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Painted Fantasy – Surrealist Artwork Awakens Old Hong Kong Buildings

By Stasia Fong 14 July 2014
  Take a stroll along Hollywood Road and you’ll see that most of the buildings are rough around the edges and nowhere near as eye-catching as the glistening skyscrapers that have come to define Hong Kong. Although these rundown relics are often ignored, one French-born artist is on a mission to bring them back to life with the flick of the paintbrush and a lick of imagination.

Banyan Tree House

  In her ‘Hong Kong Façades’ series, landscape architect-turned-artist Daphné Mandel has transformed traditional Hong Kong buildings into fantastical illustrations, recreating the bustling colour and energy of their prime with an added element of surrealism. From buildings sprouting from a banyan trees to apartment windows packed with roasted duck, the subjects of these paintings are cloaked in a mystical aura.

Golden Façade

  Daphné’s previous career as an architect has given her a unique approach to her work, as she believes that both skill sets complement each other in terms of representational technique and inspirational themes. But while most of the buildings in her paintings look somewhat familiar, Daphné insists they won’t be found on Hong Kong streets in their entirety.

Chinese Meditation Centre

  “My ‘Hong Kong Façades’ series is free of any actual reality and constraints. It’s only an expression of a fantasy world illustrated inside or outside the city façades,” she tells Localiiz. “I often modify them [the buildings] to make their shape and proportion more suitable for the story I want to tell. As an example, I could use the top of one building and add it onto a different one, remove some windows or add air-conditioning boxes.”

Cheongsam Tailor

  Daphné’s love for painting has allowed her to see some of her unrealised architectural designs come to life, at least in artistic form, while paying homage to the forgotten buildings of our city. She says she has been touched by the overwhelming reaction to her work locally, having exhibited at MAN Mo Café and Avenue des Arts Gallery so far this year. “I realised that this face of Hong Kong is actually very precious to many people who have lived here for a long time, especially as this architecture is progressively being replaced by newer constructions.”

Siu Mei Chandelier

  Mandel is currently working on another Hong Kong inspired project, which she describes as halfway between architecture and art, with a former work partner Karine Herman. Needless to say, we’ll be keeping an eye out for that! Take a look at the rest of Mandel’s work on her website.

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Born in Singapore and raised in Hong Kong, Stasia Fong is a freelance writer with dreams of breaking into the television industry and executive produce her own television show.