My favorite street in Hong Kong has got to be Hollywood Road. It's the perfect place to take a stroll and window shop past all the antique shops and art galleries, not to mention all the cozy cafes where you can enjoy a coffee and watch all the people go by. Occasionally, you'll even see couples taking their wedding pictures at the Banyan Tree, which seems to be rooted on a century old masonry wall along the former Hollywood Road Police Quarters.
As you head towards Sheung Wan past the Banyan Tree, you will inevitably walk by the artist known as Grand So. As no stranger to the Hong Kong art scene, he prefers to show off his work in an unconventional way with his gallery outside in the open air, in front of the empty Yee On Loong building. Sitting there every day from 10am-5pm, I've walked by Grand So’s work so many times, said hello but never asked why. This time I couldn’t walk by without asking him a few questions, as I wanted to know more about him and what drives him to show off his work in this way.
Q: How did you get into art and how long have you been working as an artist?
A: It has been 25 years since I have been creating art, during which I have also been exposed to advertising and commercial design. Since 2006, I have dedicated myself to art creation.
Q: Where do you get your daily inspiration? Since you're at Hollywood Road every day during office hours, when do you have time to create your art work?
A: Since childhood, I have always been very eager to contemplate, read, and observe everything around me in detail. This fascination has in turn cultivated my visual senses as an artist and powered my inspiration for various artworks. On the other hand, Chinese classical philosophy, such as Laozi's Tao De Jing, Chuangzi and the Book of I-Jing, has also been a very great help in laying the foundation of my inspiration. In 2008, I chose to establish my "Mobile Grand Arts Gallery" on 94 Hollywood Road. Every day from 10am to 5pm, I will display my new oil paintings on the main gate of my boutique at the above location and paint on the spot.
Q: You are quite an unique artist in the sense that you show your work on the Hollywood road outside and not in a gallery. Why did you chose to show your work like this?
A: Choosing the basement on 94 Hollywood Road to be the display backdrop of my new and creative works was primarily to reduce any expenses. Once you have committed yourself to art creation, it is a journey with no return. Especially when you know that the path ahead is unclear, every step needs to be taken with careful thought. I have come across here out of coincidence. Thankfully, this unique way of displaying paintings which actually originated in Hong Kong brings a sense of freshness to people.
Q: Does the owner of the building find it ok for you to hang the work on his shutter?
A: So far, the proprietor has not asked me to leave, and I have not met the proprietor either. Therefore, I have chosen to uphold an easy-going attitude and have not worried about problems such as gains or losses. It is better this way because all the artworks I create in my studio every day are the fruits of my total dedication. Moreover, I can come to realize that the owner of this old building is a generous philanthropist and art enthusiast. I would like to take this interview opportunity to say thanks to the owner and his descendants personally!
Q: You are located next to one of the most well known galleries of HK, Angela Li. How do you get along, and has she ever asked you to do an exhibition at her gallery?
A: I did not know the contemporary art by Angela Li at first, but we became very good neighbors in time. I never thought I would ask for help from her because my purpose of coming here was very simple – I only wanted to seek a quiet place where I could immerse myself in painting and reading. Contemplating over questions in the universe is my passion and is also an expression of my internal world.
Q: Your work is very diverse and ranges from contemporary, abstract, portraits to today's work inspired by classic chinese calligraphy. What is your strength and in which direction would you like to grow?
A: My style of painting encompasses a lot of varieties, but I personally prefer abstract works. Abstract works embody profound thinking and wisdom from Taoism across thousands of years in the history of my country. On the surface, an artwork appears to be a western oil painting, but in essence, it is a Chinese ink painting that is filled with majestic streams of life wisdom.
Q: What is your favorite style, and is there a style that you still like to master?
A: An abstract style of painting embodies very rich potential for exploration. It is also my most favorite style but presents tremendous difficulty at the same time. Abstract paintings are not limited by time and are therefore truly everlasting in nature. Shu Shi, literary prodigy in the Song dynasty, once made a remark about "the presence of a painting in a poem" and "the presence of a poem in a painting". That means when you are reading a poem, it is as if you are appreciating a painting; and when you are appreciating a painting, it is as if you are reciting a poem. Sometimes, appreciating an abstract painting is like appreciating a film or listening to a musical movement. The harmonious beauty therein is extraordinarily moving. The rich meanings it embodies strike a chord to the profound thoughts and feelings a film director puts through the camera lens, stirring an unstoppable sensation from the bottom of the viewer’s heart. After all, literature is synonymous with art.
Q: if you could have a drink and chat with a fellow artist, who would it be
A: I have painted by the road for many years and have naturally encountered artists from many different countries. We seldom exchange our ideas about painting, but will nevertheless support and appreciate each other. I also hope that they will display their new artworks by the road like I do, but the majority of them cannot stand the hardship.
Q: Who was your mentor in art and what keeps you going?
A: I have been fond of painting since I was a child. The philosophy in Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching in Chinese culture has been a major influence on me and Lao Tzu himself has also been my personal mentor to abstract paintings. Since childhood, my aspiration has been to become an artist. Therefore, I grasp every opportunity every day to persist in and commit myself to painting. From among the various painting styles of local and foreign artists in ancient and modern times, I do not have a particular learning subject. Conversely, the persistence and perseverance of these artists are admirable attributes that merit my learning.
94 Hollywood Road
Central Hong Kong
Open daily from 10AM-5PM