Edited and republished from original article: 2021
“What is this world if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.” wrote the poet, W. H. Davies. This rings as true in the 21st century as it did in the 19th century. For how many commuters have stopped to admire the great works of art in our MTR stations?
While we like going to major art exhibitions and art galleries for a taste of culture, our impression of MTR stations is as places to hurry in and out quickly. People packed like sardines in the carriages then to be affronted with glaring lit-up advertising and harsh white lighting. Not a place to dawdle and admire artwork.
When art galleries are open to pre-appointments only and little to no art exibitions are held, art aficionados and doting parents alike can open their hearts and minds to the works of art in MTR stations. At Sai Ying Pun station near the Center Street or Island Crest exit is a 3D rendition of the district showing the daily life of neighbours along the escalators leading up to the Center Street wet market in painstaking detail.
Photo caption: Interacting with the MTR bas relief work “Inside, Outside”. Photo credits: Winnie Tse
The Londoner artist, Ms. Louise Soloway Chan’s love of this city is evidenced by her bas relief work titled “Inside, Outside”. In it, she captured the constantly renovating outdoor escalators and fish sellers crouching on the streets to sell their wares, all down to their buttocks peeping from their low-rise jeans. While the bas relief 3D work is only available for public viewing in Sai Ying Pun MTR station, one can buy her work in acrylic in the Yan Gallery, website: https://www.yangallery.com/artists/40-louise-soloway-chan/ . As a side note, her husband is the project manager for this piece.
Another 3D piece on the neighbourhood theme is found a few stations down in Kennedy Town. A sculpture of a giant metal apple cut in half and tilted at an odd angle is designed by Chinese artists Lao U-kei and Lau Kung-wah. Named “Blooming Bud”, the artist collaborated with kiddie K-Towners who affixed their handprints to show that the children are in K-Town. On the inside of the cut piece are people who join hands to make up the “core” of the apple. The halves of the apple are tilted and hinged under the floor for the safety of passersby. A desk version of the apple sculpture is sold at Galerie Koo.
Photo caption: “It’s funny but I feel a little bit happy to know that I now have room in my heart to appreciate the things around me.” as quoted from Ms. Nanae Yoshiwara, whose boyfriend alerted her to this sculpture when passing by. Photo credits: Ms. Nanae Yoshiwara
For indulging in child-like flights of fancy, an easily missed painting named “Swift and Safe” can be found in the Central MTR station on the way to the airport express station near the flat electric people mover. It’s easily missed not just because of sheer fatigue from being bombarded by ads but also because the painting is sometimes covered (but not damaged) by advertising on top. At first glance, the painting looks like child’s play, similar to what a child would come up with when tasked with tearing up pieces of brightly coloured paper. When one stands a bit longer, one will appreciate how the artist, the deceased Mr. Gaylord Chan, imbibed the painting with vibrant gay tones and a mishmash of scenery. Don’t be fooled by the innocence and gaiety—the artist was an elderly retired gentleman when he completed the work. No corresponding painting here—go on a treasure hunt to find it –it’s your lucky day if it’s not covered by advertising.
A personal favourite can also be found in Central station, the old part along the island line to Sheung Wan. It’s a refreshing piece which almost seems immersed into the place itself. Also easily missed if one is immersed in the virtual world, its value is in the authentic gold mosaic tiles and depiction of traditional Chinese style elegance in the flora, fauna and the architectural poetry of the Court of Final Appeal building (ex-LegCo building). The Chinese artist, Ms. Lucia N.Y. Cheung, has foundations in marrying Italian art techniques with Chinese landscape painting. The art piece in Central MTR station is called “Home with a View” and uses mosaic pieces manufactured in China to make up the work. The artist’s Chinese landscape painting sold for HK$150,000, twice its original estimate, at a Christie’s auction in 2015.
Photo caption: Interacting with Hong Kong Ballet art work in Wanchai MTR station
Photo credits: Winnie Tse
Next time you take the MTR, try hunting for these art pieces and feel free to interact with them. We have it on good authority from the MTR Chief Architect himself, Mr. Andrew Mead, that touching the art pieces is welcomed as they are built to last.
Photo caption: Our group in the SYP MTR station
Photo credits: Winnie Tse
Finally, for those who are interested to know more about these wonderful oeuvres, look out for our next Art in MTR tour with Andrew himself, scheduled presently for May 2023. You can keep updated of all upcoming activities LocalHood has in store for you here: www.localhood.org/upcoming-events