It has been quite a challenge finding all our art materials while we have been here at the Yew Chung School. The first two weeks of the residency were spent tromping the streets of Mongkok and Wanchai in diabolical human traffic, feeling flayed alive at the end of every day, too tired to cook and too tired to sleep. But the wonderful thing about Hong Kong, is that if you are looking for tools, you will find street after street of tools and hardwares and if you are looking for art supplies, tiles, wood, marble, they too, are located in the same area, so once you find the street you then don’t have to go half way across town to find the competition.
Recently we have been looking for foundries in Guangzhou to cast the ‘Harvest’ series sculpture for the school. This time we had the school source the foundries from recommendations through some of our artist contacts and all we had to do was go to Guangzhou with a local interpreter and make an inspection to choose. Mostly, the foundries cast in brass, (they call it yellow bronze), and the ‘green’ bronze, they make themselves so is a little unpredictable. Nevertheless they are really experienced and do some massive artworks. The foundry we chose is huge, professional, highly organized and very clean. They cast a huge bronze sculpture of Bruce Lee by Cao Chong’en, 18 metres high for China. A smaller version of about 2.7 metres went to Hong Kong. We are definitely small fry here.
On our second trip over, after much negotiation on price, which is still continuing even after they have started the mold making, we hand carried my very fragile, delicate sculpture in tons of bubble wrap and bamboo sticks to keep the sculpture rigid, through the chaotic train stations, in and out of taxis, and millions of helping, well meaning hands, to the foundry. There we started the careful procedure of peeling and cutting through the layers of tape and plastic and attempting to control the eager help from the taxi driver, (who was very practical) and the foundry owner, (who couldn’t understand our fuss). We had a few small breaks in the plaster, easily fixable, which was amazing after such a journey.
Guangzhou is a devastating place. It is bleak. So grey. It kills our artist souls. Of course we have seen very little other than the taxi ride through the city and into the back blocks of the industrial areas, but this is really tough and you pass endless enterprises on the great highways selling massive empty sculptures of flying horses and giraffes and gladiators, but also anything else you can think of. Over it all is the dull leaden sky bruised by pollution, the trapped heat pulsating in a concrete desert below. The train station is bedlam and this time on our return home, there are no tickets back to Hong Kong. It is the time of the Guangzhou Trade Fair. Millions of people everywhere and even a hotel for the night, not a hopeful prospect. Our guide who had kindly stayed longer than he was paid for, gave us the helpful advice to take the local train to Shenzen, walk over the border and take the MTR home. This we did, first crammed in a giant hall in the Guangzhou station with thousands of others trying to get back to HK, thirsty, sweaty, waiting for our train call from the trains ten minutes apart, at each call, a huge surge exploding through the gates as they opened. Scary stuff. After a long trip home standing face to face in the carriage on hot swollen legs, home and bed was a wonderful place that very late night.
We are at the end of our stay, now, in Hong Kong and it is easier to move about as we know more. But perhaps it is knowing more that makes us reluctant to go out again into the mayhem to select the marble that needs to be selected, or the tiles, or the new tube of paint. Even making the crossing to Hong Kong Island, makes us stop for a second as we realize the consequences, the sheer exhaustion at the end of a day, all that human being confrontation and stomping along for miles underground on hard surfaces. It is perhaps what keeps the Kowloon side so separate to the Hong Kong island side – rarely the twain do meet. We understand…