What is Hong Kong like in the eyes of locals and visitors from different parts of the world? As part of Arts in Hong Kong 2023, the Hong Kong Tourism Board has connected eight local and international artists to depict Hong Kong’s cityscapes in different art forms, from illustration and craft to street art and digital art. They paired up to create four new cross-disciplinary artworks by blending multicultural elements with art and technology. Read on to find out more about these East-meets-West, old-meets-new collaborations!
“This work is a love letter to one city, co-written by two authors — one of whom is a native who knows the city like the back of their hand; the other is a tourist who barely knows it at all,” says USA-based, Australian illustrator Ilya Milstein on his collaboration with renowned Hong Kong artist Don Mak.
Egg Tart conveys the colourful, energetic vigour of Hong Kong by depicting pedestrians wandering the city — from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island, passing iconic landmarks such as Jardine House, Lui Seng Chung and Chungking Mansions, as well as buses, ferries and retro caravans. All of these contribute to a dynamic picture of the city’s diverse cultural and architectural landscapes.
Don Mak, an illustrator born and bred in Hong Kong, often bases his work on the metropolis’ cityscape. His illustrations, just like those of Milstein, are rich in details and able to tell fascinating stories of people and places. This time, Mak drew inspiration from everyday life, whereas Milstein illustrated tourists and European-style architecture and coloured the streets based on his impressions of Hong Kong. The mix of perspectives and styles is reflected in the work’s title, Egg Tart, a pastry with origins and cultural meaning in both Hong Kong and the West.
The most surprising artistic collaborations are those that transcend disciplines — just like the collaboration between Martina Tso, fourth-generation descendant of Guangcai porcelain factory Yuet Tung China Works, and Japanese embroidery artist Katsumi Takeoka. They may use different mediums, but their works are both authentic and warm, and in a way, embody Hong Kong’s cultural sensibilities.
For this project, the artists compare the experience of travellers visiting Hong Kong to a ride on the merry-go-round: they can easily take in the sights and sounds of the city from different angles. Takeoka used a punch needle and colourful threads to conjure up old Hong Kong in the form of layered embroidery. Meanwhile, Tso hand-painted the local cityscape — ancient buildings, tea restaurants, pawn shops, Victoria Harbour — and a green dragon on a traditional Gaungcai bowl, capturing the city’s vibrant side while shining a spotlight on traditional crafts and heritage. The result is a flamboyant display of porcelain tableware and embroidery shooting out from the bowl, evoking the fireworks over Victoria Harbour.
Guangcai used to be a prominent export craft; today, it’s been recognised as an intangible cultural heritage of Hong Kong. Founded over 90 years ago, Yuet Tung China Works was the city’s first porcelain factory that produces Guangcai porcelain and porcelain plates painted by artists, thus playing an important role in cultural exchange. Takeoka, on the other hand, has a deep love for nostalgic objects of old Hong Kong, and has held multiple Hong Kong-themed exhibitions in Japan. This collaboration is a perfect blend of traditional and modern elements, a masterpiece of the interplay between the old and the new.
From Tai Nan Street in Sham Shui Po to the West Kowloon Cultural District, from the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront to Poho in Sheung Wan, the city is full of interesting aesthetics that blend the East and the West. It was this cultural diversity that inspired the collaboration between Hong Kong graffiti artist Bao Ho and German multimedia artist Bond Truluv.
Passionate about creating surreal cartoon worlds with graffiti, Ho took this opportunity to introduce Hong Kong to friends overseas by drawing her favourite shop cats and street features, as well as iconic local elements like tong laus (typical tenement buildings in Hong Kong), traditional signboards, dai pai dongs (open-air food stalls) and lion dancers. Then, Bond Truluv, the first graffiti artist to incorporate augmented reality (AR) animations into his work, brought these characters to life for an interactive art experience.
For this creative collaboration, new media artist Henry Chu took more than 10,000 photographs of Hong Kong, from the streets to the suburbs, and from day to night. He used artificial intelligence (AI) technology to convert them into images, then Zach Lieberman, also a new media artist, re-edited the images through digitised image processing. The piece turns the movement and energy of familiar scenery into a new artistic expression, one that fuses art and technology to make the invisible visible.
Keen to explore the relationship between technology and art, Chu specialises in creating generative and interactive works through programming, often with themes related to music, flowers and data. Lieberman is dedicated to building experimental drawing and animation tools, with specialisation in design, computer programming, and developing interactive, participatory environments. What kind of unique visual experiences would the duo bring?
Aside from the cross-disciplinary artworks, the eight artists have also created new designs for Arts in Hong Kong. See how they have transformed the logo with their distinctive styles!
The illustration is inspired by everyday city life in Hong Kong — bustling streets, signboards, views of Victoria Harbour, and new and old buildings.
Milstein took an expressive creative approach to capture the density and energy of Hong Kong: colourful, brimming with eclectic architecture, and overflowing with beautiful signage.
Inspired by Guangcai porcelain, this design features floral patterns to symbolise the blossoming of the arts in Hong Kong. Green dragons, goldfish and roosters are also common motifs used in Guangcai porcelain, representing an everlasting artistic atmosphere.
Recalling her first visit to Hong Kong, the artist translated her excitement and fascination with colourful neon signs and her favourite Hong Kong elements into an exuberant design.
Like a street mural, this colourful design combines the artist’s signature elements with street art and iconic Hong Kong items.
A mash-up of pop-cultural figures from the East and the West, Bond Truluv’s design also references Hong Kong’s urban architectural elements and the classic blue-and-red pattern.
Chu combined elements from his previous works — Squiggle, The Sound of Market, Blockchain Piano and 100 Flowers — to create this new design, which reflects how the city is full of colours and possibilities.
Inspired by Hong Kong’s neon lights, the artist intends to show the tremendous energy of the city through this design in the form of a starburst pattern: with Hong Kong as the centre, and the light its artists and creators that spread out like rays.
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