Analysis of Stella So’s artwork – Part 2

2. What is the artwork about?

Stella So’s artworks are about old Hong Kong because she wants to express her experiences of living in Hong Kong, and in particular her concerns about the rapid modernisation of the city and the loss of its historical architectural landscape by using a range of mediums including illustration, comics and animation. Those illustrations are mainly drawn based on Stella So’s personal experience and her imagination.

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3. Cultural and social background of the artwork

Stella So thinks that Hong Kong has many visual elements along its streets, especially elements of the older culture. Because the government wants to earn money from buying land and re-building on it, these elements will fade away. There’s no way to stop it. She draws them in her illustrations to collect them and in hopes that she can reconstruct the city in her mind. How can we let our lovely memories fade away?

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4. Understanding / Interpretation of the artwork

In my opinion, collective memory can be found in Stella So’s artwork. The artwork shows the old Hong Kong which Stella So has experienced when she was young. However, the places, where she had been to, are going to disappear because of urban development. The old Hong Kong only exists in people’s minds. As a result, Stella So want to draw them out for people to cherish their memory of old Hong Kong and hope people can try their best to protect Hong Kong. In fact, those places and objects are what we call collective memory nowadays. However, it’s a bit sad that we can only see the old Hong Kong in Stella So’s artworks, rather than seeing it in the place where we live now. Therefore, people should strive to conserve valuable historical heritages in Hong Kong.

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5. Do you like the work and why?

I really like Stella So’s work because she used many different techniques in drawing colorful illustrations which is very attractive to readers. Also, all of her artworks have a story and underlying meaning. For example, Very Fantastic and  City of Powder – the disappearing Hong Kong want to convey readers a message that Hong Kong is losing its history and culture due to rapid urban development. People can only find the old Hong Kong in their memories. As a result, Stella So’s work can raise the public concern and increase awareness towards conservation of historical buildings and local culture.

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6. Comparing with other artists’ work

Hong Kong Pop Up (香港彈起) is published by Kit Lau. Like Stella So’s work, both of them use old Hong Kong as the background of their work and they are about collective memory. Hong Kong Pop up shows six types of unique buildings in Hong Kong, which are Chinese old tenements, squatter areas, resettlement estates, Kowloon Walled City, public housing estates and western-style buildings. They are going to disappear due to urban development. The difference between Kit Lau’s work and Stella So’s work is that Kit Lau displays those old buildings by 3D papercraft, whereas Stella So draws illustrations on Chinese 9-square calligraphy paper.

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7. Other people’s comment on the work

A lyrical article at Honey Pupu (Art writer) is as detailed an analysis of So’s art as you will find online. The author doesn’t see her as any sort of conservationist — she hasn’t the influence or the training for this — but as a nostalgist, the poetry of whose images convey something of the truth of memory. These comics are free from narrative and the flow of time; the saturated hues and imaginings not suggestive of history, but of something instinctive and almost incontrovertible.

The comment on Stella So’s work is positive and people think that her work can show the real Hong Kong in the past. Although the time passed, we can still find old Hong Kong and our collective memory in her works.

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8. The significance of the work in the context of Hong Kong

Nowadays, the Hong Kong government always talk about sustainable development. However, when facing the problem of limited land supply, it is ironic that the government would think of destroying natural area or demolishing historical landscape in order to increase residential area and facilitate urban development. Typical example is the renewal of the “Wedding Card Street”. Those residents are forced to move away from “Wedding Card Street” and they lose their neighbourhood. The culture of buying wedding cards in “Wedding Card Street” is also disappeared. Then who is going to protect local culture and historical heritage? Stella So’s work suggests that all Hong Kong people have a right to protect our collective memory and we should take the initiative to express our opinion in urban and rural development.

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If you want to know more about Stella So, you can visit her website and blog for more information!!!!

Stella So’s Website: http://www.smstella.com/

Stella So’s Blog: http://stellaso.blogspot.hk/

Stella So’s Old Girl Diary: http://oldgirldiary.blogspot.hk/

References:

1. Ng Suat Tong. Memories of Old Hong Kong. Retrieved on 4 Mar 2014 from http://www.hoodedutilitarian.com/2011/03/two-comics-by-stella-so/

2. Honey pupu. City of Powder – the disappearing Hong Kong. Retrieved on 4 Mar 2014 from  http://honeypupu.pixnet.net/blog/post/10842846

3. Cheryl Wong Wing-zi. Hong Kong artist, Stella So. Retrieved on 4 Mar 2014 from http://hk-magazine.com/events/article/hong-kong-artist-stella-so

4. ac101. City of Powder – the disappearing Hong Kong. Retrieved on 4 Mar 2014 from http://www.douban.com/photos/photo/534701558/#image

5. The Pop-Up Kingdom. Hong Kong Pop Up. Retrieved on 4 Mar 2014 from http://www.popupkingdom.com/2009/07/blog-post.html

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Analysis of Stella So’s artwotk – Part 1

Since the style and meaning of Very Fantastic and City of Powder — the disappearing Hong Kong are similar, I am going to analyze these two artworks together.

1. Form, media, materials and techniques used in the artwork

For Very Fantastic, it combines sketches, photos and description in a kind of careful collage. Hence the distortions in this view of a row of bird cages and this sketch of a dark iron door crowned with frosted glass funneling a warm orange intensity.

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This book is also a collection of chromatic reminiscences. For example, the quality of light in a stairwell is noted at one point and is seen to transport that space back 30 years.

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Both of the books are formulated on a grid design which is typical of practice books for writing Chinese characters (Chinese 9-square calligraphy paper). These don’t merely act as guidelines but also as flexible panels to which she fits her sketches. The reason why Stella So designed characters on Chinese 9-square calligraphy paper is that she learnt how to write on these papers when she was young. These papers are also part of her memories and they are going to disappear in Hong Kong very soon. 

Drawing on Chinese 9-square calligraphy paper is really a creative idea as the nine grids enable Stella So to create many different angles and illusions after combining with her illustrations. It can easily catch readers’ attention. From the pictures above, you can see that the grids act as photo frames for Stella So to insert real photos for comparisons. From the pictures below, you can see that the grids are successfully in creating illusion and acting as a background. Stella So draws the girl in the middle part of the Chinese 9-square calligraphy paper when she came out from the old tenement, as a result it is easy for the readers to think that those empty grids are combined to form a door for her to come out.

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Stella So likes using exaggerated angles, such as fish eye, to create a new and unrealistic environment. Like the picture below, exaggerated angle is used in drawing the Star Ferry Pier in Tsim Sha Tsui. She wants to convey readers that although exaggerated angles make these places seem unrealistic, they have been disappeared and can only be drawn based on Stella So’s imagination.

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The final shot of the cartoon shows the protagonist walking down a staircase lodged in the thin gutter between the four rows of calligraphic squares, the paper now turned on its side to give a long vertical space instead of a horizontal one. The paper lodges the proceedings firmly in a Chinese past, the fading green lines hardly being the stuff of modern printing and modern Hong Kong. The large fold out panoramas are not only functional in design, but calculated to draw readers into the centuries old tradition of Chinese scroll painting.

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The old Hong Kong is not only drawn based on Stella So’s memory, but also includes Stella So’s imagination. Stella So drew old Chinese tenements, Chinese restaurants and old Star Ferry Pier based on her personal experience. Besides, she drew Chinese restaurant as a tram, drew trees on the buildings in “Wedding Card Street”, and drew old urban area, which the bus passed through, as a “Castle in the Sky” (天空之城) based on her imagination. Although all these are unrealistic, I think it is the ideal “Hong Kong” which Stella So wants to construct in her mind.

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If you want to know more about Stella So, you can visit her website and blog for more information!!!!

Stella So’s Website: http://www.smstella.com/

Stella So’s Blog: http://stellaso.blogspot.hk/

Stella So’s Old Girl Diary: http://oldgirldiary.blogspot.hk/

References:

1. Honey pupu. City of Powder – the disappearing Hong Kong. Retrieved on 4 Mar 2014 from http://honeypupu.pixnet.net/blog/post/10842846

2. Very Fantastic. Retrieved on 4 Mar 2014 from http://book.douban.com/review/1176115/

3. Very Fantastic. Retrieved on 4 Mar 2014 from http://book.douban.com/review/1891337/

4. Ng Suat Tong. Memories of Old Hong Kong. Retrieved on 4 Mar 2014 from http://www.hoodedutilitarian.com/2011/03/two-comics-by-stella-so/

5. DrBlack. City of Powder – the disappearing Hong Kong. Retrieved on 4 Mar 2014 from http://blog.yam.com/DrBlack/article/28489837

City of Powder — the disappearing Hong Kong (粉末都市—消失中的香港)

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What is City of Powder — the disappearing Hong Kong about?

It is an oblong-shaped book of illustrations and comics published in 2008. Stella So is fascinated by the sensory environment of the city, and the chapter titles of this memoir reflect the colors, smells, and sounds she experienced during her excursions. As with her earlier project, the drawings here are an amalgamation of the real and the imagined; a compression of time, place, and meaning.

Like Very Fantastic, this book also describes what Hong Kong people had lost during urban development in recent years. However, this book is not about a story, instead all the graphics are drawn based on Stella So’s personal experience and her memory about the old Hong Kong. Stella So likes the old Chinese tenements, Chinese restaurants and she misses “Wedding Card Street” and old Star Ferry Pier. Therefore, we can find pictures of these places in the book.

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City of Powder ends with the origins and customs of the Chinese Ghost Festival; a not surprising conclusion in view of the theme of So’s book. It begins with a description of Maudgalyayana’s (a disciple of Gautama Buddha) quest to liberate his mother from hell where she has been transformed into a hungry ghost, a creature in a perpetual state of longing due to its inability to consume any food. The food offerings which are sometimes found at various houses and temples during the Ghost month relate directly to Buddha’s solution to this dilemma. The Indian elephant is a reminder of this cross-cultural fertilization; the dialog between the little girl lost and the boy, a not so subtle call to remember tradition amidst modernity.

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When the boy asks the girl how she came to be lost, she replies that she couldn’t find her way home because of the rapid changes to the city. The ceremonies and offerings which make up innards of the mechanical pachyderm are reminders of an urban past, a ritual of rebirth which recalls Maudgalyayana’s efforts to ensure his mother’s reincarnation.

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If you want to know more about Stella So, you can visit her website and blog for more information!!!!

Stella So’s Website: http://www.smstella.com/

Stella So’s Blog: http://stellaso.blogspot.hk/

Stella So’s Old Girl Diary: http://oldgirldiary.blogspot.hk/

References:

1. Honey pupu. City of Powder – the disappearing Hong Kong. Retrieved on 1 Mar 2014 from http://honeypupu.pixnet.net/blog/post/10842846

2. Ng Suat Tong. Memories of Old Hong Kong. Retrieved on 1 Mar 2014 from http://www.hoodedutilitarian.com/2011/03/two-comics-by-stella-so/

3. DrBlack. City of Powder – the disappearing Hong Kong. Retrieved on 1 Mar 2014 from http://blog.yam.com/DrBlack/article/28489837

Very Fantastic (好鬼棧)

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Very Fantastic was done by Stella So as a graduation project from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in 2002, and describes the fading world of old Chinese tenements. Her travels through the corridors and byways of these old structures make up the bulk of the book, combining sketches, photos and description in a kind of careful collage.

What is Very Fantastic about?

The story is about a young girl who needed to clean toilets (倒夜香) in an old Chinese tenement. When she worked and walked through the stairs, corridors and suspension bridges in the old Chinese tenement, pawnshops, barber shops and other old local stores around the old Chinese tenement had all changed to modern skyscrapers. When the young girl finished her job and stepped into the street, she had also become an old person. The story tells us that Hong Kong had suffered a great change from 1920 to 2000. Actually, the old Chinese tenement had disappeared and just existed in people’s memories.

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If you are interested in Very Fantastic, please visit the following website and watch the story.

http://v.dayoo.com/afterMediaFileAction.do?method=getPlayMedia&fileId=20117

If you want to know more about Stella So, you can visit her website and blog for more information!!!!

Stella So’s Website: http://www.smstella.com/

Stella So’s Blog: http://stellaso.blogspot.hk/

Stella So’s Old Girl Diary: http://oldgirldiary.blogspot.hk/

References:

1. Very Fantastic. Retrieved on 1 Mar 2014 from http://book.douban.com/review/1891337/

2. Very Fantastic. Retrieved on 4 Mar 2014 from http://book.douban.com/review/1176115/

3. Ng Suat Tong. Memories of Old Hong Kong. Retrieved on 4 Mar 2014 from http://www.hoodedutilitarian.com/2011/03/two-comics-by-stella-so/

4. DrBlack. City of Powder – the disappearing Hong Kong. Retrieved on 4 Mar 2014 from http://blog.yam.com/DrBlack/article/28489837

Biography of Stella So

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Have you ever watched the music video of Anthony Wong (黃耀明) called “Lost” (下落不明) or have you ever seen  Eason Chan’s album in 2008? It is not surprised that you will see many colorful graphics in the music video or in the album which can easily catch people’s attention.

In fact, all these comics arts are drawn by a local illustrator, called Stella, So Man Yee. Stella was borned in Hong Kong in 1977 and she works and lives in Hong Kong too. Stella started making animations when she studied graphic design. Since graduating in 2002 with a Bachelor of Arts in Visual Communication (Design) from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, She won the First Prize of The 8th Hong Kong Independent Short Film & Video Awards (ifva) with her seven-minute “Very Fantastic” (好鬼棧), which expressed her thoughtful feelings to the living space in Hong Kong. After graduation, she worked for a lifestyle magazine for two years, drawing illustrations for articles. By chance, she started to work on the new comic series, “HK Powder” published in her weekly column in Milk. In 2005, at the i-city Festival of the HKAC, she released the animation “Lonely Moon Tram” (龍門大電車). Nowadays, she often holds art exhibition, publishes graphic novels and draws illustrations for advertisements.

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One unique characteristic of her art work is that they are all about Hong Kong. It is because Stella So wants to express her experiences of living in Hong Kong, and in particular her concerns about the rapid modernisation of the city and the loss of its historical architectural landscape by using a range of mediums including illustration, comics and animation. One of her famous graphic novels is  City of Powder — the disappearing Hong Kong.

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Here is a video for you to familiar with the background of Stella So.

If you want to know more about Stella So or you feel interested in her art work, you can visit her website and blog for more information!!!!

Stella So’s Website: http://www.smstella.com/

Stella So’s Blog: http://stellaso.blogspot.hk/

Stella So’s Old Girl Diary: http://oldgirldiary.blogspot.hk/

References:

1. Hong Kong Arts Centre. Participating Artists. Retrieved on 26 Feb 2014 from http://www.hkac.org.hk/30th/chi/bio.html

2. Qagoma. Hong Kong: Contemporary Animation. Retrieved on 26 Feb 2014 from http://www.qagoma.qld.gov.au/cinematheque/past_programs/2012/apt7_cinema/mountains_and_waters_chinese_animation_since_the_1930s/hong_kong_contemporary_animation