Art and culture

Tai Kwun art exhibition: The artist with 100 faces

Tai Kwun’s inaugural exhibitor also created the cover for this month’s Silkroad magazine. ‘Flyingpig’ explains her work to ANSHEL MA

Pat Wong, who also goes by the artistic name of ‘Flyingpig,’ is the first artist to showcase an exhibition at the newly renovated Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage and Arts in Central Hong Kong.

Her exhibition ‘100 Faces of Tai Kwun’ takes visitors through a journey of 100 stories from 100 kaifongs, or local neighborhoods, from the past two years, shedding light on the history and life of this historic area.

She talked to Silkroad’s deputy editor Anshel Ma about her exhibit, her connection to Tai Kwun, and also about the Silkroad July 2018 cover, which she created.

What’s your inspiration for our cover design this issue?

The idea is a condensed Central neighbourhood, with Tai Kwun as its centre. I collaborated with Tai Kwun for the inaugural exhibition “100 Faces of Tai Kwun”, and published a book “Once Upon a Time in Tai Kwun” as well. The various characters you see on the cover are basically the same ones from the book, recreating different scenes.

Silkroad-cover-July 2018

How did Tai Kwun approach you?

They came to me two years ago after seeing some similar work I had done earlier, where I sketched 100 portraits around Yau Ma Tei. I would describe our meeting with each individual and gift them the portrait I did for them. The heritage team from Tai Kwun approached me and brought up a similar idea. They have already contacted 100 people through the Conservancy Association from around Central, and asked me to illustrate portraits for them as well.

How did you create the exhibition?

The exhibition gives you an insight into each individual’s stories, for example items and unique anecdotes from a specific store. For that to happen, the Conservancy Association lined up their interviewees for me to sketch; I actually ended up getting really familiar with them as well, spending more time chatting to them than sketching.

Pat-Wong-artist

What’s the difference between the exhibition and your book?

While the exhibtion is a collaboration between a design house and myself, the book is more a personal project, similar to a comic. I didn’t really want to sketch the 100 interviewees as they were, so I extracted what they all have in common, such as memories of watching the prisoners playing ball in the courtyard (part of Tai Kwun was a prison complex), and selected eight out of the 100 interviewees who had the most distinct characteristics and focused on them. They range from hawkers, kids, ex-convicts and of course policemen.

How would you describe your style?

I’m a local Hongkonger, therefore a lot of my influences are the little things around me. My drawings can be quite ‘packed’, just like our skyline, and my love of dialogue with various communities also nurtured me as an artist.

Did you always want to become an artist?

I loved drawing and sketching when I was a kid, but my parents were worried about how I would afford a living, so I decided to study animation. After a while I realized illustrating remains my passion, so I got back into it with additional animation skills to make my work a bit more unique.

With the opening of Tai Kwun, do you think the Hong Kong art scene is on the rise?

I think there are now more means and spaces for local artists to thrive. This has all changed since Art Basel, and soon M+ will open as well; it all helps local artists gain exposure.

How has your style changed over the years?

My style used to be very personal and all about self-discovery. Nowadays I realize how my life is linked to society, especially after various student movements, and I find myself understanding the community a little more. So I want to use my illustrations to let others know that Hong Kong has different facades, not just what you see on the news.

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