Constantly exploring how environment shapes us as humans, Hong Kong artist Armechan takes on the city’s concrete jungle as a bustling source of inspiration. Behind the pseudonym is Man Chi Loy. After training at the Art Studio, UC Davis, Man returned to his home city of Hong Kong in 1997, and was immediately struck by how small the space is compared to California. Investigating the relationship between urban inhabitants and their surroundings, Man’s art explores turbulence as natural and inevitable in the vibrancy of the metropolis, a place where towering skyscrapers exist side by side with historical sites.
As an artist whose artworks critically look into issues of modern city life and cityscape, Man was the recipient of an array of prizes in local competitions, including a finalist of the Sovereign Asian Art Prize 2006, runner up in Art Hong Kong 2013, and second runner up in the Hong Kong Human Rights Arts Prize 2015.
As an artist, Man has trained his mind to be always on the prowl for everyday moments that might be suitable materials for critical thinking and creative practices, particularly related to material aspects of land and urban space.
“As an artist living in Hong Kong the concrete jungle, I am intrigued about the relationship between creativity and the living space.” — Armechan
Visualizing Routine Fantasy
NONAGON.style: First of all, would you tell us a bit about your background?
Armechan: My name is Man Chi Loy. I like to use Armechan as my artist name. I graduated from UC Davis, California with a degree of fine art and I begin to live and work in Hong Kong since 1997.
This year your artworks were showcased at the Affordable Art Fair. What did you unveil at the show?
I showed four different sets of artworks during Affordable Art Fair, three of which were represented by a local gallery [Our Gallery] and the other was represented by a UK gallery.
How would you describe your art style?
I would describe my art as “Urban Landscape” as I am always intrigued by the relationship between creativity and living space, living in this concrete jungle of Hong Kong.
Tell us about what you do and the type of art you make. What do you tackle in your art?
I like to use photography and painting as my medium, and recently I started etching again (I majored in etching at college).
Do wider, and more open spaces nurture creativity? Are [our] physical and mental activities limited by cramped environments? How do urbanites go about their daily routines while dealing with urban problems such as noise, pollution, traffic, and commerce? Do the space limitations I have as an artist, working in a tiny studio, reflect the life of others in a congested city?
“I am looking for decent people in cramped environment as well as the future of me.” — Armechan
Who or what do you look to for design inspiration?
When I was young, I liked Jackson Pollack and Abstract Expressionism. Now, I admire the details of contemporary Japanese artists, such as Takashi Murakami.
How does living where you do affect your art?
I love to live in an inspiring, complex city, such as Hong Kong. I lived in Amsterdam in the last two years. To me it’s a perfect place for living but not for creating art.
What would you like to achieve through your art?
My works reflect my creative process out of daily routine. I just want my art to reach more people. The inspiration process begins with a series of snapshots of people at work in the city streets. I reinterpret these scenes as a series of small paintings rather than a single large painting. Reducing the size of works, without changing the impact of its statement, is the goal of [my collection] ROUTINE FANTASY.
ROUTINE FANTASY has two intentions. First, it explores the mystery behind what people think about when they perform their daily jobs. My conjectures about the scenes are added when I created the paintings. Second, I place myself into tedious and routine labor by painting similar images over and over again, mirroring the everyday lives of many locals. Fantasy and imagination are needed to sustain my passion for creative endeavors. They help me complete my work. We may never know what people are thinking while performing their daily routines, but you can notice their minds are away from their duties and shifting their focus to contemplate life or scrutinize the world around them. Although it is difficult to read through the faces of strangers, we can be sure that imagination, humor, and inspiration are important to motivate people moving forward, day after day.
Charting Urban Landscape
At a time when Hong Kong has experienced unprecedented levels of rubbish washing up on coastlines and beaches, NGO Ocean Recovery Alliance launched the project “Grate Art” in collaboration with seven leading local and Chinese artists, to install ceramic art tiles on pavements above storm drains aiming to raise public awareness on keeping the ocean clean.
Armechan is among the artists who designed tiles, and his one inspired by Gustav Klimt’s painting Kiss with a contemporary twist is installed above a storm grate in the Southern district, serving to remind the public the detrimental effects of littering in storm grates.
What are some upcoming projects we should look out for?
I will have a solo exhibition [in] Sham Shui Po on July 13. Sham Shui Po is the poorest area in Hong Kong. I think it’s very challenging to show artworks in a poor area, and I’m really looking forward to what kind of impact it will bring.
*This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
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