It starts with an alien in a light blue suit with pink hair and a giant key dangling from his arm. A man, who in “real life” is shy and has low self-esteem, is attracted to the key and decides to chase after it.
It’s not a comic or Hollywood movie, but a story painted on the walls of an industrial building in Kwun Tong.
In collaboration with social enterprise RunOurCity, local artist Bo Law spent his summer painting in the back alley on Tsun Yip Street.
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“I try to incorporate my story with what’s at the scene,” Law told Young Post. The painting is full of quirky details; the man is seen climbing out of a chimney, but it takes a moment to realise it is an actual chimney on the building.
“Painting on the street [means you] can embrace a lot of surprises,” said Law. By “surprises”, he means obstacles. One day, Law returned to the alley after two days of pouring rain only to find a new door had appeared on the wall – right where he had planned to paint a scene.
But Law is prepared for these kinds of eventualities. He must constantly stay one step ahead of any changes to his environment, adjusting his plans and approaches accordingly.
Before spraying on drop of paint on the walls, he stood in front of them and simply stared at his 340-metre-long “canvas” for a few hours. He would pick different times of the day to observe the natural lighting, at what time pipe water dripped and how long it took for them to dry, and so on.
Despite the unexpected challenges, Law enjoys painting in Kwun Tong.
“It’s different [from] Central, where people just stop to watch quietly,” he said. “People here engage and chat with you; they even ask if they can help.”
Having worked on the mural from June until September, Law said the local people in the neighbourhood witnessed the birth of the artwork as much as he did, even bringing him water to drink on hot sunny days.
“They had fun guessing what I was painting at the start, and as the painting grew, they started to guess what the story was about.”
Law’s collaboration with RunOurCity was in preparation for The Backstreet Run, which was held last Sunday. The route of the “street party” – organised by RunOurCity – took participants through the street art of Kwun Tong and gave them a chance to explore the local culture.
Law said he used bright and vibrant colours in his murals, both to attract runners as they went past, and “to change the environment of back alleys – which can be oppressing – to cheer people up.”
The artist had help from different groups of students in completing the illustrated story of the man chasing his dream. Young people from the Hong Kong Christian Service Kwun Tong Happy Teens Club, Technological and Higher Education Institute of Hong Kong, and POCA Wong Siu Ching Secondary School all had a chance to leave their own mark on Law’s painting.
Crystal Leung Kam-yan, a Form Four student who enjoys painting cartoons, said it was rare to get the opportunity to learn from an experienced mural artist, and she was excited to have a wall to paint on. “Normally we only get to paint during visual arts classes and have to limit ourselves to paper... but this time we got the whole wall to showcase our inspirations.”
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Her classmates said Law had taught them some special techniques only applicable to mural painting, which is very different to their usual style of painting.
“Even outlining is challenging, as you need to be cautious not to get the spray dripping and smudging with other colours,” said Mandy Yeung Lee-mun.
Techniques aside, Law said patience and perseverance are vital to complete such a large-scale work. “That’s the most important lesson I’ve learned on my dream-chasing journey,” he said.
At the end of the story, the man gets the key and is transported somewhere else to embark on another journey.
“When you’ve realised a dream, it’s not the end,” explained Law. “There is always another one to chase after”.