In light of much political and social unrest in Hong Kong, visual art is acting as an outlet for expression and a force for uniting a community. “Seek truth from facts;” once a Chinese philosophical statement, it was adopted by Mao as he encouraged the nation to “emancipate” their minds. Its relevance has circled back around amidst mass dissatisfaction in the country, as the public come together to protest undemocratic practices.
“Recent incidences have really demonstrated the amazing tenacity, unity, and integrity of the Hong Kong people, and I have never been so proud to count myself as one of them,” claims artist Oliver Chang. While a large proportion of Hong Kong’s citizens fight for their freedoms and rights, there is a solace to be found in the voice of the community. Take a look at some of the visual art coming out of the rebellion movement.
Pictured above is a poster created anonymously that reads “Even the Darkest Night Will End | Together We Fight | And the Sun Will Rise.” It depicts various people involved with the resistance movement, from active protestors using tennis rackets to fight off tear gas to the young woman who was badly wounded in one eye by the police. Her blood-stained eye patch went on to become a symbol of police brutality towards innocent protestors. As will be seen further, color is being implemented with intention in these works of art – here, the red serves to highlight the high stakes situation and serious consequences.
Public Art Was Inevitable
The ten-feet-tall “Umbrella Man” sculpture has been erected in the main protest camp and does well to capture the spirit of the people. Holding an umbrella identifies the figure as a member of the “Umbrella Movement,” born out of the peaceful resistance demonstrated by protestors when met with the Hong Kong Police’s use of pepper spray.
Created by an artist who goes by the name of “Milk,” he paints the figure’s face white to represent the pepper spray used on demonstrators. He is made up of plain wooden blocks, but his simplicity and lack of identity only serve to relate him to the protestors more. He is everyone and anyone, standing for his rights despite the breach of democracy or violence encountered.
Artist Turns Hopeless Feelings Into Unity Awareness
Artist Oliver Chang felt compelled to illustrate the Goddess of Democracy in his eponymous painting. He depicts varying citizens of Hong Kong against China’s police force, with the Goddess enveloping them in her shawl. She is acting as a metaphor for the morality of the protesting public. “I did the painting after feeling rather helpless,” he admits. “I live in the UK and not being able to attend the protests myself had induced a sense of guilt, so I wanted to do something to help in other ways.”
He acknowledges his fear of the situation: “I’m afraid for the way things are escalating in Hong Kong, violence is never the answer but with strong emotions and the chaos that ensues I fear things can get out of hand.”
Oliver explained his color choices for the painting: “I picked a pretty straightforward palette, yellow for the Yellow Ribbons, which protestors came to identify themselves with after the Umbrella Movement in 2014. “He also chose to dress the Goddess in white to symbolize the Bauhinia flower, an emblem of Hong Kong, but not in its usual color as it “has become a flag for the yellow Ribbons, which symbolizes Hong Kong on its own without the Red that is China.” White is also a national color of mourning, which he uses to allude to grieving for the “loss of our democratic independence.”
History Repeats Itself
Created by an anonymous artist only identified as “Harcourt Romanticist,” they have reimagined Eugène Delacroix’s famous 1830 painting Liberty Leading the People, replacing the French revolutionists with the Hong Kong protesters. They are identified by their yellow hard hats, as the item was worn by dissatisfied citizens in everyday life as an act of silent protest. Now, it symbolizes the movement as a whole.
One unidentified protestor is at the front, holding up a black flag with a white Bauhinia flower emblem – the symbol of Hong Kong. This artwork is asserting that the protestors are fighting for the good of their country through its reference to a powerful historical image. “We are writing history ourselves,” asserts the artist. “Reclaim Hong Kong, the revolution of our times.”
Withdraw, Release and Research
In this illustration, Hong Kong-based artist Elyse Leaf contributes to the discourse. She depicts the crumbling head of unpopular chief executive Carrie Lam, with Hong Kong protestors (identifiable by their hard hats and black flag) gathered on top of her, trying hard to stop her from pushing the extradition bill. Other peaceful demonstrators are depicted floating around the left-hand side, accompanied by umbrellas.
This artwork is another example of the artist strongly asserting their position and depicting the rebellion as one large, unified community. Elyse shared her recent work on social media alongside statements that read “withdraw evil law,” “release arrested person,” and “research abuse of power and police atrocities.” In light of all the raging protests, we’re witnessing equally passionate art from a deeply distressed population.