Saturday, May 7, 2011

a cultural icon - part of Hong Kong history

I wanted to post this story after a wonderfully thoughtful blogger Fernenland , from across the Tasman Sea,(NZ) shared this New York Times article with me this week. Thank you F!

Tsang Tsou-choi, also known as the
King of Kowloon, in a photo taken in 1997.

May 4, 2011

King of Kowloon Finally Gets Respect

HONG KONG — A toothless garbageman who once wandered Hong Kong’s streets with dingy bags of ink and brushes tied to his crutches is now the subject of a major retrospective. About 300 calligraphic works by the late Tsang Tsou-choi — who is best known by his self-dubbed title, the King of Kowloon — are showing at the ArtisTree art space in a high glass tower.
The show, “Memories of King Kowloon” (until May 31), in a spacious corporate-sponsored dimly lighted gallery, quiet as a library, would have been foreign territory for Mr. Tsang. He was most at home under the tropical sun and neon lights. An outsider artist, he spent half a century dodging security guards and police officers as he obsessively covered lampposts and mailboxes, slums and ferry piers, with his distinctive Chinese text.
Mr. Tsang, who died in 2007 at the age of 85, created an estimated 55,000 outdoor pieces, almost all of which have been washed away, painted over or torn down by the authorities and real estate developers. He was a rebel graffiti artist decades before it was fashionable, creating art brut in a city that has no time for outsiders.
Mr. Tsang arrived in Hong Kong as a teenage refugee from Guangdong, a southern province bordering Hong Kong, in the 1930s, and began his urban painting in the 1950s.
He toiled under the delusion that he was the rightful heir and ruler of the Kowloon Peninsula, dismissing all political factions that had controlled the area: the Qing Dynasty until 1898, the British until 1997 and China today. In his thick scrawl, he marked his territory with “royal decrees” and a “family tree,” using the names of his ancestors and eight children to build an imaginary web of princes and princesses. Read more. 

Here are some great pics of this artist from a blog I discovered called IN THE SKY:

I liked this text which accompanied images from on the Sky Blog:

Monday, May 02, 2011

九龍皇帝曾灶財: 鰂魚涌太古坊 ArtisTree Showcase "King of Kowloon" at Taikoo Place HK

他的堅持,他的信念,盡在他的文字裡。展覽至五月三十一日,場館:ArtisTree, 康和樓一樓(靠港島東),鰂魚涌太古坊.
Mr. Tsang Tsou-Choi (King of Kowloon) Showcase at ArtisTree, 1/F., Cornwall House, Taikoo Place, Quarry Bay, until 31st May, 2011.
*在展館內,一篇一篇他的文字樂,一筆一揮他對著自己身世不修篩的堅持,再看他歲月遺痕的身外物,不奇然令人心神震撼,拿起相機的當時,手與眼睛不禁有點激動。 一生不斷地寫,在每一街角流下自己思潮的引記,就是那麼有血有肉的漫長訴說。
*Mr. Tsang spent all of his life time on writing on his claiming as the King of Kowloon as in his royal family trace from the past Chinese dynasty. He kept on writing and writing at every corner of the streets. His writing is so simply straight out of his mind and heart. Personally I don't agree to what SCMP's claim on his writing as graffiti. It should be Mr. Tsang's own calligraphy - his own world in his own heart.

Perhaps this is a poignant reminder to all of us who are compelled to make art... we can approach art-making with such an acute self-consciousness that its almost impossible to take pleasure in what we do.

This 'outsider' artist and others like him offer a precious gift in reminding us of another way, another kind of impulse. One where self and "career" and agendas are not getting in the way of some very important qualities.

My NZ friend also shared the Maori saying "Kia Kaha" with its approximate meaning... to "stand strong" ... in regard to the artist's challenge to stay true to themselves... a harder thing to do at times than we sometimes assume.

I'm wondering what you might think about this...?

Now back to the painting...
enjoy your weekend,


r said...

This hits a place deep within , and your blog label 'authenticity 'goes there , along with integrity , ownership , holding on and standing firm.
Perhaps it is best for this king that all this attention is happening after his death tho, as he may have still found himself surrounded by disbelievers of the core story of his work.

Sophie Munns said...

blessings for this pithy comment!
Perhaps as you say the attention coming after may well have been a plus!
You didn't catch 'Poetica" on RN today I wonder... ?similar vein was brilliantly explored ... no doubt it fortified the impulse to post this.

novembergrass said...

Belief is the word that comes to mind here for me. Believing in your art, your life, your story even when others do not. This art and life and story are beautiful. -Sue

Sophie Munns said...

Beautifully said Sue... so glad you left this comment!
Certainly is quite a story...

nathalie et cetera said...

wonderful post again reminds me of the story of Séraphine de Senlis.

"we can approach art-making with such an acute self-consciousness that its almost impossible to take pleasure in what we do" so true!

Sophie Munns said...

I looked up the link to read about Seraphine de amazing story Nathalie... very poignant and unbelievably difficult!
I noticed there was a film released a few years ago... sigh! - the "irrepressable spirit" that can drive one - she certainly had that.
That self-consciousness is a killer yes?

nathalie et cetera said...

i saw the movie, that's how i discovered Séraphine. It is worth seeing.

Sophie Munns said...

Fantastic... thanks for letting me know Nat...ciao,

The Artist Within Us said...

Dear Sophie,

I marvel at the direction that your blog has taken, filling it with interesting and illuminating post to stimulate the mind. In other words a shoot of inspiration for the soul that can be most addicting.

Thank you for being true to yourself and your spirit.

Warmest regards,

Sophie Munns said...

Thank you for this warm affirmation Egmont!

An interesting insight... given you've visited since 2009.
In a way blogging involves self revelation as much as opening a window to the world from your own life, or thoughts. The impulse to fill journals over years, save papers and stories now lives here in an observable format, week after week gradually shaping what is put on the table.
... its curious Egmont how the passion for biodiversity of seeds is paralleled here in my interest in the diversity of the human expression of the 'inner force' (Jung's "daimon" - the ancient Greek concept of inner or inspiring force).
As much as a love of paint has prompted years of looking, reading, study and pursuit it simply does not end there... nor does it end with the intellectual examination or the historical or the 'feeling' life.

In the same way a whole world lies hidden in a tiny seed of one particular species, and may express itself in a unique way to the ones around it... my preoccupation centres very much on this "push to unfold and become itself - oneself" ... the question for me is not "who is the best painter in a particular genre" ... but what is living in this work... what is trying to be born and so on.

Joseph Campbell's thought "the privilege of a lifetime is being who you are" might inspire debate... it works for me. It takes a certain courage to accept that "privelege"... but what an affirmation for life...really! The focus on being yourself rather than being the best - with the idea that out of authenticity the best will arise!

my best wishes to you,

Debu Barve said...


thank you so much for this wonderful blog post. Speechless about his conviction and honesty towards his expression. Sometimes the grass-root level social worker makes a big-shot politician very uncomfortable. Similarly such honest artists have power to shake some calculative art superstars. hats off.
Thanks again for this wonderful post.

Sophie Munns said...

Hi Debu,
I'm pleased you left this comment... know precisely what you mean about the calculated 'stars' ...some rise to prominence because they are great at what they do... others contrive, hustle and gab any moment they can ... an artist like this says a lot!
appreciate your thoughts,