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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10 thoughts on “Analysis of Stella So’s artwork – Part 2

  1. I am really interested in the artist you have chose, Stella So, whose artwork are mainly about old Hong Kong expressing her own experiences of living Hong Kong. What’s the most important is, she cares a lot about the rapid modernization of this city and the loss of its historical architectural landscape. That impressed me a lot.
    As an outsider of Hong Kong (I come from mainland), the first sight at this city is the prosperity and the modernization. I just forget that every city ever had the most original look, which is natural and unsullied. However, what I want express is, I like both the old Hong Kong and the modern Hong Kong, after I know more about it through Stella’s artwork. And I believe that people will not forget those days, also they will cherish the present more.

  2. I like Stella So. Her artworks are very interesting and make me resonant. Stella So is an artist that very concerned about social issues, her artwork is mainly about old buildings, old streets, old Hong Kong. Due to rapidly development and reconstruction, many of those buildings and culture have been gradually disappear, whether lost forever. Stella’s paintings serves as a camera, record the meaningful memories of the landscape and the social community of the city. Although the old buildings and environment is no longer exist anymore, but we and our next generations can still to view them through the paintings. Those paintings are actually act like a medium, to carry the collective memories of us to the new generation. Apart from the cultural background, I also interest in the drawing style of Stella, her drawing make me feel like watching comics. Can you explore more about why she would like drawing like this? Is that any meaning behind it? I am looking forward to your further researches.

  3. Hi Sally, I’m glad to read your blog. It’s very interesting and your analysis on the artist and artwork is really logical and insightful.
    I personally enjoy Stella’s work as well. My first impression on her works is colourful, cute, lively and full of imagination. And her works are always about Hong Kong, not the busy and modern side, but the old and traditional side of it. She integrated her own experiences and memories into the artwork, so that the sensations expressed through the artwork are so real and intense. In my view, these memories about Hong Kong are truly valuable. A lot of things changed along with the development of the city, which is awesome but also sad at the same time. Since we cannot stop the pace of time, we can always find ways to remember the past and all the things lost and disappeared as time flies. I think that’s why her work can easily attract audiences and awaken their memories. Memories of audiences are evoked while appreciating Stella’s work, both real and imagined.
    Thank you for your reviews! I definitely have a better understanding of Stella and her artworks now 🙂

  4. The artist’s artworks are very interesting and close to our everyday life. To some degree, they are real reflection, but to some degree, they have their own meanings behind the pictures. I agree with your comments on Stella’s artworks such that she used different techniques to attract audience like various colours. You also compare Stella’s artworks with other artists’ work, which is very interesting and can help me understand her artworks much deeply.

    I also like her artworks, because I think it is very meaningful. Stella wants to draw people’s attention to cherish their memory of old Hong Kong and hope people try their best to protect Hong Kong culture. I observe that she painted in detail even everyone’s facial expression. Besides, from her artworks, I really know more about Hong Kong old culture, which I didn’t know before.

    Thanks so much for your sharing and I really enjoy your comment.

  5. the artwork of this artist is really attractive to me because she also create art with typical Hong Kong elements, which is a common ground between Stella and Kong Kai Ming (the artist i chose for research). Therefore, the contrast of these two artist is interesting. Kong Kai Ming primary used black and white sketches to depict his memory of HK historical landscape (maybe his traditional art form is due to his age) while Stella’s works are multiple and colorful. Stella really has many creative ideas to emphasize, or even exaggerate the HK style elements in her artwork, like using three-dimensional statue rather than plane drawing and shifty sight angle to re-structure the picture. These creative skills made her works very attractive and strongly conveyed her attention on HK life to the audience. Another interesting aspect of her works is that she chose many details in HK people’s ordinary life as the topic of her 9-square-block paper work. The life scene memory of a generation become lively within those works. In a word, Stella’s works successfully called people’s emotion resonance, so I think her art deserve an excellent assessment.

  6. 1. Thanks for you sharing Sally!
    I really like the work of Stella So. She’s such a creative artist!

    Stella was raised up in Wai Chai and so in her artwork, she drew a lot about the place that she misses most-Wai Chai. I think it’s not just about the place but the memories that she has shared with this place. It is something irreplaceable.

    I think her artwork is a very powerful one because her works touch my hearts and I think her works touch others’ heart as well.
    In your article you mentioned about the “collective memories”. Those sense as shown in her works have faded out already. So I think her artwork aren’t only powerful but meaningful as well because it actually helps to “reserve” those things.
    Also, I think her artworks can be used as “story teller”, to tell the old Hong Kong story to the next generations. Thus, our old Hong Kong or the “collective memories” can be passed down from generations to generations, years by years.

    You have also mentioned that her artworks are very positive, I think it is because she got some expectation in Hong Kong. Every people know that the fact is that Hong Kong does not always have positive things; however, what she draws are always positive ones. I think this is her expectation of what Hong Kong should be like.

    I really enjoy reading your blog, thanks for sharing again! 🙂

  7. I have seen Stella’s work in some readings delivered in the university and always have thought her work is lovely. But I never looked carefully enough that Stella have put her drawing on Chinese traditional calligraphy paper. The paper doesn’t act like guidelines for her painting but also reflects the old times of Hong Kong and childhood of many. Apart from the special paper she used, the angles in the paintings are also interesting, like fish eye, which gives the viewers a new experience of looking at things. The image has always been very rich and packed in all paintings; boredom never comes soon.

  8. I like Stella So’s art work too. The first impression for me of her work is ” colourful” and ” cute”. Although the style of her drawing is sketch, the way she draw make the picture more fruitful. For example, the line of the building is not perfectly straight. There is a little bit effect of “fish eye” which make the picture special and not plodding like ordinary sketches.
    Moreover, I like the idea of her art work. Since I am also a person who like historical things. Every time when the government proposed to remove some heritages or historical building, I would feel very sad and pity for Hong Kong. What Hong Kong need the most is culture. However, the government let them disappear and only concern about the financial development of Hong Kong. Our memories are left by our last generation. if to remove the old stuff which contained the collective memories , there is nothing left for our next generation. They will know nothing about the old Hong Kong. It is a pity for them.
    I hope that Stella So’s artwork can arouse Hong Kong people’s concern about historical building in Hong Kong. Let the memories can be left for the next generation.

  9. Similar to you, I was also attracted by the special drawing techniques in Stella’s artworks. With the detailed characteristics together with Stella’s own imagination, her artworks give me a different feeling compared to just a photograph. From a photograph, it surely displays the true picture of the place. It is more realistic and vivid that we can observe the exactly detailed characteristics. But with drawings, more subjective and stronger feelings of the artist can be expressed via the artworks. Some drawing skills are quite noticeable for me like “fisheye” ’s view used to show the whole picture of ferry pier inside, strong colors used to emphasize some parts (eg. Planting trees on the top of Star Ferry Pier and Wedding Card Street, the car for tearing the old buildings down in “City of Powder”). One more is that the size is not according to the real ratio. It gives me a feeling that Stella wants to indicate the actions of people such as those in “Lung Mun Restaurant”.

    As her artworks are drawn from the view of a local Hong Kong citizen, with the emphasized points, it can evoke local reader’s resonance and collective memory.
    However, I think her artworks are too ideal that it is quite impossible to be in our recent Hong Kong. Don’t you think so?

    Chan Yuen Yau (53080389)

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