In November 2018, I visited Hong Kong for the first time. My father was born there, and I was fascinated and humbled to discover the city of his childhood.
I always had a sketchbook to hand, and was overwhelmed by the bustling city, and perhaps more surprisingly, by its nature. The city is very compact and the jungle always seems to be moments away, entwining its way into city life. Trees burst from the pavements, their vines hanging down so slow that they almost tickle pedestrians’ heads. Roots bend into urban staircases. Ponds flicker with orange fish and insect life.
I took the tram to Victoria Peak and was plunged into the jungle, the city soon feeling distant. I was struck by new patterns and textures, which don’t exist in the UK. Tiny leaves make tree bark seem like spotty leopard skin. Black butterflies twitch in the undergrowth, so big they could almost be birds. I started collecting fallen leaves and flowers and pressing them into my sketchbook.
I visited the remote fishing village of Tai O. It’s known as the Venice of the East as a result of its watery roads and stilt houses. I found a tea house which towered over the rest of the bungalow village and pulled out my canvas and acrylics. I was drawn to the giant red lanterns which hung from the roof, the bold shapes dominating the more subdued backdrop of waterways. There was almost organic detail in the way that nets were strewn and belongings stacked in alleyways or in boats.
Every sketch seemed to bring me closer to the city and to its nature, helping to imagine my father in a place that was his home for many years.
I am currently creating a series focusing on the natural elements of Hong Kong.