Villages voices

written by Joyce Kam
The Standard

In just three years, Fo Tan has been through a remarkable transformation - from obsolete industrial district to thriving nursery for budding artists. The transformation began with a move by The Chinese University's Department of Fine Arts students to use the district's many factory buildings that had fallen empty. With space going relatively cheap, the district has become an enclave for artists, with 180 operating in 50 studios.

For the coming two weekends, the artists will be welcoming anyone who wants to see that transformation as well as its creative harvest. "The Fotanian - Fotan Artists Open Studios 2009" is a great chance to feel the diverse and dynamic creativity brewing on the Hong Kong art scene.

Wah Luen Industrial Centre is one such building that today hides exciting studios within its dull exteriors.

On the fifth floor, Studio 0520 houses Stephen Wong Chun-hei, who paints scenes from video games.

"I play the car-racing game but drive really slowly to find beautiful scenery," Wong said. With many people engrossed in portable game players and ignoring the views during train rides, he wanted to show another way to enjoy video games.

On the fourth floor is Hang Fat Studio, which will have an exhibition entitled "Love Simply."
Tang Kwok-hin said the title reflects the wish of his group of artists to make contemporary art accessible.

"Love is something everyone understands. We are using different mediums to illustrate the same theme with an expla nation written next to our works."

Tang's studio has been renovated to look like a proper gallery, but his neighbours at the oddly-named =(o-otter studio fancy another approach.

"For me, the test of the accessibility of a studio is whether it is like a gathering of friends, so food is most important," said Natalie Lo Lai-lai.

"We want to create a warm area where people can chill and chit-chat while they look at our works."

There may be a hidden dynamic in the chance to raise their public profile, but all are united for now in the common goal of raising public awareness. "I consider it as more like a chance to let people know what our workplace is like, or how we come up with a painting, from inspiration to execution," Lo said.

On the third floor is Lui Studio, set up by a group of fresh graduates to showcase their various styles.

Casper Chan Hiu-kwan said: "Sometimes we stay here overnight. It's inspiring since the place is quiet."

She has painted a series about five kinds of women. "Some are dressed like boys while some look malnourished. I want to show how society has marginalized them."

But it is not all about painting.

There is Metal And Earth Sculpture Studio on the 13th floor of Yale Industrial Centre, which Alinoz Yee Wai- ping says offer "different courses teaching people to do kiln-casting of metal, glass crafting, modeling and glazing ceramics, as well as enamels."

And over at Veristrong Industrial Center is The Photocrafters X Work and Workshop, which is exhibiting photos by four artists, one of which is an ongoing series by Simon Wan Chi- chung.
"I chose the brightest streets in seven Asian cities and took pictures using multiple exposures. I wanted to show similar signs and symbols in all cities that reflect the consumerism and globalization," Wan said.

On top of the open houses at the studios, there will be live band shows in Blue Lotus Gallery and Kiss on Fire, while performing artists will stage various happenings in the streets. Hong Kong's first "complain choir" will be debuting at G43.