Wednesday, March 1 – Friday, March 31, 2017
UPV Art Gallery, University of the Philippines Visayas
Gen. Luna St., Iloilo City, 5000 Philippines
UnADULTeRated Art is the second group exhibition undertaken by the Hong Kong Mural Society (HKMS), which showcases the diverse studio art produced by its core-member muralists. Over the course of 20 years, HKMS—as an organization—has seen its group members work alone on an outstanding number of murals. These numbers include more than 100 site-specific murals in Hong Kong and numerous community murals in the Philippines, Brunei, Bulgaria, and the United States. Not too many muralists have the time or desire to continue their studio art while they are busy engaging in their mural projects. UnADULTeRated Art is a celebration of individual concepts and art practices other than murals produced in their own studio environments.
Kong Ho and Martie Geiger-Ho co-founded the Hong Kong Mural Society (HKMS), a non-profit art organization on June 1, 1997, one month before the handover, with the Societies Ordinance Office, which was then located at the Royal Hong Kong Police Headquarters in Wanchai, Hong Kong. In the mid-1990s, murals were a relatively new art form in Hong Kong because most imagery displayed in the public domain carried a commercial message or advertised a product. Their idea for establishing mural painting as a fine art form was to turn the public's attention away from the constant bombardment of commercial advertising and to replace empty public spaces that were no more than eyesores of blandness in the vast public housing communities with murals that they could enjoy and identify with because of their cultural value and links to the local community. Instead of complaining about Hong Kong's hedonism and lack of culturally engaging public artworks, Ho decided to take advantage of the newly emerging opportunities for artists through organizations like the Hong Kong Arts Development Council and see if he could help to create an alternative means of supporting the local art scene other than by participating in the usual routes of gallery representation or inclusions in tightly curated museum exhibitions.
Just like with anything in life, mural painting has its fun and entertaining aspects that are balanced by mundane and less enjoyable activities that must be attended to. Painting an organized mural is much harder to successfully see through than painting a covert illegal graffiti scene because wall space is valuable if it is in a good location for viewing. Impressionable and lasting community art must be sanctioned by both the community that must live with the art, and by the businesses, which own the buildings and control the spaces where the art is to be permanently painted. Because of the opportunity that arose precisely during the time that Ho was planning his foray into public mural painting, this problem was easily overcome. This opportunity was one that he created himself by taking a chance on presenting his ideas for painting murals on the empty looming walls of the housing estates that were under the management of the Hong Kong Housing Authority (HKHA).
Shortly after the newly formed HKMS received a project grant from the newly founded Hong Kong Arts Development Council (HKADC), established in 1995, for painting two large murals at public housing sites, Ho took action to possibly expand the scope of the project for painting murals by putting together a large proposal and plan for approaching the Hong Kong Housing Authority about more work. He wanted to tackle as many projects as he could under one scheme because it would mean having enough work lined up to make ordering large quantities of paint and supplies from the US feasible. Another reason for wanting to plan on a large scale was his distribution plan for dividing up the work among current and prospective members of HKMS. He went with the motto—strike while the iron is hot! He approached the HKHA about "The Art for the Masses Scheme – Care for Your Estate", a pilot community art project to commission 12 public murals in 12 public rental estates in Hong Kong with a newfound sense of excitement and confidence that he had never felt before. HKMS's first community mural project was successful in gaining funding from the Visual Arts Committee of the HKADC because its aims aligned with HKADC's goals to widen the base for appreciation and participation through community art projects and to improve community access to the arts. At the same time, the success of HKMS's first community mural project depended on the first batch of dedicated HKMS muralists.
HKMS muralists give their total creative talent and energy to each public mural that may take months to complete from concept planning to organizing teaching mural painting workshops for community participants, ordering materials, and painting the actual mural alongside other artists and volunteers. This means that HKMS muralists must put their own personal studio art on hold when working on a public mural with a deadline. Studio artists are creative individuals no matter they are full-time educators or designers during day time and practicing artists at night. They are producers of one-of-a-kind artworks, which can include expressive personal pieces in media, including paintings, ceramics, sculptures, graphic designs, photographs, videos, and art installations. Not many studio-artists have the discipline or desire to give-up their precious studio time to work on a public community mural commission.
Through cultural sensitivity, boundless imagination, and diverse exploration in visual arts, the participating HKMS muralists, including Joel E. Farraris, Martie Geiger-Ho, Kong Ho, Chris Lau and Penva Yim, have applied their individual art concepts and expressions to create new meaning in the contemporary visual arts field. Their art concepts evolve from their personal life-experiences, individual desires to master the skills of their chosen medium, and explorations into complex social issues. These expressions are told through paintings, sculptures, ceramics, photographs, videos, graphic designs, digital prints and mixed media installations.
Prof. Kong Ho and Dr. Martie Geiger-Ho
Listed as cultural community artifacts, murals that have been commissioned by various Hong Kong government departments and private corporations and executed by the Hong Kong Mural Society (HKMS), have been gracing neighborhood communities with beauty and a sense of history for over 18 years.
Over the years, HKMS has set a very high bar of standards for achieving each of the objectives stated in their constitution. Each mural that HKMS has undertaken has fully encompassed all of the societies objectives and more. This commitment to integrating community identity through permanent and site-specific murals comes from the combined individual talents of the HKMS's muralists.
En•list•ing for Community Service
It takes many skills to be a HKMS muralist. In addition to possessing strong acuity in the visual arts, muralists must be willing to lend all of their expertise towards developing a large scale school or public mural that reflects the popular, visual, and social culture of either a school or a specific neighborhood and its surrounding community. In addition to being adroit at creating mural designs that are based on a montage of images that encompass both the historical content of the proposed mural's location along with the visual contributions by community members that they believe are culturally significant, HKMS muralists must also be strong teachers who can conduct mural workshops for students and novices. This means that the lead-muralist in charge of leading his or her mural team, must share all of their artistic expertise in guiding the mural's design, without interjecting their own concepts about they might personally like to see painted. HKMS muralists must be objective about the content of a mural and concede its message, symbolism and historical references to the desired needs of the community members who reside within the neighborhood where the mural will take its place as a new landmark in the form of art.
Just as handwriting experts can tell if a document is forged by comparing it to another sample of a writer's authenticated script, art experts can also trace the style and use of materials in an artwork to the person that painted it. This same analogy also holds true for group and community produced murals where a lead-muralist is responsible for integrating large numbers of images and ideas into a unified whole composition. It is the lead muralist's job to use line, color, shape, texture and contrasting light and dark areas to create a composition or design that has the right amount of rhythm tension and balance. If all of these "art ingredients" and pictorial devices are mixed together in the right way, the result is a visually appealing mural that exhibits something of the lead muralist's aesthetic sense or style. An artist's style, like their handwriting, can be imitated to a certain extent, but it can never be exactly copied. It stands to reason then, that each lead muralist's style will to some extent, be evident in the murals that are developed and completed under their direction. Lead-muralists and their mural teams must give 100% of their creative talent and energy to a public mural that may take months to complete from concept planning to organizing teaching mural painting workshops for school and community participants, ordering materials, and painting the actual mural alongside other muralists and volunteers. This means that HKMS muralists must put their own personal studio art on hold when working on a public mural with a deadline. Studio artists are special breeds of artist. They are producers of one-of-a-kind fine artworks, which can include expressive personal pieces in media ranging from oil on canvas paintings to inter-media installations. Not many studio-artists have the discipline or desire to give-up their precious studio time to work on a public community mural commission. Moreover, even fewer artists are willing to sublimate their own ideas in favor of helping to shape the drawings and verbal concepts of novice public art mural participants into expressive visual images and colorful points of interest.
Mural•list•mania is a celebration of studio art produced by six of HKMS's long-time core-member muralists. Coming together to exhibit their own work for the first time, Kong Ho, Martie Geiger-Ho, Joel E. Ferraris, Rebeka Tam, Irene Leung and Ivy Yuen, represent HKMS artists who work and create in a variety of fine art related career fields.
Dr. Martie Geiger-Ho