Far far across many a wall, great and small … well far away from where I sit counting … runs the great wall of Shenzhen in China. It isn’t your usual weather beaten, human watching and saddened sort of wall, it is of the slender bodied, winding cemented kind, dancing to the rhythm of its own rays, sprays and strokes of colours. Whence? Whereth and who-eth you ask? Welcome to graffiti in Asia.
Let’s go back in time a bit: Asia – and by this large-compassed geographical designation I mean China, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia (Japan will come later seperately if you fancy it) – has a deep rooted tradition of draughtmanship and the exploration of script via calligraphy. Based on this alone perhaps it is not surprising that graffiti is drawing to and from its fertile bossom a partircularly inspired crowd of writers who range their craft from tags to astoundingly intricate compositions in roman alphabet, Kanji, Thai, Baybayin, and in full-on pictorial dimensions.
Asia is of course an area of oceanic-mamouth proportions and it would be suicidal for the mind to attempt a cataloguing of graffiti at such an early stage in the developing of this art there. But one can take a dip. Graffiti in Asia generally is relatively young, having appeared around the 90s – even later in certain areas – and now-happening-now is graffiti in the making, Asian style.
So it came about that on the Shenzhen wall – not the first occurrence of graffiti in Asia nor the last but part of the whole graffiti scene – and in Shenzhen city itself, as well as all over Asia, graffiti artists are leaving their imprints in what for me was a jaw dropping revelation – picture it: the Shenzhen wall is possibly the largest graffiti wall of China. This is awesomely surpr-affitiying, so starting from there, dizzy and with insatiable visual hunger here are just a few names I am coming to know:
YYY, NAN and SINIC are graffiti writers from Shenzhen who work in bold shades of candy pink or flamboyant greens for example, but more than its bright hues it is the elongated forms of their letters which make their graffitis look as if they are travelling on the walls rather than resting there.
From Ghangzhou, I just discovered POPIL, a major illustrator in China… and a girl, hurray! She is one inspired pen-gunning artist.
My favourite so far is DAL, a graffiti writer in Wuhan, his graffitis are edgy and their dimension very sophisticated, with interlacing saber shaped letters.
Mr Lan is a solid name in Shanghai, in fact perhaps one of the most reknown graffiti artists in China. He recently opened a tatoo parlour moving his touch to skin art.
REDY is a graffiti artist based in Hong Kong and who, like Xeme, uses the kanji script. I particularly like his style because he works shades around his letters that make the whole graff pop out of the wall, bouncing off away from its viewer.
Initially, I had not quite grasped the numbers of crews and their prominence wherever graffiti happened to be, and I was mostly honing in on individuals’ art work but through looking into Asia, I am now gauging the might of creation in groups and the bustling spirit of graffiti crews. Those that grabbed my attention (and this is by no means representative of all the talent out there) are the well known Oops Crew in Shanghai (with a notable girl member named Tin.g), the JNJ Crew created by Yoo In-Joon and Im-Dong-Ju in Seoul, and BAI*PMT in Bangkok.
REACH in Taipei is possibly my favourite so far in the picture style of graffiti. You know when you look at a graffiti, you see rocking the scene and the craddle the artist’s creativity. The shapes of the graffiti artist’s name and the colours chosen are like a wake up slap to a dimension of seeing with someone else’s mind rather than one’s own eyes. Writers like REACH, are a door further, not a entry door, built in bold and transformed cheeky letters. It is encryption at its best.
Although I could not find an image to post here, I’d like to mention POYD from Chiang Mai, Thailand, who is so versatile. I do not know if the different photos of his work I have seen are from several years in sequence or if they represent the same time frame, so I cannot tell if his versatility emanates from a change in his work over the years or if he is, as I suspect, a really talented graffiti script-explorer. All the same, when he bombs the walls tremble!
Taking place now is the Wall of Lords Asia 2010, a massive showcasing of writers and crews opening space for paint bombing through a competition. It is opened for China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. Some amazing work is going to spring from there, not a shadow of a doubt on spray can for sure.
This little black and white, lettered portal I am scripting here is only a mention of those artists I prefer, do drop names and links of those you know, please.
Our dip into Asian graffiti is far from over though, what do you say we go to Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and sit for a newly released documentary?