Prof. Lian-Hee Wee awarded The Blue Sky Research Fund 2021/22

Professor Wee proposed to study Hong Kong graffiti, an area that is hitherto untouched by the rigours of academe studies. Modern Hong Kong graffiti is clearly inspired by the west in terms of techniques and style. However, the messages they contain, and how the messages are encoded appear to take on a very grammar that is Hong Kong’s own. Building on the foundation of tags (i.e. signature signs of the artists), Hong Kong graffiti artists create fonts and images that reflect a strong Asian identity. They twist and bend language that arises out of the contact of Cantonese, English, even classical Chinese, Japanese, and other sources not always easily identifiable. There are different artists, but there does not appear to be “gangs”, even though these communicate in their own subtle ways through their art. The project hopes to uncover (i) some of the principles underlying Hong Kong graffiti design and interpretation, (ii) the messages embodied by these works and therefore the ethics and values of this sub-culture, and (iii) if there are some works that artists consider archetypal of Hong Kong, in which case, (iv) the “grammatical accents” of these artworks beyond iconography and text that makes them Hong Kong. 

Learn more about the project: Principles of Hong Kong Graffiti: Code and Structure

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