Sai Wan is one of Hong Kong’s oldest and most vibrant local areas: it is a place where East meets West, where creativity meets commerce, and where a growing artistic community thrives. It is also home to theDesk Sai Wan, our co-working space designed to give members a space to be creative, to ideate, and to brainstorm together, as well as an arts hub for the local creative community.
As part of the mission of the space, we have hosted many amazing exhibitions, giving artists the chance to show their work and meet a new network of people, and introducing members to creative thinkers.
For our latest exhibition, we are pleased to host Fuquan Junze, an artist with a diverse and creative background, from engineer, to designer, to portrait artist. His latest exhibition, Bringing People Together, examines his latest project of realism art, from portraits to the universal language of Emoji used as a way to unite people, a theme which matches closely with
What is the source of inspiration for your work and how has your creative process evolved over the years?
Fuquan Junze: I’ve been drawing seriously for about 6 years. In the beginning, I practiced a method of drawing called Bargue. In this method one typically draws portraits, usually people and detailed examinations of their facial features. I started drawing portraits this way and something of that method still lives on in my work. I really like to connect with people, not just with how they present themselves on the outside, but with what they have deep inside.
In the beginning, a lot of my art was focused on the Internet. I did a series around Instagram, sketching out the whole Instagram interface on my sketchbook. One of the drawings I remember well was a request from a young lady, who asked for a portrait of her and her boyfriend who were in a long-distance relationship. I think this resulted in a really interesting story about a human narrative. After this art series, I focused a lot on technique. For example, how I use graphite, how I use charcoal. A lot of the focus now is on the materials and the interplay between different methods.
What drove you to focus on the topic of language and communication?
FJ: Many people wear their masks in their daily life, especially when they go out in public and interact with other people. I used to be an engineer, a coach in school, a manager in a company. I grew tired of these roles. People wear masks for their own purposes, but it really sets a boundary on communications. We all hide our feelings behind our external selves. What I really want for my work is to reveal people’s souls behind that exterior.
For example one of my works is of Jesus, a portrait of a man, a modern Jesus. The picture is of him before he died, but shown in a way wholly different from classical portrayals. I want the viewer to read his expression and see his soul, his eyes show he is tired, his skin is dry and weary. What I am trying to show through portrait is purely about the soul inside.
You can see in my work I almost never draw popular contemporary characters or celebrities, I’m not really interested in these subjects. Their photos are almost always photoshopped, and the version of what you see is not a true portrayal of themselves. I’m more interested in everyday characters, and finding a way to communicate the true nature and soul of people.
What compelled you to choose Emoji as a topic for your work?
FJ: Humans have already been in the information age for a long time. Emojis are a shorthand, present in a lot of the messaging services people use every day. They are easy to use and people really don’t even need time to learn how to use them. Regardless of language, they are intuitive. The best thing about emoji is that they don’t have a pronunciation, in that way they aren’t a language at all, but something more direct. But they also have limitations.
I created an Emoji drawing for theDesk Sai Wan. I found that when we tried to translate the name of the space into Emoji, there wasn’t an emoji to represent that idea, so I had to create one to complete the drawing. Which is to say, the format is attractive to people but it is also limited. They are important because they are so widely used, many people use them every day to communicate something that is understood, but is outside of language.
What made you change practices from design to art – How does your approach differ between these fields? And what do you want people to take away from your art?
FJ: Ten years ago I was a designer. I did interior design, furniture. Eventually, I became tired of the design field and switched to art. To me, the job of design is to appease the user: to design an object with the main purpose of pleasing people through use, whether that’s a comfortable chair or a sturdy table. However, art isn’t like this at all. Art exists to challenge people. When I draw something, I’m trying to create something new.
I hope that when people see my drawings, especially the portraits, that they can look into the eyes of the subjects and try to see the soul within. I want the work to challenge people to think about their own roles and masks, and what they can do to access a truer or purer version of themselves. To me, it’s a very spiritual practice, and I hope to inspire people to gain more of this perspective within themselves.
What do you like about working in Sai Wan?
FJ: Space in Hong Kong is limited, and people need to pay a lot for housing, even for small spaces. This limits the growth of artists, we can’t spend a lot of money on the extra space needed to make and show work. Sai Wan and theDesk is unique because it not only offers more space, but it has a better atmosphere than other places in Hong Kong. I often go to Sai Wan to work and I really like the community, it feels like home, and a space like that really gives the artistic community a chance to develop.
How do you think a co-working space can provide a different art-viewing or showing experience than a gallery setting?
FJ: Working with a co-working space is quite comfortable because I get a lot of flexibility in how I present my work. For example, on a previous project I was able to put on a live demo every week at one of the spaces which was a great way to interact with people and show my process. I really look forward to working with open-minded people, especially in the arts.
How has the experience of working with theDesk been?
FJ: It’s been a productive experience and I like presenting in this kind of environment. As a counter-example, working with a gallery often there are certain limitations in the relationship. I like meeting new people and the community is quite diverse, it’s great to interact with members whatever their backgrounds and areas of work are, whether it’s food, insurance, finance etc…I look forward to meeting new people at the exhibition.
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