SNIK, Flip-Flops, and HK Walls Going UP // BSA in Hong Kong / Dispatch 1

This week BSA and Urban Nation (UN) are in Hong Kong for the 4th edition of HKWalls to capture a very international and local mix of artists in this East/West nexus; a world-class city for art and culture, English and Cantonese, hi-tech and traditional methods – all during the enormous Art Basel week. We’ll bring you the new walls, some previous pieces, some graffiti, stickers, and a whole lot of color from this fast moving and dynamic city on the Pearl River Delta of East Asia.

“Hong Kong is that tough sweaty dude with a gas blowtorch in his hands, soldiering a metal frame on the sidewalk while wearing a muscle shirt and flip flops with a cigarette tucked over his ear and a lit one in his mouth,” to roughly paraphrase the description of this city from an artist at a discussion panel here last night.

As he delivers this gem, you look to your left at the pink-cheeked bearded half of the artist duo SNIK, who shakes his head in agreement. Yes, this does seem like a good description of HK so far.

Hong Kong also is the top-boss-lip-gloss power babe waiting for a train at the Prince Edward station with sharply drawn persimmon red lips and cinnamon-bun braided hair bobs that look like Mickey Mouse ears on her head – striking a commanding stance with one hand on her waist and her cool eyes laser-focused on her phone screen.

Also, Hong Kong is the pounding staccato noise of 5 double-decker buses hurtling around a concrete road curve at top speed only 5 meters away from you on the sidewalk, propelling hot bluffs of gritty wind that push you closer to base of factories here on Wong Chuk Hang Road.

Merlot and Amuse, an artist duo who know a lot about letter style, hand style, and style in general are painting a massive 30 meter long tag in a opening between industrial buildings knocking out their text based monikers that borrow and snatch from raw graffiti, wildstyle, pop, and advertising design. Lately, drips.

Merlot is originally from Seattle and its outskirts and has been writing/painting for a decade roughly. For the last two years she and Amuse have been hanging together, sometimes calling their two-person crew “The Alphabet Monsters”, possibly alluding to the cosmic comic influences that may evoke fantasies and stories from graphic novels.

„I’ve been testing and doing a bunch of different things because I am a graphic designer and so I like exploring a couple of different approaches,” she explains during a break from painting. “Typically the letters will all stay pretty much the same but with this one we wanted to have more fun and do something different,” which includes painting letters in each others names.

We point out the „S“ in amuse, which appears to split wide at the top – little molecules spreading apart and spraying upwards. That’s his “S,” but she says he’s coming over later to give the treatment to her “O”.

BSA: Have you two used the fire extinguisher much before?
Merlot: I haven’t but he has before and I would really like to start using it more. He is into this very drippy kind of zone right now and I think that is what he wants his new look to be this year – he actually did a new fire extinguisher piece recently and he incorporated all of these different elements and it was really amazing.

BSA: Where did you learn how to paint with the extinguisher?
Amuse: My buddy Morgan is a big solid influence of mine and he said to me, “We need to try something different.” Now that is all I want to do. A graffiti writer for more than fifteen years, Amuse says he gets his new tricks sometimes from other guys in other crews he is part of. “Morgan is another guy in the crew – we’re all in the same crew and his approach – Also a very good street artist who I grew up with (in Chicago)- Esteban del Valle – he is amazing and he has this same approach with the dripping and then the nice detailed line work over it,” Amuse explains, “and he told me ‘dude you are killing yourself with all the spray paint – why don’t you incorporate some other kind of paint?’ And he’s right, the bucket paint allows you to paint so much bigger and faster and then you can go back and work on it.”

Evidently HK Walls is in full effect right now, with the French trio Anyway, Berlin Duo Snik, Hong Kong’s Wong Ting Fung, Philippine’s Kris Abrigo, and Italy’s Pixel Pancho all on the street, on ladders, on bamboo scaffolding, on cherry pickers. Just saw Spain’s Spok in an elevator, Zoer showed us his purple/moss/tan color pallet on his phone and tape artist Buff Diss has been lurking from every corner.

And this is a taste of what it is like on the street; The electric/eclectic High/Low influences of Hong Kong are knocking everyone about – sounds of traffic and trucks and construction and laughter and the smell of a cigar smoke and petrol and sweaty basketball players on the public court and aerosol paint and flowering trees all blend together in a heady HK romance sort of way.

Thinking of buying some flip-flops.

We met with Brazilian Street Artist Mundano, who just one first prize at the International Public Art Awards for 2017 for his “Pimp my Carroça” project here in Hong Kong Sunday night. He gave us this hand-made book that he made with photographer Martha Cooper calle „Viva or Catadores“. Congratulations Mundano!

HKWalls and Hong Kong stories come to you courtesy BSA in Partnership with Urban Nation (UN)
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Involved Artists