Graphic Airlines interview


By Anissa |  Published on Tuesday, April 21, 2015.

Tat & Vi are a creative team called Graphic Airlines, established in 2002. Interview of this street art crew from Hong Kong...

FatCap :  What is Graphic Airlines ?

Graphic Airlines : Cute we are not. The characters created by design duo Graphic Airlines celebrate the "aesthetics of ugliness". We joined force in 2002 and have since become stalwarts in Hong Kong's burgeoning street art scene. Apart from publishing and exhibiting our work since 2006, we also produce our own design products.

FC : Why this name ?

G.A.L : Our aim is to ENJOY THE VOYAGE ! Doing creative work freely, enjoying the voyages of life and creation, flying to different realms of creativity are what we hope for, as the pleasure in it is irreplaceable.

FC : Your team is composed of two people?

G.A.L : Graphic Airlines was established in 2002. At that time Tat worked as a designer for a newspaper company. However, since creativity was rather limited, he created a website – graphicairlines - for himself to publish his own work. Later, Vi found this design platform, so she then started publishing her own illustrations on it.

And this was the beginning of the Graphicairlines, our aim is to ‘enjoy the voyage’ – don’t worry about the results, just enjoy the process of creating.

FC : How did you start this project ?

G.A.L : Tat started from the web site since 2002. He was looking for a space to express his own designs and drawings apart from his boring office design work. Vi started to do some doodles and clay dolls which was influenced by Tat, so Vi joined GAL in 2004. Since 2005, we started to stick some hand drawn stickers on the street. There we found our new creative life on the street.

FC : Since 2002, when street art has come you have declined your artistic work in many disciplines not only Street art. Why ?

G.A.L : We have been working on street art for around 4 or 5 years. At the beginning, we were interested in sticker art. sticker art seemed to be a big hit in foreign countries and at the same time it allowed us to convey messages of our thoughts, which was great fun. We wondered how come there were so few artists who do sticker art in Hong Kong, back then we could only come across stickers by Start From Zero, so we started to create our own stickers for fun. 

Then unintentionally, our stickers went bigger and bigger, from tiny ones we did to the ones which were even taller and bigger than a regular adult. This change was caused probably because we chose to use street art as a media as city life is too boring and standardized. Public spaces were becoming tasteless and boring, and we wanted to add some fun elements in there, while at the same time we wanted to make a stand against those commercial advertisement which limiting people's life style in the city. 

Creating a platform for people to communicate face to face is essential. And that's how we started to think about what messages we want to convey and how we were going to use street art as a media. 

FC : According to you, does street art has its place in a city like Hong Kong ?

G.A.L : Graffiti and street arts are the same to me. Maybe because Hong Kong is just a tiny city, and every streets here are occupied by people almost 24 hours a day. Police force is also sufficient in Hong Kong, and you would easily bump into a few anywhere here. People in Hong Kong are also too good to disobey. They have been educated in a way which makes them afraid of making changes and to disobey, high moral standard makes them neglecting their own interests, wouldn't try even they enjoy it. 

Also long working hours also contributes to the problem, some friends of mine are too busy at work and wouldn't have much time left to continue their creative life. Hong Kong being a rather wealthy city is also a problem, since graffiti started or happened the most to be in poorer cities and areas, and no one would regulate as much. Hong Kong is relatively strict and you will see security guards just round the other corner. All these put together makes Hong Kong not an ideal place for street art and graffiti to grow.

However, to be honest, I don't think police force is such a problem towards street art. Since this field itself is too small to be detected. The greatest obstacle isn't police, but citizens own value of art, this is what we called art education in Hong Kong or the "fast food" culture of this city. 

Same goes for music industry here, why independent musicians will never get a chance in Hong Kong. 

FC : How do people react when facing the works ?

G.A.L : A few years ago, general public was still a little uncomfortable with graffiti and street art, thinking it's just another form of vandalism, while now they are slowly being accepted and more people would pay more attention of creative works on streets. 

FC : Tell us more about Hong Kong's society...

G.A.L : Ever since Hong Kong as a colony, in the fields of politics, life styles and economy, the contradiction is getting larger and becoming more obvious. 

Back between the 70s and 90s, there are many grey areas within the society, such as peddlers, shop owners from public estates and etc, while all these grey areas are disappearing, society is becoming more polarized. Reconstructions of city being too quick, wealth orientating life style, long working hours, programmed and lifeless life style, fast food culture, the insecurity and helplessness of citizens. Hence all those arguments of educations, preservation and political protests in society in the recent years. This reflects how the younger generations having their political views and opinions, awareness of local cultures and their identity as a Hong Kong citizen. Some of them being so aware of the changes in society are beyond what my imagination. They are evaluating how our city lives are being dictated, how to fight back and not following old values of life from the past. 

FC : What is your relationship with the graffiti and street-art ?

G.A.L : Graffiti and street art is like a platform of freedom, no boundaries, no approvals.

FC : Your street style is "collage", how do you define your universe ?

G.A.L : Our universe is like "Yin Yang", they are relative, both inner and outer, like sources of inspiration being two ways :

  • outer influence being what is happening in the society, such as politics and lives of citizens;
  • inner influence being elements from ourselves, like dreams, subconsciousness or some pointless imageries. 

FC : The same characters reappear in your creation. What does it mean? Are they figures of your concept ?

G.A.L : I first came up the idea of creating a human character, which looks empty and a bit sad. They were not that fat at the beginning. But they were getting fatter and fatter gradually. 

The fat face with big cheeks, fat symbolizes "expanding". We always want to expand everything, we want to expand our wealth, expand our powers, we build taller buildings, buy more than we need while wasting many recyclable things. It represents "Greed".

FC : What do you think of street art in other countries, such as in France or England for example ?

G.A.L : I think street art is more active in the western world. We have been to France and England, and we saw many street arts and graffiti on the streets, a great diversity of styles and techniques, maybe the difference between cultures, western culture being more opened up, while eastern being more reserved, then causing street art scene being more active and diverse. At the end of the day, the style of street art originated from the west. 

FC : Do you have a favorite street - graffiti artist ?

G.A.L : Blu.

FC : To you, do graphics and graffiti are two worlds apart ?

G.A.L : I don't think they are completely separated, creativity is all connected in some way.

FC : What kind of music do you listen to ? 

Psychedelic, Shoe-gaze, Post-rock, J-Rock, K-pop, ambient !

FC : Thank you GAL, good flight !

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