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Peeta's completed mural in the HKwalls festival

HKwalls Festival Paints Hong Kong with New Murals

Hong Kong is one of the world’s most modern cities, a place of great technological advancement, financial importance, and artistic development. As an independent city-state, it has made a name for itself on the world stage in many different areas, including the arts. For muralists and street artists, Hong Kong represents an exciting place to see amazing work, and there’s no better time to check out Hong Kong’s art scene than during HKwalls.

HKwalls is an annual street art festival, held in the springtime, that attracts thousands of art enthusiasts to Hong Kong. This year, the festival moved to the Sham Shui Po district in Hong Kong. Sham Shui Po is the city’s poorest district, yet it’s also one of the oldest settled places in the area. Scientists have found evidence that people have lived in the area for at least two thousand years. Today, the district is very much part of a new world. It’s famous for its electronics street markets and, thanks to HKwalls, its beautiful public art.

HKWalls artwork being painted by Peeta

At the latest HKwalls festival, artists and people came to Sham Shui Po from around the world, taking in the sights and creating beautiful, intricate, and fascinating murals, films, and other forms of street art. Plenty of famous artists appeared at the festival, including Parent’s Parents, Faust, Alana Tsui, Ryck, and Okuda. With so many talented people creating public art, it was hard to take it all in, much less decide on a favourite, but one piece has stood out above many others: a piece by Venice-based artist Peeta that tricks the eye into thinking his graffiti is popping off the wall.

Peeta's completed mural in the HKwalls festival

The piece covers a large facade of an arcade called Golden Computer Arcade and blends Peeta’s knowledge of sculpture, graffiti writing, and design into one large-scale and beautiful piece. Peeta created the mural with a colour scheme that matches the surrounding district, emphasizing its place in the neighbourhood rather than attempting to stand out with loud colours.

The piece uses Peeta’s now signature writing style, which doesn’t actually emphasize clarity or communication, but style over substance, as it were. Rarely are Peeta’s writings actually legible, but that doesn’t matter, the pieces speak for themselves without the need for distinctive letters. As Peeta says about his own work: “In my own work, I endeavour to realise the sculptural quality of individual letters… I break them from their generic typographical form, stylizing them with shape and volume beyond mere semantic function.”

new mural by artist okuda in the hkwalls mural festival

HKwalls is an important festival that not only helps create beautiful murals in some of Hong Kong’s poorer districts, but gives artists the space to make beautiful, lasting impacts on the community. Armed with little more than their paintbrushes and a designated canvas, many artists at HKwalls have made some of their largest and most impressive works, pieces that have lasted for years after.

zevs standing

High Art, Angry Vandalism, and Murals: The Life and Times of Zevs

By the time French street artist was featured in Banksy’s Exit Through the Gift Shop in 2010, he had already done his first solo art show in Hong Kong, defined the French street art scene, and almost been run over by a train. That last incident was how he got his name. After all, it was the Zeus train that nearly hit him while he was painting inside a train tunnel and decided that such a close brush with death should be remembered, and no moment should be wasted. And no one would accuse Zevs of squandering his life. He’s probably one of France’s most important art figures, one that never shies away from the deeply political.

Many of the artists we’ve featured here at MuralForm have gone from tagging trains or walls to art galleries and Zevs is no exception. Bridging the gap between the “high” art world and the “low,” street-level art, some would argue, has been accomplished. Banksy sells pieces in galleries for small fortunes. Shepard Fairey has turned his most iconic pieces into gallery art, and subsequently turned them into recognizable and profitable pieces seen everywhere for backpacks to campaign posters. Some even crossed over to advertising for some of the biggest companies in the world. But Zevs, he’s happier discrediting the corporate world while still pushing the boundaries of street art.

Zevs started out in Paris in the 1990s tagging anywhere he could, but two ongoing projects in particular caught the attention of the public. One, called Shadows, painted fixed shadows of various objects on the ground. Everything from park benches to wastebaskets were given permanent(ish) imprints on the ground or nearby walls. The work showed that street art wasn’t limited to walls, but could traverse other surfaces as well, a point Banksy would pick up in a few short years. His other major project, Visual Attacks, targets billboards in France, to this day spraking a debate on whether he’s a vandal or artist. Zevs would write alternate slogans on the advertisements and paint bloodied eyes on the models, disrupting the marketing with disturbing images and words. Visual attacks attacks commercialism exactly where it’s most prominently seen: advertising billboards.

zevs liquidating cc logo

Zevs continued to target commercialism and major corporations in the mid-2000s with Liquidated Logos. The project takes corporate logos and drips paint from them, giving the illusion that these logos are dissolving. The project speaks to the ever-presence of logos but their non-tangible existence, undermining their constant appearance in the street, on the screen, and at home.

Zevs art continually challenges the distinction between vandalism, street, and high art, incorporating postmodern styles and aesthetics into his artwork to push these boundaries even further. While most would condemn much of his street-level artwork for its intrusion, the very openness of Zevs’ art speaks to the constant intrusion of marketing as being unnecessarily encouraged and sanctioned by the government. His politics and prominence in Europe has let him move to art galleries, but Zevs seems continually uncomfortable with the art we’re forced to consume everyday.