When Le Comptoir group (Bibo, Tri, The Ocean) decided to open their Japanese-Brazilian restaurant Djapa in Wan Chai, they had a clear vision: to bring Brazil's rich artistic culture and Japanese contemporary art to Hong Kong. The team scoured social media to find the best street artists in Brazil – TOZ and duo Bicicleta sem Freio (Bicycle without Brakes) were brought to the Lee Tung Avenue site to transport the extraordinarily colourful heart and soul of Brazil into Djapa.
Each of the artists has roots in graphic design and a formal art education. TOZ has been working as a street artist for over twenty years, honing his craft across a variety of mediums which have been displayed in numerous exhibitions. Bicicleta sem Freio, meanwhile, have recently started painting large-scale murals after a short career in graphic design for the music industry. All three artists have lent their touch to the restaurant from wall to wall – there isn’t an inch of the restaurant that hasn't been used as a canvas. Each wall is a burst of color and creativity, as if stepping inside the minds of the artists.
We sit down with TOZ and Bicicleta Sem Freio about their inspirations and how they’re recreating the spirit of Brazil in the heart of Wan Chai.
What made you want to partner with Djapa on this project?
TOZ: For me, my first interest was to come to Hong Kong to paint and to leave my mark on the walls of the restaurant. I'm really satisfied with my trip to Hong Kong and getting to experience this new culture. For me, that’s really important.
BSF: This project is really special to us because this is our first time in Asia and we haven't done murals in a long time. Djapa found us on the Internet and sent us an invitation to do this project and it's crazy for us to know that people on the other side of the world know our work and want to work with us. So it's a pleasure to be here and do what we are doing.
Were there any challenges in working in a different environment like Hong Kong?
TOZ: Yes, I think there are challenges. Painting on a wall inside is totally different because you need add more details since people are going to look at my piece all the time. In the streets, you don't have time to see the all the little details. It's not hard for me, but it is different.
BSF: Besides jetlag? It wasn't that difficult because what we did here, we've been doing for years. But it was better because it's raining everyday!
What do the figures in your work represent?
TOZ: The best way I can express myself is through my characters. There are a lot of references like [his own monster creation] Shimu, which is linked to my pets. Another character is based on my niece, and the old baby you see painted is a version of me!
BSF: I think it represents us as artists because we’re not from the streets. We have different backgrounds and different influences. We’re not graffiti artists. We really like rock bands and comics and video games, cartoons. We’re showing what we are. We want people to see our work so we can show them who we are.
How does the art in Hong Kong compare to the art in Brazil?
TOZ: In Brazil, everybody loves graffiti and street art. People love to see us working in the streets – we even have major street art events in Rio. There's so much graffiti in Brazil that there’s not enough space to work on.
BSF: To be honest, we didn't have time to see the art in Hong Kong yet, because we were focused on finishing our work. I'm really excited to go out and see stuff like graffiti and I know there are a lot of galleries close to my hotel. So I'm totally going to check it. I saw a lot in the street and I already want to see more.
What is something you like people who come to Djapa to take away with this project?
TOZ: I think my colour, my energy and my spirit. My work represents this, as well as my country. I’m from Brazil and I'm a really Brazilian guy, and the work reflects that. I think that people who come here and see the work will feel the Brazilian vibe.
BSF: We’re really happy to be doing this project and I think this is really easy to see in our work. I want people to come here, eat the good food and feel happy. We want to leave a little bit of Brazil here.
Djapa is expected to open towards the latter part of September.