Another reason why I’m in Asia (apart from to participate in the ‘Visualising Chinese Borders’ research networking labs) is to undertake research and meet artists for the next ‘The Temporary’ project. Called ‘The Temporary: 02 – RareKind China’, it is a transcultural exchange between graffiti and street artists from China and the UK, showcasing diverse visual identity through global “tagging” in changing local to international urban environments. It goes beyond more conventional understandings of graffiti and street art to collaborate with writers, academics, illustrators and graphic designers in the field, reframing the discipline within the interior art gallery space of Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA), exterior streets of Manchester’s Northern Quarter and the city centre. It opens on 4 February 2016, get it in your diary now!
Literally a few days before I left for Hong Kong, I came across information for the opening of “Yo Girls Graffiti Exhibition 2015” by CGG Crew (China Graffiti Girls) at Part-of Gallery on Sik On Street. They claim to be the first all-female graffiti crew in China (and don’t doubt it based on my research), established in 2013 by six Hong Kong and China-based female graffiti artists – Mizi, Tin. G, Rainbo, MT, Diskr a.k.a. 399 and Satr. This project is their debut group exhibition.
“The graffiti scene in Asia has grown significantly for over a decade, but street art still tends to be a male-dominated art form. In the last ten years, a growing number of Chinese female graffiti artists are embracing the medium and getting good attention. These active graffiti artists gradually developed their own unique styles. Their works demonstrated their ultra feminine characters and viewpoints. Differ from their fellow male artists, their themes, colors, letters and characters are more delicate, soft and filled with emotions.” – CGG Crew/Part-of Gallery
Part-of Gallery is situated in a unique location surrounded by Hong Kong’s renowned lanes and alleys that allowed CGG Crew to consume the immediate urban environment with graffiti murals on the gallery’s doorstep. CGG installed the graffiti on-site at Sik On Street in five days (31 August to 4 September 2015), where they are now a permanent fixture. Five murals in total in the outdoor space, with paintings, sculptures, graffiti artworks, installations and CGG Crew ephemera in the gallery. Take a look at their “making of” video here…
I spoke with members of the crew, including Rainbo and Uncle (also a graffiti artist) who runs AfterWorkShop Hong Kong – a combination of “after work” and “workshop”. ‘Since street art is not always considered as mainstream art, most were unable to make a living from street art, tending to unleash their creativity “after work” at their “workshops” in the streets when the city is calmed, hence “Afterworkshop”’. It was interesting to see their energy and hear personal, local perspectives on the scene including how they cannot negotiate dedicated space with the government, therefore unable to work with in the city in the ways that they want…a want for it to become a public practice and seen art rather than behind the scenes on side streets and wall corners, hidden from sight. The artists seem to go elsewhere in China to find the vast spaces they need. Hence the need for programmes like AfterWorkShop.
Over the coming months as ‘The Temporary: 02 – RareKind China’ develops, it’s going to be very interesting to work with CGG Crew and the other artists between China and the UK, to see their different styles and skills, gaining first-hand insights into how the graffiti and street art scenes are understood and represented in their mutual locations and contexts.
By chance, there was another graffiti and street art project on show in Hong Kong that week, and in a very different context, that of the commercial gallery – ‘Hidden Street’ at Pearl Lam Gallery at SOHO189. The next blog post!