Wallpaper* | Hong Kong through artists’ eyes

Szabotage, street artist

‘As a creative person, moving to Hong Kong felt hugely inspiring,’ says London-born graffiti artist Gustav Szabo, aka Szabotage. ‘Urban art has found its way into the core of the contemporary scene in the city – there are so many fresh ideas and new discoveries within Hong Kong’s culture and urban environment. The city energises me.’

When Szabotage first arrived in Hong Kong, in 2013, the urban art scene was just emerging, enabling a newfound creative freedom that he hadn’t experienced in the UK. It has since evolved into a complex interdisciplinary form of expression. ‘Creatively, Hong Kong is an exciting place to be,’ says the artist. ‘The opportunities have greatly improved since I arrived eight years ago, and there’s been a boom in new art spaces, institutions, galleries and museums.’

In Hong Kong, Szabotage’s vision takes a critical view of its immediate surroundings and often references the landscape of the city, exploring the relationship between local architecture and communities. ‘When I paint on the streets in Hong Kong, I seem to make great connections with people. Live painting draws a lot of interest, and the art crosses many cultural and language barriers. It crosses many boundaries that my lack of Cantonese cannot.’

During his career, Szabotage has collaborated with brands including Louis Vuitton and Evisu, but remains best known for his Hong Kong site-specific street art. Inspired by his surroundings, the artist’s now ubiquitous koi signature, for instance, was born on a wall back in 2013.

‘The koi is a part of me, a symbol with which I strongly identify. The koi is jumping out of water, out of its comfort zone, from water to air. There’s a sense of jubilation in its movement. The fish is slightly out of context in the urban environment, but it has a powerful and energetic life force, as demonstrated by its ability to swim upstream, against currents.’ Szabotage says he can relate to all these challenges and emotions. 

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