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Culture & Leisure

HKWALLS Festival 2024 brings vibrant colours to the city

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: CHAN Wing Yiu、WONG Hong NiEdited by: Aruzhan ZEINULLA
  • 2024-04-01

HKWALLS Festival 2024 unites global artists and the local community in a celebration of street art across Kowloon and Hong Kong Island until March 31, showcasing the work of over 30 artists from around the world.  Artists painted their work on donated walls, and people can stop by and appreciate the progress of their work to promote street art in Hong Kong.  Jonathan Pauwels, known as Jaune, a 38-year-old street artist from Belgium, was invited to paint for this festival.  “In Belgium, the street art is more savage, a bit more like everywhere and without control,” Jaune said.  “I feel like it is more difficult to make street art in Hong Kong as it is most likely to be illegal here. It’s more like I was hiding to create my artwork.” The festival not only serves as a platform for established artists but also fosters emerging talent. Ailina Kabdullina, a 19-year-old visual art student from Kazakhstan studying at Hong Kong Baptist University, joined as a mentee to support Jaune during the festival.  Kabdullina said working on a narrow street bustling with passersby was a remarkable experience and was inspired by the genuine interest people have in street art. Tim Lam, 38, another mentee at HKWALLS, said she joined the event to learn and try more about street art while collaborating with famous artists.  "It's a rare opportunity for me to work alongside the street art community," Lam said. "What really stood out to me," Kabdullina said, "was that as mentees, we weren't just assisting the artists. We were encouraged to actively seek knowledge and insight from our mentors." A total of 20 mentees are involved in this year’s festival. “After assisting the artists and learning more about their techniques, their life hacks, it was great to create something on our …

Culture & Leisure

Art Basel Hong Kong full-scale returns with an objective turnover

The 11th edition of Art Basel Hong Kong was held from Mar. 28 to 30 at the Convention and Exhibition Center, with more than 80,000 visitors and totaling $39.4 million, recording a 4% increase in global turnover. Art Basel 2024 showcased the work from 242 of the world's leading galleries from 40 countries and territories.  Lu Caiyun, Chairman of UBS Wealth Management Asia, said in a public address that art market sales in Mainland China and Hong Kong reached approximately US$12.2 billion, a 9% increase year-on-year. "While the cloud of high interest rates, inflation and political instability continues to slow down growth at the top end of the market, buyers are particularly active in the lower price points,” said Clare McAndrew, the founder of Arts Economics.  This year, 23 galleries from Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas exhibited in Hong Kong for the first time, with an increase of 65 galleries over 2023, according to Art Basel Hong Kong. “Our goal is to connect visitors from around the world with our home, Hong Kong, through the collaboration and innovation inspired by art and artists," said the director of Art Basel Hong Kong Sylvia Lok in public address.  

Culture & Leisure

Art Department: The story behind the visuals

Irving Cheung Yee-man, a 40-year-old  film production designer and art director, once worked on film production in the Shaw Studio for 69 hours straight without sleeping. She would keep working but not be conscious about what she was doing. “Why am I still working?” was the realisation when her consciousness was delayed. For Cheung, working in the film art department is exciting, despite the high-pressure schedule and irregular working time.  “Few other industries have such a job that people working for it can tell others, ‘hey, I just witnessed an explosion today, or a bank robbery, even flesh-cutting from a corpse’,” Cheung said.  In Hong Kong, the rising popularity of recent domestic films has brought more attention to the film art department, which is often hidden behind the media spotlight and the cheers of moviegoers. As the directorial debut of award-winning visual effects specialist Ng Yuen-fai, the action sci-fi film Warriors of Future has become the highest-grossing Chinese-language film in Hong Kong of all time, taking over HK$80 million at the Hong Kong box office, according to data released by the official social accounts of this film.  With expensive and time-consuming production, Warriors of Future has impressed audiences with its rich visual effects and sparked a media discussion on Hong Kong’s special effects filmmaking.  To achieve the artistic presentation of a film, the art department is responsible for creating the overall visual look of a film in collaboration with the director. An art department is supervised by a production designer whose job can be divided into three stages: pre-production, scene creation and post-production. Production designers will discuss and co-create the backgrounds of the film characters at the pre-production stage when the script has yet to be developed. Then, the production designer will lead the art director and costume designer in …

Culture & Leisure

Hong Kong film industry questions for its revival era

In October, two local films, "Warriors of Future" and "Table For Six", broke over HK$70 million at the box office while some movie related people wonder whether the Hong Kong film industry can have its second glorious "1980-90" era.  "As time passes and more significant events occur, there will inevitably be more compelling movie ideas.," Luk said.   "Warriors of Future", starring Louis Koo, Lau Ching Wan, and Carina Lau, is the biggest movie ever made in Hong Kong while "table of six" became the top Hong Kong-produced comedy at the box office in Hong Kong in 2022. Luk said social events can inspire new themes to Hong Kong films and create a craze. For example, a 2002 film "Internal Affairs" created with the background after Hong Kong's handover in 1997. Hong Kong is also attempting to produce a wider genre of films. Over half of the films with the gangster genres in the 1970s to 1990s to kung fu films such as “Ip Man” series from 2008 to 2019, the Hong Kong films mostly are about themes of police and bandits. “By introducing science fiction films to the local market, "Warriors of the Future" has made an important first step for Hong Kong's film industry,” said Luk. Chan Hoi-king, 21, a former film student in Hong Kong Baptist University, now studying at the University of Birmingham thinks the Hong Kong film industry is expected to revive. “The government has begun to face up to the development of the film industry, and the rebirth of Hong Kong film is expected,” said Chan. The Culture, Sports and Tourism Bureau has set aside approximately HK$240 million to promote the development of Hong Kong films. Eligible film projects will receive a maximum of HK$9 million in funding under the new measure "Asian Cultural Exchange …

Culture & Leisure

Local art gains more attraction while censorship fears continue

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Aruzhan ZEINULLA、Dhuha AL-ZAIDIEdited by: Nicholas Shu
  • 2022-12-23

A typical day for Ka Yu Ng, a 32-year-old independent artist in Hong Kong, starts by reflecting her anxious thoughts, embracing her sensitive emotions; feelings of vulnerability that she once hated and tried so hard to supress growing up. She spends most days on Peng Chau Island in her small studio, embraced by the melodic instrumentals playing in the background, engulfed by the scent of sandalwood incense, as she channels her feelings into art, words, and music.  Away from the hectic city, 5+2 studio, named after her childhood nickname which sounds like “five plus two” in Cantonese, is Ng’s daily personal exhibition venue where she is free to produce visuals.  Having been in Hong Kong’s art scene for three years, Ng thinks the local art has developed. “The locals are more aware of building their own style. I believe it’s a very good start,” she said. Local art in Hong Kong has been gaining more attention since the social movement in 2019 and the shortly followed COVID-19 pandemic. However, some artists have faced restrictions on creativity, which has led them to question the extent of their artistic freedom.   “The social unrest and the pandemic are reminding people that something in this place needs to be protected, the culture in particular,” Ng said.  Hong Kong comprises approximately 29,420 creative establishments, with around 136,470 members, according to the official website of the local government. As a culturally dynamic city, it boasts 11 components of the cultural and creative industries, including arts, antiques and craft, accounting for about 5% of the city’s GDP. This year, the government announced a series of new subsidies for art talents. Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu pledged new funding for the new generation of artists, in his first Policy Address in October. Financial Secretary Paul Chan committed several …

Culture & Leisure

Reviving Hong Kong’s flower plaques tradition

In a narrow and cluttered shop, Lee Chui-Lan, 68,  leans over a table piled with materials and brushes, stapling sheets of shiny metallic paper together to make flowers. Surrounded by yellowed photos on the peeled wall, she works in a cramped storefront where vivid handmade peacocks hang from the ceiling. The inconspicuous flower plaque shop is called Lee Yim Kee, located in Shap Pat Heung, Yuen Long District. Lee, the owner of Lee Yim Kee, inherited the store and the craft from her father Lee Gam-Yim, who set up the shop the year his daughter was born. She started helping out in the shop in her early teens and experienced the most prosperous years of the flower plaque-making business.  In the 1970s, giant flower plaques on display around  Hong Kong were common. Nowadays, they can only be found in the New Territories and walled villages. Hong Kong has 480 Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) items, and traditional flower plaques craft is one of them. With limited government support, the craftsmen struggle to survive in a rapidly changing society.  Flower plaques are huge colourful displays, mainly made of bamboo, fabric and paper. Most are meant for  celebrations or announcements of festive events such as the opening of new stores, weddings and birthdays. Back in the days when there was no internet to  disseminate information, flower plaques were useful in spreading messages. “When a family or company held an event, people passing by would know about it quickly by looking at the flower plaques,” said Lee. The process of making flower plaques involves writing messages, making paper flowers, crafting the structure and assembling the different parts. Over time, various crafting techniques developed. For instance, messages that used to be assembled with cotton eventually changed to paint. “Sometimes, we will use the computer to …

Culture & Leisure

Hong Kong cartoonists keep calm and carry on drawing

For the last 13 years, Kylie Hung Ka-yi, a 30-something local cartoonist known as Lobintan, has been drawing about her life as a wife, mom and cat owner. She has published 20 comic books, and though she doesn’t specialise in political cartoons, her content sometimes involves social topics, such as the Olympic Games and 1989 Tiananmen Square protest.  Hung said she worries about her career as press freedom in Hong Kong diminishes.  “In the past, I never have felt the future would be inky, but now I feel it is unlighted, sometimes I have fears,” said Hung. “I have no idea when I will cross the line. I have to be as careful as possible.” Hung is one of a handful of cartoonists in the city who worry about the political red line especially when two political cartoonists received police complaints for their artworks, a blow to an industry already struggling with declining sales.  Justin Wong Chiu-tat, an editorial cartoonist and  a former assistant professor of visual arts at Hong Kong Baptist University, who previously drew a daily political comic strip column named “Gei Gei Gaak Gaak”, which means chicken chirping sounds in Chinese, for 14 years in Ming Pao.  Wong first time ever received a letter from Hong Kong Police expressing “strong dissatisfaction” and “concerns over unreasonable allegations” in one of Wong’s comics satirising youth police group Junior Police Call in September 2021.   Wong later apologised for being unfair and admitted its inappropriateness, saying he respected the contributions made by the Junior Police Call, according to RTHK.  In late October, veteran political cartoonist Zunzi received police complaints saying his Ming Pao cartoon on the government's recruiting talents policy was “misleading”. “I don’t think there are many political cartoonists left in Hong Kong after the introduction of the National Security …

Culture & Leisure

Hong Kong towards NFT art at slow pace, with unstable market factors

In the work of Hong Kong NFT artist David Leung, a cooked hairy crab on the dining table could turn into a bee-like creature, with its fangs bared at the audience.  "Sometimes I look at food, they look back at me,” said Leung. He got inspiration from the food he works with every day and started to make photograph collections of food, manipulating them into perfect symmetry monsters.   Leung entered the NFT industry earlier this year. As a part of his NFT photograph collection entitled Hairy Halloween, the hairy crab images already gained 0.3 ETH, a kind of cryptocurrency used by digital marketplace Opensea, or HK$ 2860.3 for him. Just like Leung, a number of artists or art creators in Hong Kong have attempted to explore the use of  NFT, either for art creation or trading, although the market is yet well-established. NFTs, or non-fungible tokens are blockchain-based digital assets, such as digital art or music, or tokenized physical assets, such as homes, automobiles, or papers. And every NFT has its own identification code and metadata to distinguish them from one another. The government set aside HK$100 million to push the city on the road of “art tech” after former chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced the plan in her last policy address in November 2020. And many organisations, for example, the auction house Digital Art Fair, embraced the idea of digital art assets, especially NFTs. "NFT art has recently been fairly popular with many generous investors in Hong Kong," said Heiman Ng, the Head of Business Development for the Digital Art Fair.  "This year, we auctioned 21 pieces of art in partnership with Sotheby's. A single piece by Jacky Tsai, our digital artist of the year, is worth between HK$3 and HK$5 million." About 10.7% of adults …

Culture & Leisure

Hong Kong's neon in new art form

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Zimo ZHONG、Subin JOEdited by: Kate Zhang、Ziyu Bruce Zhao
  • 2022-12-05

In a dark room, a woman lit a cigarette and opened a refrigerator. The door was wide open, a pure blue neon glow enveloping her.  This is a classic scene from the 1988 movie As Tears Go By directed by iconic Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai, who excelled in using the neon lights in Hong Kong films.  Neon lights have long been a special feature of Hong Kong’s nightscape. Tourist Oh Ae-ran, a Korean housewife, said one of the unforgettable sights of her Hong Kong trip was the numerous neon lights on Hong Kong's streets.  “I was mesmerised by the neon colours that I had never seen in Korea,” Oh said. Another Korean traveller Kwack ho-wook said the neon lights in streets are an exclusive culture to Hong Kong.  “I took many pictures of neon lights at Tsim Sha Tsui. In my view,  neon light makes Hong Kong’s night streets more active,” Kwack said. But over the last decade, the city’s iconic neon signs has been decreasing. Fewer and fewer companies are making them due to the emergence of LED lights, which are cheaper to run and come in more colours." Thousands of neon signs that had been standing for decades were turned into illegal structures overnight in 2010 after the Building Department issued a Minor Works Control System, which requires sign boards not protrude more than 4.2 metres and be at least 3.5 metres above the ground. Media have reported that 90% of the city’s major neon signs have disappeared in the past 20 years. The government Buildings Department has removed close to 7,000 “dangerous advertising signs,” many of them neon, since 2014. But as the number of signs decline for store fronts, Hong Kong's neon culture is shifting to art.  Wu Chi-kai, 55, is one of the last …

Culture & Leisure

Indie music gets the thumbs up in Hong Kong

Local "poetic pop" duo, per se, will mark their tenth anniversary next month with a concert at Kowloon Bay International Trade and Exhibition Centre. Stephen Mok and Sandy Ip founded per se because they wanted to explore a new music style beyond the rock band they were playing in. Ip and Mok categorise their songs as “poetic pop” because they want their audience the reflect and feel after listening to their songs, “just like reading poetry.”.  Over the past decade, the music industry in Hong Kong has been dominated by major production companies such as Warner Music and Universal Music. Dear Jane, of Warner Music has had nine songs with over 10 million views in the past decade .  But more local indie groups that are not attached to any commercial record labels are showing up in festivals and award presentations.  Among them, per se which has won several local awards.  “Our production focuses on the difficulties people might face in life, including challenges, separation, and the end of life,” said Ip.  The group has gained popularity over the past few years. Last year their song, Candy Crushed was one of the top 10 songs in the Ultimate Song Chart Awards Presentation , a major Canto Pop award presentation in Hong Kong. Their latest album includes five songs on the theme of the apocalypse in which they invite fans to imagine how they would react to the end of the world. The fourth song, The Forgiven, is about how to let go of past regrets. “The message is to stay positive when dealing with bad happenings like an apocalypse,” said Mok.  Mok and Ip are the composers, and their songs are in Cantonese and English with themes such as society, family and personal growth.  “We get out inspiration from daily …