of the best artworks from HKWALLS 2018, an annual street art festival in Hong Kong. The event was organized by HKWALLS (hkwalls.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of street art and culture in the community. The event organizers matched property and business owners (who provided the walls) to local and overseas artists (who provided the talent). This year, the event took place in the adjacent districts of Central, Sheung Wan and Sai Ying Pun. Let’s look at twelve of the works.
1. Artist: Elsa Jean de Dieu (France/HK)
Originally from France, artist Elsa Jean de Dieu has been living in Hong Kong since 2008. Together with her team at her atelier—Elsa Jeandedieu Studio—she specializes in bespoke wall art, murals and furniture design. Here she has created a striking portrait with a positive vibe.
In the past, Hong Kong’s street art scene was mainly an underground affair, with artists preferring to remain anonymous and working as secretly and quickly as possible to put up mainly tags (quickly scrawled signatures), throw-ups (larger-filled-in signatures), paste-ups (pre-printed art that is glued to the wall) and, if time and talent allowed, wildstyle (multi-colored 3D-style signatures). There simply weren’t that many pieces (the kind of work featured on this page).
By matching up business and artists beforehand, HKWALLS gives street artists time and space to bring their visions to life. There are now a lot more eye-catching pieces around town. A lot of these have been done via the HKWALLS project, but many have been done independently, like this mural by Elsa Jean de Dieu outside the Uma Nota restaurant in Central.
Though not part of the HKWALLS project, this mural, along with works by other artists such as Vhils, Cyril Delettre, Matt Gondek and ONI, is a good example of how the street art scene in Hong Kong has evolved largely due to the festival’s influence.
This attractive mural is by Cinta Vidal, an artist based just outside of Barcelona who specializes in paintings and murals of gravity-defying, jumbled-up living spaces. The buildings here, with their flaking grey exteriors, cables and profusion of air-conditioners seem to be inspired by Hong Kong’s older tenement buildings (known as ‘Tong Lau’), which can feel kind of gravity-defying and jumbled up even without an artistic re-interpretation.
In an interview with Nathan Spoor, the artist describes how her paintings represent the disconnect between reality and perception:
With these un-gravity constructions, I want to show that we live in one world, but we live in it in very different ways – playing with everyday objects and spaces, placed in impossible ways to express that many times, the inner dimension of each one of us does not match the mental structures of those around us. The architectural spaces and day-to-day objects are part of a metaphor of how difficult it is to fit everything that shapes our daily space: our relationships, work, ambitions, and dreams. (hifructose.com/2015/04/24/exclusive-interview-cinta-vidal-agullo-discusses-her-paintings-of-inverted-architecture/)
This mural, tucked in a narrow alleyway, depicts what looks like a typical Hong Kong night scene—taxis, wet pavement and glowing neon signs. However, in Hong Kong the taxis are red. And the menacing-looking geisha-android lurking in a dark doorway at the bottom right of the mural is not a common sight.
A lot of Dan Kitchener’s work is influenced by Japanese culture, but it is a vision of Japanese culture that has been filtered through the visual aesthetics of sci-fi works like the original Blade Runner movie and Ghost in the Shell anime, both of whose urban settings were based at least in part on Hong Kong.
Sheep Chen is an artist from Jiaxing in Zhejiang, China. This bright and colorful mural is a painting of girl blowing out a candle. Sheep’s stated aim in drawing the portrait is straightforward: he hopes to being joy and happiness to people. As you walk towards the work, which is high on the side of a building, it is partially blocked by trees, with the leaves providing a nice frame for the painting.
Brazilian artist Alex Senna creates large, minimalist black and white murals of people going about their daily lives. His style is influenced by comics and caricatures and his portraits have a retro feel to them. The narrow, vertical eyes of the woman in this portrait are a characteristic of his style. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the artist’s colorblindness, his works focus on shape and form rather than color.
ONEQ is a Japanese artist who creates stylized paintings of sexy and glamorous pin-up models. Pin-up art is mainly associated with posters of the 1940s and 1950s, but is still referenced nowadays in the retro/sultry style of artists such as Lana Del Ray and Dita Von Teese. In ONEQ’s portraits, the vampish style is dialed up a few notches—full red lips are extra fuller and extra red, wavy hair is extra wavy, high cheekbones are extra high, long fingers and nails are extra long, and curvy proportions are extra curvy. In an interview with Evan Senn, the artist states:
Alexis Diaz is a Puerto Rican artist best known for his detailed murals of chimerical creatures. One of his paintings, for example, depicts a cross between an octopus and an elephant). The creatures are meticulously hand painted using tiny black brushstrokes. Most of the inhabitants of Alex Diaz’s painted menagerie are his own whimsical creations; however, this one—with its antlers, hooves and scaled body—is a chimerical creature from Chinese mythology: the Qilin, which is associated with luck, good omens, protection, prosperity, success, and longevity.
Gus Eagleton is an Australian artist. His studio work is varied, but when creating street art, he normally focuses on portraits. These murals tend to feature one or two dominant colors (like the yellow and green in this painting) and often incorporate flowers or floral motifs.
The numbers and Chinese characters in this mural are based on real-estate ads. At present the average apartment cost in the territory is over 18 times the median income, pushing home ownership beyond the reach of the average person. Hong Kong is a fun and beautiful place, but for a lot of people here, the cost of living (particularly the exorbitant rents and mortgages) is an ever-present concern.
I like the way this painting adds a dash of color and nature to the street without drawing attention to itself. Aside from the red wingtips, the colors are muted and the bird’s brownish grey plumage blends in well with the surroundings.
Location: 63 Third St, Sai Ying Pun (The Hideout Coffee House)
11. Artist: Bo Law (HK)
This wall painting by local artist Bo Law is wildly imaginative. From a distance only the whale breaching the surface stands out, but when you move closer, you start to see erupting volcanoes. rocket ships, skyscrapers and all manner of creatures—a star-eyed genie floating out from someone’s broken head, a Godzilla-look-a-like wading across the harbor, an antlered creature slouching forlornly atop a building.
Across the street from Bo Law’s wild mural is Chinese artist Sik’s nicely executed piece of an astronaut, hamburger and zero gravity.
Location: Alley by 248 Queen’s Rd W, Sai Ying Pun
Coming Soon: Part 2
This article will feature the works in Sheung Wan.
FWTV – On The Road – HK WALLS – Behind the scenes of HONG KONG’s leading STREET ART FESTIVAL
by FifthWallTv (features interviews with some of the artists)
by HK Walls (festival highlights)
Which works do you like best? Why do those ones appeal to you?
In this article, I’ve focused on the benefits of hooking up artists with businesses like restaurants, health food shops and cosmetics stores. What are the possible negative effects of this kind of sponsorship?
In this festival, artists from overseas seemed to far outnumber local artists? Do you think more effort should be made to reach out to local artists or do you prefer the more international approach adopted by HKWALLS 2018?
Sketch a wall near your home, school or office. Design an artwork that would go on the wall and add it to your sketch.
Taiwanese artist Ju Ming (朱銘) is best known for his Tai Chi sculptures, but he also has a more colorful and whimsical side which comes to the fore in his Living World series.
Sculptures from Ju Ming’s Tai Chi Series
What I love about Ju Ming’s Tai Chi sculptures is the sense of balance between the heavy, blocky, rock-like shapes and the clear, light and graceful sense of the implied movement. And what better subject is there for focusing on balance and movement than the gentle, flowing martial art of T’ai chi ch’üan? It’s a perfect match!
There are two scupltures by Ju Ming outside Exchange Square in Hong Kong: Single Whip Dip (1986) and the smaller Tai Chi (1991).
Ju Ming was born in 1938 in Miaoli County in Japanese-occupied Taiwan and started his career as a sculptor at the age of 15 when he started work as an apprentice to Lee Chin-chuan, a master woodcarver at the Temple of the Empress of Heaven. After finishing his apprenticeship and opening his own studio, he became an apprentice to another sculptor, Yang Yu-yu, who was also the one who advised Ju Ming to take up Tai chi as a way of developing mental and physical discipline. Ju Ming did follow this advice and he was inspired to incorporate the martial art’s forms into his artwork. He has continued developing this series over the years by working with different materials and techniques.
Ju Ming’s sculpture Taichi: Sparring (Harmony), which is outside the Bank of China building in Hong Kong, is just what the title says: two tai chi practitioners sparring. Most people have seen basic Tai Chi routines; however, there are also more advanced routines involving swords and staffs as well as a two-person training routine called pushing hands (推手). Moving past that, advanced Tai Chi practitioners may practise a kind of martial arts sparring that also involves strikes, blocks and grappling techniques. This is the kind of training shown in the sculpture.
The sculpture was made from bronze using a technique that involved creating molds from carved styrofoam pieces. The end result is a sculpture that looks like it has been roughly hewn from slabs or rock.
Sculptures from the Living World Series
The sculptures in the Living World series are snapshots of daily life that range from a boring wait on a bench to a pleasant family outing to an adventurous skydive. His works invites viewers to participate. Passers-by will often get into the scene—jumping into a queue of umbrella wielding commuters or joining a formation of sculpted soldiers.
These sculptures were part (the outdoor part) of an exhibition of Ju Ming’s work—Sculpting the Living World—that was held at the Hong Kong Art Museum in 2014. The exhibition featured works on loan from the the Ju Ming Museum in Jinshan, just outside of Taipei.
Ju Ming began work on the Living World series in the 1980 and has continued to the present.The sculpture shown below is entitled Lining Up and depicts people queuing up on a chilly, rainy day. The different postures, clothing and actions of the people in the queue can reveal a lot about each individual.
For example, the man in beige, who is wearing what appears to be a matching Chinese-style trousers and jacket set, seems quite stylish and traditional. With his scarf, hat and umbrella, he has taken care to protect himself from the elements. He has edged up as close as possible to to the man in front of him to get a surreptitious look at the newspaper.
The exhibition also featured bronze sculptures of three rows of soldiers standing at ease. Though at first glance, they seem very similar, the soldiers are all individuals—they are of different heights, have different face shapes, seem to be of different races and there are variations in their uniform, equipment and rifles.
These soldiers are part of a much larger set of over three hundred sculptures located at the the Ju Ming Museum. The whole set of soldiers, which represent different eras and branches of the armed forces, was created during a four-year period.
Here are a gymnast on the high bar and a motocross enthusiast.
In the following photo, a family investigates a sculpture entitled The Whole Table—a group of people are sharing a moment together with a representation of a group of people sharing a moment together.
For the last sculpture on this page, we are back to the blocky, rock-like style of the Tai chi sculptures, but the theme here is familial love.
The pride and love of the father is clearly visible even though his face consists of just two tiny indentations for eyes and a line for a mouth. So much emotion is expressed in just the posture and that simple expression.
Ju Ming has an intuitive style of sculpting and is deeply influenced by the material he is working with. In a video interview with RTHK (the video is embedded below), he states:
Every material has its own characteristic, an irreplaceable characteristic. When I do wood carving, after a while it will raise all sorts of questions telling me how to carve it. But then one day, it will stop telling me these sorts of things. so I change and work with another material such as stainless steel, and it tells me different kinds of stories.These are the things that I need to absorb. You have to know that what the stainless steel is telling you is different from what the wood is telling me. What wood can do, stainless steel cannot. This is what I am after.
The Works: Ju Ming – The Living World (an in-depth look at the artist and his Living World Series) by RTHK
What do you think of the works in the Tai Chi series?
What do you think of the works in the Living World series?
Why is it important for an artist to experiment with different materials and techniques?
Create two artworks. For the first one, paint, draw, sketch, photograph or sculpt a scene that captures a moment in modern life. Focus on the people in that scene. For the second artwork, try to capture the same scene using a different medium. What effect did the choice of medium have on your creative process?