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5 burgeoning artists to watch in Hong Kong

Because Hong Kong is no longer a cultural desert

adidas lousy
Lousy Mural for Adidas Originals HK flagship store
By Time Out Hong Kong |
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Hong Kong’s growth during the 20th century brought prosperity, but also the reputation among some as a ‘cultural desert’, where commerce reigned supreme, and the arts were overlooked. In recent years, a burgeoning local art scene has allowed Hong Kong to shed its negative image, and to become a thriving cultural hub. Here are five up-and-coming visual artists whose work you can admire here or on the 'gram. By Ashlyn Chak

RECOMMENDED: From visual artists to performance artists, check out our chat with local improv comedy troupe TBC.

Five locally based artists to watch

Amy Maria Tong painting
Dinner Table Decor, painting, Amy Maria Tong

Amy Maria Tong

Known for her work with bold colours and diverse mediums, Tong’s art conveys the complexity of human emotions. Since 2013, she has been exhibited in various galleries, including in the UK and at The Offset at Hong Kong’s PMQ.

How did you start as an artist? 

I started my career spray painting murals on the street. I liked when people would approach me asking about my art as I worked. Gradually I became more of a painter, and now I spend more time on oil paintings.

What inspires you?

Things in society that frustrate me. My inspiration also comes from learning and experimenting.

Describe your art in three words.

Humble. Honest. Experimental.

What are the positive aspects and challenges of being an artist in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong is inspirational, and to get the most out of it as an artist, it’s important to try not to worry about what others think of your work. We live in such a commercial city, where people often talk about possessions and eating at fancy restaurants. It can be difficult not to get caught up in this and let it negatively affect your work.

How would you describe Hong Kong’s art scene?

There’s been a recent explosion of street art in Hong Kong because it’s aesthetically pleasing and accessible for the everyday folk. Recent socio-political events in the city have also awakened creativity in many Hongkongers, too.

What are your hopes for the future of our local art scene? 

More knowledge and support for different forms of art. More collectors who genuinely appreciate art because they find meaning in it, not just because it’s cool or popular.

Find her work here: Instagram @amymariat, amymariat.com. HART Haus, 3/F, Cheung Hing Industrial Bldg, 12P Smithfield, Kennedy Town.

photograph Xin Li
Untitled, photograph, Xin Li

Xin Li

Hong Kong and Norway-based photographer who has worked with Eaton Hotel and has had (Mihn) Gallery exhibit her work. Li captures honest and emotional moments that would otherwise go undocumented.

How did you start as an artist?

I started experimenting with cameras in my teens, and it has stuck with me since then. I grew up on Bergen, a little island in Norway, without a local art scene I could relate to. Sharing my work online sparked my interest in photography and art. When I started university and moved to a bigger city, I started getting photography gigs, and it all grew from there.

What inspires you? 

My own surroundings, fun people, feelings, interesting Instagram feeds, nice shapes, the sunlight entering my apartment every morning, not to mention other artists!

Describe your art in three words.

Soft. Gritty. Playful.

What are the positive aspects and challenges of being an artist in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong presents so many opportunities for an artist through its flourishing local scene. Here you can go from a high-end gallery opening to a dark, grimy underground warehouse party in one night, and see the same people there. I’m lucky enough to do photography full time, and the hardest thing for me is trying to balance between undertaking commissioned work and personal work. It can sometimes drain
you creatively. 

How would you describe Hong Kong’s art scene? 

I have only been in Hong Kong for around a year, but the art scene here has been incredible. There are so many artists here. While this brings a lot of competition, it also makes it so much fun.

What are your hopes for the future of our local art scene?

That it becomes more open to unestablished artists without a big following, there are so many undiscovered talents in this city!

Find her work here: Instagram @_xinli_,  xinliphotography.com.

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Untitled, spray paint, Lousy
Untitled, spray paint, Lousy

Lousy

Among Hong Kong’s best-known street art pioneers with a seemingly ubiquitous oeuvre, Lousy has recently collaborated with Adidas Originals and painted their shopfronts at The Forest in Mong Kok, and in Causeway Bay.

Tell us about your art.

I paint on all sorts of surfaces, but I love street art as a proactive way to get my message out there.

What inspires you?

From prehistoric cave paintings to the neon lights of Kowloon; from Los Indios Tabajaras to the Sex Pistols. All the good and bad things in life. 

Describe your art in three words.

Bold. Psychic. Pop.

What are the positive aspects and challenges of being an artist in Hong Kong?

All I can say is that I love what I do, and I just want to do more of it! And I love how eclectic Hong Kong can be. A melting pot of new and old, East and West, cool and kitsch. It’s very stimulating.

How would you describe Hong Kong’s art scene?

People are more open-minded now than in the past and are willing to work for themselves. Also, more local artists are entering the game, which is a great thing. We need more creative people doing cool stuff.

What are your hopes for the future of our local art scene? 

For our local artists to go global. Go big, but don’t stop supporting the local art scene.

Find his work here: Instagram @lousylousy, the streets of Hong Kong, and at his (Mihn) Gallery solo exhibition, opening Mar 16. 4/F, 279 Des Voeux Rd C, Sheung Wan.

Noise Bath, installation, Angela S.
Noise Bath, installation, Angela S.

Angela S.

South Korea-born co-founder of Kowloon multidisciplinary art space Bedroom, her installations use sound and light to recreate inspirational atmospheres and feelings.

How did you start as an artist?

I am a multimedia artist and a curator, and my passion started at a young age. I considered attending art high school in Seoul but ended up not pursuing that path. I now have a full-time job but create the art I love on the side.

What inspires you? 

There are different sources and phases of inspiration for me, from seeing other artists’ work to just my personal experience.  Lately, I have been experimenting with using sound, projection and water to explore the invisible forces between the living and the dead.

Describe your art in three words.

Experimental. Supernatural. Personal.

What are the positive aspects and challenges of being an artist in Hong Kong?

The Hong Kong art scene is very tight-knit with artists that support and inspire each other a lot. Having said this, many artists like myself can’t survive on their art alone and must find other ways to make a living. For me personally, it means it can be hard to dedicate as much time as I’d like to making art.

How would you describe Hong Kong’s art scene?

More artists and curators are taking things into their own hands, and it creates an interesting dynamic with the traditional art scene. I co-founded an independent space called Bedroom, and there are other art spaces across Hong Kong started by other artists. Places like Eaton Hotel and Mihn now also regularly host exhibitions of young artists’ works.

What are your hopes for the future of our local art scene?

For young artists and curators to continue to challenge the status quo and work together as a community to support the independent art scene.

Find her work here: Bedroom, 5/F, 75 Bedford Rd, Tai Kok Tsui.

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Bromance, photograph, Winkie Lam
Bromance, photograph, Winkie Lam

Winkie Lam

A self-taught photographer who focuses on sexuality and gender fluidity. Lam’s work was exhibited as part of the Own it Women’s Day Event at Central’s Maggie Wu Studio in March 2019.

How did you start as an artist?

It all started when I was 17 and I was hiking. It was so beautiful up in the hills, and I wanted to capture everything. After school, I worked as a graphic designer for a while, until I decided it wasn’t really motivating me, so I switched to freelancing .

What inspires you?

My emotions. I tend to overthink when I’m upset, but expressing these things through art has helped in relieving my negativity.

Describe your art in three words.

Authentic. Sensual. Dark (sometimes).

What are the positive aspects and challenges of being an artist in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong is such a dynamic city, and it’s really easy here to just pick up a camera and go shooting. It can be difficult, however, to find a good work-life balance here, especially for freelancers like myself, who earn a living by also working odd jobs that are entirely unrelated to art. It can be trying at times, but it’s still fun.

How would you describe Hong Kong’s art scene?

There’s more and more artwork popping up that is driven by politics. Technology has also drastically changed the way people express themselves.

What are your hopes for the future of our local art scene?

I feel that there’s been a huge growth in the number of galleries in Hong Kong in recent years. But it would be amazing if artists and art spaces could get more funding. I want to see a really major art museum in Hong Kong, like the Fine Arts Museum in Taipei.

Find her work here: Instagram @winkielam.

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