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Art Gets Personal for SCAD Students

By Sophie Pettit 24 November 2014

Venezuelan student Maf Rodriguez has a interesting take on Hong Kong.

  Psychedelic skies and people with giant panda heads might not be the first images that spring to mind when you think of Hong Kong, but for the creative students of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), nothings better sums up their home city.   Among the hanging canvases at the ESPACE Gallery, vibrant visions of giant spiders, starry-lit skies, and neon signs emerge from the imagination of 11 international art students currently studying the Acrylic Techniques course in their fourth year at the prestigious art college. For one night only last week, these talented artists showcased their creations in a public exhibition. Affectionately named OH K LA!, the show offered perspectives of our city through the eyes of students who have grown up here, as well as those spending a semester in Hong Kong. Each canvas conveys an emotional connection with the city through splashes of colour and bursts of light, infused with personality and unique style. “I have visited cities all over the world, because my mother works for Cathay Pacific, but I love Hong Kong the most,” said Shirley Wong, the 21-year-old graphic design and illustration student behind the acrylic paintings Hong Kong Starry Night and Big Buddha with Patterns, which feature two iconic Hong Kong landmarks set against striking, pattern filled skies.

Caught between two worlds.

  “Hong Kong is my home and the beautiful night view of the city makes me feel so calm," Wong told Localiiz. "Whenever I return from my travels and see it, I feel like I'm where I belong. I wanted to work my own style of beautiful colours and intricate patterns into Starry Night to create the feeling of happiness, joy, and romance. I hope this painting helps everyone remember Hong Kong the way I do.” Alongside Starry Night is Wong's painting of the Big Buddha, sat peacefully against a bright blue sky of complex patterns. “I wanted my art to represent the two different sides of life in Hong Kong, the urban city of commerce and capital, and the peaceful spiritual world that exists alongside it. I also wanted to show my personal connection with the Big Buddha because I come from a family of vegetarians, so this is symbolic of my lifestyle choice as well as my cultural heritage.” Hong Kong's multifaceted nature is a theme throughout the gallery of colourful canvases, and one that is perfectly encapsulated in the acrylic artwork of 23-year-old graphic design student Fannie Ng. Her giant painting, portraying a map of Hong Kong across three panels, depicts her interpretation of the various moods of the city and outlying islands. “I wanted to represent the different personalities of Hong Kong and the contrast between the commercial world in the centre, and the organic, natural world which you can find in the New Territories and surrounding islands,” Ng said.

Setting the mood.

  Ng's artwork depicts these personalities with her use of colour and patterns, from the angular red shapes which represent the passion and vibrancy of Mongkok, to the soft blue and green ripples which fill Lantau island where she enjoys spending her free time relaxing and swimming in the peaceful sea. Her art also carries a more serious, underlying political message. “For me, in Hong Kong today, everyone has the same mindset and people just follow the rules under the system of the Government without having their own direction," she explained. "I wanted to show this through the repetition of patterns across different districts in Hong Kong.” Her political perspective also surfaces in the form of a giant spider which spins its web over the New Territories, which she told us was inspired by an eight legged guest that set up camp on the balcony of her home on Lamma island. “This spider is strong, it has survived several typhoons, and continues to work hard to build its web without ever stopping. To me, it represents the same mindset of Hong Kong people who are very hard working and strong, but rarely stop to take a break and ask themselves why they are doing this,” she explained. Ng has yet to think of a name for her painting, perhaps because the task of trying to summarise Hong Kong in one word or concept is just too difficult. For 25-year-old illustration student and ESPACE curator Victor Ck Chu, however, the writing is clearly on the wall. His Neon Series consists of three canvases featuring colourful neon signs spelling out Hong Kong slang in speech bubbles, set against an abstract backdrop of local architecture.

Keeping the spirit of Hong Kong alive.

  He told us this conveys his concern over the decline of the neon industry which he, like many Hong Kong people, regard as an important signature of their culture. “The neon industry is decaying and the Government's neon sign removal scheme has led to a lot of big signs being taken down, due to safety concerns. I wanted to preserve the neon signs and bring them closer to the audience through the use of conversation bubbles showing our everyday language. People can have close interaction with the signs and see how they work.” Chu went to great lengths to bring his message home, learning how to create neon signs for his exhibition piece from 70 year old neon-master Lau Wan. In fact, all the young stars of OH K LA! poured hours of time, imagination, and emotion into every artwork to tell their story of Hong Kong, the city they have grown to love like an old friend. Check out more of Wong's amazing artwork and lifestyle accessories for sale at Touchy Feely. Chu is building a website to offer his bright creations and he promises they will be available soon online.

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Sophie Pettit


Sophie is always on the lookout for a great story and her next big adventure and loves nothing more than discovering the city’s hidden gems—and most delicious cocktails. When she’s not exploring new places, she’s off travelling and ticking countries off her bucket list.