Latest Entries

The Hours in HK

Screen Shot 2013-08-22 at 4.05.36 PM

10 Australian artists will be gracing the streets of Hong Kong next week!

They will be here in conjunction with their opening at Above Second of “Neon Golden” presenting works on paper by 14 artists from the collective The Hours.  Got a boring wall that needs a bit of inspiration? Contact for commission project estimates.


INSA interview

INSA graffiti

courtesy Above Second

INSA’s “Graffiti Fetish” on the Vaford Gates.

by Zoe Li

Published: August 22, 2013

Published on BLOUIN ARTINFO (

HONG KONG – Among the dreary loading docks in the industrial Chai Wan neighborhood, there is a colorful mural, incongruous against bleak factory buildings. This is the work of U.K. artist INSA, known for his large graffiti murals of abstract patterns mixed with hyper-real depictions of female body parts and fashion.

As one of the more commercially successful graffiti artists in the world, INSA has undertaken many private commissions including recent works displayed at Tate Britain. On August 18, he sprayed two large murals in Chai Wan to inaugurate the Vaford Gates, a public art project inspired by New York’s Bowery Mural.

The Vaford Gates are the rolling shutter gates that cover the front and back entrances of a warehouse for the prominent construction company Vaford Group. The two shutters are now exhibition spaces for temporary murals curated by Above Second’s May Wong. As Chai Wan’s gentrification snowballs and more artists, galleries, and designers move into the area, the Vaford Gates will become a visual marker of the creative energy of the neighborhood.

BLOUIN ARTINFO spoke with INSA about his inspiration behind the murals at Vaford Gates and how it is “easy” to do street art in Hong Kong.

Do the two murals relate directly to your past work on commodification, femininity, and sexual desire? 

Yes, they do. I wanted to produce a variation on a couple of my more iconic images and adapt them to the space I had available. The front side is my heel pattern, which I call “Graffiti Fetish,” it is a pattern made of legs and heels. The second gate is my inverted hearts, which is called “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places.” Both of these use very feminine shapes in the same way my past work does.

Is it a political or social statement that you are making about the female image, or about commodification? Do you consider yourself a political artist?

Most if my work has an underlining social commentary about our relationship with the objectified form whether that be the female body or consumer goods. I wouldn’t call myself a political artist but as a human being I have a social conscience and think a lot about what my work means. Personally, I don’t like to necessarily preach and shout as I find this can sometimes be hypocritical of artists to do this as they are often in a very privileged position to talk about politics. I prefer my work to open up questions with people but don’t want to push my opinion on them.

The murals are not directly shouting a political message but they are a part of a continuing series and theme within my work about consumer fetishism and misplaced aspiration so indirectly they invite people to discover more of my work. But having said that I think the very nature of large street art and public murals is political by nature because it’s challenging to the very grey space surrounding it.

INSA in the process of creating a variation of “Graffiti Fetish” on the front Vaford Gates.

Many of the passersby who will see the mural will be workers in the industrial area. Did you take this into consideration when planning the murals?

No, I can’t say that. As this is similar to work I’ve done in other parts of the world I can’t say I’ve changed it for this particular audience. But I try to work within a certain color palette and aesthetic sense that is easily accessible and enjoyable to the “public.”

How long does it take you to plan a mural? Can you take us briefly through the process? 

There’s always a thought process in terms of advanced planning in thinking of the color scheme but these particular pieces of work are done entirely on site to work with the scale and location directly.

Where is your dream place to do graffiti next?


INSA’s variation on “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places.”

Is your work always planned these days? When and where was your last impromptu work?

My artistic life is a mix of planned work and planned projects that have a lot of process involved, but the next day I might be able to just paint a piece for fun. The most recent was last week in London. I did a quick thing near my studio because I liked the look of the wall.

What is your impression of street art in Hong Kong? Do you agree that it is harder to be a street artist in Hong Kong than anywhere else? 

There seems to be a burgeoning scene and I actually found last time I was here a couple of years ago it was very easy to do illegal street work with no questions asked. I think there may be a misconception that it’s difficult to do street art here, and people should try to do it more.

Please tell us about your next project.

Tonight I get on a plane to Berlin for an exhibition, which is celebrating the launch of a special edition artist beer bottle I’ve collaborated on with Warsteiner Beer.




Inaugural murals by world-renowned artist INSA (UK)
Paramount Building, No.12 Ka Yip Street, Chai Wan, H.K.

A crowd of journalists, stylists, architects and designers showed up Sunday for the painting of the inaugural mural of The Vaford Gates by UK artists INSA. His signature high heels and heart-shaped bottoms adorn the gates of the Vaford Group Warehouse and will be up until later this year.  The Vaford Gates  are rotating murals that will feature local and international artists.  They are an initiative to vitalize the arts district of Chai Wan and to draw the eyes of the international art world to Hong Kong.

INSA worked tirelessly from noon to well into the night to music and the encouragement of bystanders.  His two murals are the first of many to come.

By utilizing a wall space for rotating murals, Vaford Group hopes to revitalize Chai Wan’s art community and draw international attention to the art scene in Hong Kong. As in the case of the Bowery Mural in New York, public art murals invite an influx of new businesses and arts related activities to the area. Chai Wan is becoming the new art destination district and this exciting initiative will only prove to expedite the development. The Vaford Gates, sponsored by Vaford Group, will bring the cutting edge, hip, public art programming that Hong Kong needs in order to stay on the forefront of the international public art movement.

Vaford Gates kicked off this August with two shutter gate murals by internationally acclaimed artist and designer, INSA. INSA established himself from a graffiti background through extensive street level work and gallery shows around the world. He has undertaken many private commissions including recent works displayed at TATE Britain.

INSA’s canvases and installations are often hyper real, finely crafted creations in which sexual desire and commodity-fetishism merge and contrast. Always with a heavy sense of irony, INSA visually exaggerates the notion of objectification meets commoditization with graphically depicted oversized body parts that are suspended in the controlled architectural lines of a sneaker or bold black and white graphic patterns. INSA uses these powerful patterns to play with and distort the spaces where his work is installed to entice the viewer into the ‘fantasy’; a shallow fantasy of materialistic aspiration where objectification is flaunted as a symbol of wealth and success.

Hot on INSA’s Heels


He came, he painted, he kicked ass (of which there were many on our walls). And now he’s coming back!


The London-based graffiti, conceptual and fine artist will be returning to Hong Kong for an exciting new project! You may remember him from his solo show “Gloss” here at Above Second back in 2011, featuring his signature hyper-real creations that delve into a realm of sexual commodification, fetishism and excess with the most acute sense of irony. As always, INSA’s signature depictions of female footwear featured wildly.

Last time, he came to Hong Kong and made the last addition to his “Girls On Bikes” series. In a week’s time, the Vaford Group will be sponsoring shutter gate murals by INSA in Chai Wan, in an initiative to vitalize the local art community.

In the meantime, follow him on his blog and twitter for hilarious access to his stream of consciousness. No one should miss the excitement of him live tweeting a painting session ever again with gems like, “Dude stop talking to me – you stink of piss and I gotta get this finished!”

Also, if you haven’t come across his mind-blowing brainchild that is “gif-iti, check it out!

“The beauty of INSA’s GIF-ITI is that it only truly lives when viewed online, where these days most street art ends up being viewed, and it exaggerates the ephemeral nature of graffiti as each layer is painted instantly over the last. Mixing retro internet technology and labour intensive painting, INSA creates slices of infinite un-reality, cutting edge art for the tumblr generation.”

INSA, ‘Online Love’ in Newcastle


INSA x RONE in Melbourne

More about INSA’s arrival and activity in Hong Kong coming soon!

Opening Next Week!

Screen Shot 2013-08-03 at 4.56.20 PM

Above Second is proud to present the works of Cara To, a dark ethereal world where her visions of enchanted animals come alive. Join us on August 9th from 7 – 10 PM for an opening reception straight out of a midsummer night’s dream – or nightmare.

It’s Cat Time Biatch! An Interview with Cara To


With Vicky Woo

I had the pleasure of meeting with Cara To at her eclectic studio space in Prince Edward to talk about her art, her upcoming show and to see what she had in store. Little did I expect that amidst the walls of old books and nostalgic Hong Kong paraphernalia, bathing in the improbably dim light of 6 (or so) arbitrarily chosen paper lanterns and glass chandeliers, we would end up talking about asshole cats and her fiery crush on David Bowie.

The space, a homey haven for young expat creatives, was a welcome shelter after running rather ungracefully through the summer torrential rain. Filled with random finds such as an old leather dentist’s chair, it was something of a street museum. Settling into a cozy corner, we started to talk about her work. Realizing I had not seen many of her animations, she began to show me her past work that had slipped by my (previously-thought) expert interwebular stalking skills. Check them out here.


Your body of work ranges through such a spectrum of techniques and media. From animation to street art. What elements do you like to carry in all of your work?

In all my personal work, I just always want to do something I think is missing out there that I would really like to see. I like to do work that is unexpected. Like in [Le Chat Qui Rit], I missed the look of 3D [animation] that looks like 2D. I like to combine something realistic with something that’s absurd.

Le Chat qui rit from Cara To on Vimeo.

(Referring to school project animation Bruin Brood) You can see that I was already obsessed with geometric shapes and origami. I think I have a list in my mind of things I really want to create, like I want to make a cat with eight legs or an origami monster. Yeah, I really wanted to work with a lot of animals. I think they are such characters that bring so much life and personality, compared to something abstract. You see that in a lot that I do.

How different is it working with different materials?

(Referring to The Whale to which I remarked was a lot more colorful than usual) It’s also obvious my style changes through the years and through short periods of time. I really like to work with color, even though you can’t tell from my recent work.

The Whale from Cara To on Vimeo.

For example in my graffiti, there are money constraints and time constraints. You have to plan a lot for a lot of colors too. Usually I know something will look good in just a certain color and would tell the story better. In my digital paintings, in this one (pictured), I really like the color palette. I actually never liked to use black or white before, I would try to create an effect with only colors. I was obsessed with staring at things and looking at the real colors. This was drawn with pencil and painted on paper, I mainly used to use paper as a canvas (as opposed to her wood and hologram projects now), and then I would experiment on it digitally. It’s a lot easier to play with it digitally and experiment.


How did you fall into studying 3D animation?

Well after studying biochemistry, I was thinking about studying biology. I wanted to be that person who knew everything about animals and plants, knowing all the Latin names and everything. Otherwise I was going to do fashion or illustration. Well then I got into illustration and I did that for a week until I found game design. It was really new in Belgium at the time and I felt that I would be able to learn something that I couldn’t learn anywhere else.

What turned you to street art and graffiti?

This is my first graffiti piece. I went with a friend who was doing stuff next to me and I really wanted to do something like that. So I joined her. I started on a bridge in Amsterdam, sounds so cliché (laughs). I was sketching all the time and I [would think], dude, this is such a waste of my sketching; I just really wanted to do something with them.


So is that when you became Cat Time Biatch? 

Yeah, at some point I just started doing a lot of cats. I had to draw really fast and they were quick and pretty easy to do. I brought them to the streets from the animation [Le Chat Qui Rit]. I just did them everywhere and I guess they became my thing.

Is it your favorite animal? Why cats?

I have no clue! I totally forgot why…I used to draw rabbits. It’s my zodiac animal. I would draw rabbits everywhere and then somehow they became asshole cats. I just drew asshole cats everywhere.  Yeah cats with assholes. People like the asshole on the cat. It’s like duh! It’s the first thing you see when you see a cat. It’s the asshole! You just can’t miss it.

Cat Time started when I would sign my cats with “CT”, which are my initials, and a friend said: “See you later Cat Time!” And it was just like “CT”! “Cat Time”! This so works! It’s kind of embarrassing though. It’s kind of weird to say, “Hey I’m Cat Time Biatch”.


What is the process you go through to build your imagery? How do you start up with an idea? 

It’s all about sketching out the ideas that you have. I think I’ve always had ideas. I’m very image driven. I watched a lot of movies when I was younger because my parents were quite strict and wouldn’t let me go outside to play. I had three other siblings and we all sat at home watching loads and loads of movies. And if we watched any upsetting movies, it upset our parents too; I guess it’s a very typical teenage thing to try to upset your parents. So whenever I watched a movie, after I would draw. Images would just come to mind just according to how I feel.

What do you draw from for inspiration? You mentioned the darkness that comes from heavy metal and Tim Burton of your teenage years for “Drowning in Dreams” in particular.

Yeah I watched a lot of Tim Burton movies. Edward Scissorhands was probably my favorite then but now it’s Big Fish. I also watched a lot of documentaries…like interviews with Johnny Depp (laughs).  I also watched a lot of documentaries in the 90s about artists I didn’t know a lot about, like the movie Basquiat; I found Warhol so interesting and he totally stole the show. Well David Bowie was playing him of course; he was totally my first crush. Yeah, while watching the movie Labyrinth, I was like, “Girl you are so stupid not to go for him!”

I was so angry back then. So I would listen to music or movies that would make me…feel something and I would draw those feelings out. I hoped that by doing that again I would become me as a teenager. I do prefer sad and dark things in art than happy things, at this moment; it also helped me draw more seriously. But even if the subject is dark, you can make it happier, kind of like what I do with the strings

For the strings, I was thinking about making connections. When I was studying biochemistry, you had to see the connections in between all your courses and everything you learnt, to see how everything is connected. Then you could understand and build something off of it. Yeah all that chemistry bonding molecule stuff, I really liked to draw them and to see how they move. It also just visually looked beautiful. I’m one of those people who like to see connections in everything, in life.


Also, the faces and things that I draw are very organic and I wanted to give it another dimension by making it geometrical. Yeah I wanted to bring together everything that I’ve learnt. I wanted to especially bring in the 3D [animation] part into my drawings because I didn’t want that to be something that I’ve done and didn’t use anymore. I wanted to bring everything together, my work is all about your past life, combining everything that you’ve done.

I know your parents were originally from Hong Kong so did you feel a strong connection to Hong Kong before impulsively moving here? 

Not at all! Well I’ve been here many times before and I didn’t feel a connection at all. Every time we came my family and I would just hang around Sham Shui Po or Mong Kok. We would shop, eat, visit family and that was it. I didn’t know there were so many expats and so much culture. I thought coming here was going to be temporary, like 4 months. I thought my parents had a place here that I could crash at for free; it would have been easiest place to stay while I figured out what I wanted to do next. I thought I wouldn’t like it. I thought Hong Kong was just an old place with conservative Chinese people who would stare at my tattoos and my hair. I had a totally wrong image of Hong Kong. When I got here, I actually realized how cool it was and was like, yeah let’s stay here longer.

Being in Hong Kong brings back so many memories of when I was a kid. I’d see things that make me thing of my mom and my dad and I would feel like I understood them more, where they were coming from, and why they did what they did. It feels like I’m resolving my past, being in Hong Kong. I feel more peaceful and forgiving. My base feels more stable and I can build on from then on.

So what’s next for you? Any exciting projects you would like to do?

I actually have some commissioned murals and I’m really excited that I can do things like that! It’s definitely one of the things I most enjoy doing. Back when I did advertising, I had to do a lot of long hours and work for clients as well. It was hard, when they to said, “I don’t like it” after so much hard work. But with murals, at the end it’s my vision. And nobody could take that away from me.

carato_chachawanmuralCara’s mural at Chachawan

Mark your calendars for Cara’s upcoming show at Above Second!

“Drowning in Dreams”

Featuring the original works of Cara To

August 9 – August 31

Opening Reception Friday August 9 from 7 – 10 PM

Venue: 31 Eastern St, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong

Copyright © 2011. All rights reserved.

RSS Feed. This blog is proudly powered by hamsters.