Mar 09, 2006|
Comix Homebase is a massive, multi-dimensional celebration of our city’s comic and animation artists. It began as a 12-month comics display, but has since expanded into a 20-month series of exhibitions, screenings, conferences and a chance for our local comic artists to tour the world. The whole party begins this weekend with “Comix Magneto,” a five-week showing of 28 of the city’s best independent comic artists.
The exhibition has been a long time coming. Since joining the Hong Kong Arts Centre in the mid-90s, program director Connie Lam, a rabid comics lover, has organized a series of comic art exhibitions from around the world. Lam and her team of consultants approached the government with the Comix Homebase project and – surprise! - secured funding. The reason for Lam’s surprise is that, until now, no one had seemed particularly interested in the underground comics scene. These aren’t the kind of comics found in bookshops or on newsstands – these are a bit “out there.” They are the kind of comics at which Hong Kong artists excel. Produced on a budget of sweat and tears, they usually have a tiny print run of less than 1,000 copies. “Lots of people think reading comics is a waste of time,” says Lam. “But I grew up with comics and animation, and I think they make me a more creative thinker.”
Writer, critic and self-confessed “comics freak” Lo Che-ying is part of the exhibition’s consultation committee. Lo hopes Comix Homebase will provide a place in the sun for underground artists fighting for a space in the international comics market, which is dominated by Japan and the US. “We want to get the work directly to an audience which wants to read something new and different,” Lo says. “Hopefully, people will know more about the independent comics scene and they might even get to know the artists.”
Comics have a special place in Hong Kong, and have been a prominent art form since World War II. Comics researcher Lo Che-ying attributes this to the migration of artists from the mainland. “These people started to do their own work in Hong Kong and started to create an original Hong Kong style,” Lo explains. “As the economy got better, more and more titles were published.” The heyday for local independent comics was the late 1980s and early 1990s when Craig Au Yeung and Li Chi-tak set up “Cockroach” magazine and launched a thousand comic careers. And then, of course, came Alice Mak and the city’s favorite piggy, McDuff. Lo looks back on this period fondly: “It was the golden age for Hong Kong comics – everybody was buying them. But a lot of those guys moved on to do animation and toys and the creation of the most important part – the comics – was just steady with no new ideas.”
Since then, however, the underground comics scene has been slowly bubbling up.
While many local readers are hooked on Japanese manga, some of the coolest ideas and best techniques are to be found in Hong Kong’s own independent comic art scene. But why are so many grown-ups scribbling away on comics in the city? “It’s a very interesting media,” Lo says. “It contains drawing and writing and even ideas from cinema and the theater – you can put anything inside them; there are no limitations.”
Arts Centre program director Connie Lam is particularly impressed with the latest batch of comic artists. “They are really very good – they are all so devoted and really want to be die-hard comic artists,” she says. Many of those who have taken the comic-strip path trained as serious artists, she points out. “Kongkee has a fine arts background but he uses the comics to communicate his ideas to people,” she explains. “And so does Stella So. She has a story to share with her audience and comics is the best way to do it.”
One goal of the Comix Homebase project is to establish Hong Kong’s very own comics and animation archive. The success of the eight-year-old Film Archive is encouraging; the Arts Centre team believes they can get a similar institution up and running in the near future. The coming 20 months will be an opportunity to collect archival material and garner public support for the project. “We don’t yet have a long history of comics in Hong Kong, maybe only since the war, but we have many artists working in this field,” says comic consultant Lo Che-ying. “Their work is so unique – and so local – it’s a great idea to put them all together and preserve them.” And Comix Magneto is only the beginning: There are animation screenings, figurine exhibitions and international exchanges to come in the lead-up to the Comics Conference in October 2007. Until then, stay tuned as Hong Kong goes totally Toon Town.
Comix Magneto Exhibition. Mar 10-April 15, Arts Centre, 2 Harbour Rd., Wan Chai, 2582-0200, www.comixhomebase.com.hk.
Other Comix Homebase events (dates to be announced):
➔ Animation Workshops (Mar-Jun)
➔ “Overview of HK Mainstream Comics,” exhibition (July)
➔ “Memories of the Future,” figurine and sculpture exhibition (August)
➔ “Exploring Korean Alternative Comics,” exhibition (March, 2007)
➔ “A Snapshot of French Comics,” exhibition (March/April, 2007)
➔ Comics Conference and Hong Kong-China Exchange (October, 2007)
“Consequences” is the game, these are the rules we set five artists for our comic strip:
➔ Artist no.1 creates the first five cells of the story and passes it on to artist no.2, and so on.
➔ Each artist only sees the comic strip immediately preceding their own, except artist no.5, who has to pull the whole thing together for a gripping conclusion.
➔ Each artist has one day to complete their part of the story.
STELLA SO saves for posterity all those people and places exploited by modernity: old ferries, trains, rusted mail boxes and disappearing institutions such as dai pai dongs and Wan Chai’s Wedding Card Street. Her colorful drawings, often painted on calligraphy paper, are imbued with lost memories. So won the first prize at the 8th International Film and Video Awards for her animation “Very Fantastic.” Her comic series, “HK Powder,” is published weekly in Milk. Her new animation “Lonely Moon Tram” was released at the I-city Festival at the Hong Kong Arts Centre last year. www.smstella.com
CHIHOI literally means “the sea of wisdom.” His work is pretty diverse, from dreadfully sick monocolored figures facing their mortality, to colorful kingdoms of happy animals, buildings and trees. He has been producing comics, illustration and literary pieces since 1996. Lately, Chihoi has been a comic critic, writing reviews and introducing contemporary European comics to Hong Kong. Comic albums include “The Writer and her Story,” “Piece of Mind” and “Still Life.”
KONGKEE likes all kinds of music, from Kraftwerk and New Order to the Twins (yes, the fake ones), so expect a strange mix of styles in his work. He claims he doesn’t have the ability to distinguish between tragedy and comedy and so his works are always filled with laughter and tears. His early pieces appeared in the HK-Japanese magazine “Comic Teens.” Lately, he has been branching out into the surreal world of video art. www.shiningsummer.com
TED YEUNG does “Sin City” without the blood and violence. Yeung’s works feature weird characters in noir-like settings. He likes to play with space, twisting the perspective and shadowing the frames. He first appeared in “Cockroach” in 1998, his debut comic album, “How Blue Was My Valley” arrived in 2002 and then the Swiss fell in love with him and included him in “Strapazin” the next year. www.illustrator.org.hk
SIUHAK is an illustrator and animator. He likes tilted lines, distorted shapes and violent, but funny, scenarios. His illustration, “Ovaltine,” won the Silver Medal at the New York Comics Festival in 2002. He has designed and illustrated book covers, music albums and music videos for local singers and writers and is also a radio scriptwriter.