Tsang Tsou-choi: Pioneer of Hong Kong Street Art
Posted on May 4, 2011
Also known as The “King of Kowloon,” Tsang was one of Hong Kong’s most revered artists of the last twenty years, renowned for his calligraphy, which was displayed at the Venice Biennale in 2003. In 2004, Sotheby’s auctioned one of his pieces for HK$55,000 (US $7,000).
Despite his death in 2007, his works remain influential and many locals still see him as an eccentric old man. The streets of Hong Kong are adorned with his calligraphy and their cryptic messages about his ancestral claim to the Kowloon peninsula and his rantings against the government.
“I am not an artist… I am simply the King,” he said in a 2005 interview with Colors Magazine.
One of Tsang’s personal friends for more than two decades, Joel Chung, is the co founder of the arts education organization known as Hong Kong Creates. He is currently presenting the exhibition Memories of King Kowloon, which is inspired by Tsang’s creative spirit rather than his calligraphy.
Also known to insiders as Choi Suk (Uncle Choi), Chung’s legacy to his friend is the embodied in the universal dedication to creativity, which is a common bond among all artists. The exhibition covers Tsang’s life and work. One display contains his personal possessions, which the artist gave to Chung during the last years of his life.
Tsang’s calligraphy can be found in 80 diverse Hong Kong locations, as the city was his art gallery. Painting in a public space represents his generosity of spirit and served as his canvas.
The exhibition attempts to capture the street atmosphere by erecting walls covered by his calligraphy. The display represents only a small percentage of the estimated 55,845 pieces of work he produced during his lifetime.
The topics of his calligraphy mostly concern patriotic movements in Chinese history, heroes, and rebels who defended China from invasion. He also writes about his painful estrangement from his wife and children. His writing style is influenced by the type of text found in a traditional Chinese almanac utilizing small and large fonts together, with important characters marked extra bold.
Tsang’s calligraphy is the writing on the universal wall for all artists who believe in their work and their message.