Island inspiration

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 June, 2007, 12:00am

Name: Jon Perello (JonOne); Age: 43; Occupation: Graffiti artist

Young Post: How did you become a graffiti artist?

Perello: Having grown up surrounded by arts, I've been sensitive to culture since I was a child.

In the late 1970s, I began to do graffiti works. I never thought that I could make a living as an artist. When I was 24, I sold my first drawing on the street in Italy. I was really happy.

I moved to Paris in 1987. Doing abstract graffiti works, I began to make a name for myself. In 1991, I got my first studio in Paris.

YP: How did your childhood experience affect your works?

P: My penchant for bright colours has something to do with my country of origin. I'm from the Dominican Republic, a Caribbean paradise. I love my sun-drenched hometown. The bright sun, cool breeze and coconut trees provided inspiration for my works.

My childhood in Harlem, New York, also nurtured my artistic instincts. In spite of being a poor neighbourhood, Harlem has a vibrant cultural scene. Artists fill the walls in the street with their creative artworks. Jazz music also spices up the street scene. I've developed a keen observation of arts and culture since I was young.

YP: What are your works about?

P: I never paint discernible objects or human faces. My works are a melange of abstract shapes that combine everything. I use acrylics, paints and whatever I can get hold of to express myself.

YP: Is it difficult to gain recognition for your abstract works in the art world?

P: At the beginning, I had very few jobs. When people wanted me to draw something for them, they always asked me to change my style and paint something more concrete instead. But I never budged and led quite a penniless existence back then.

As time passed, more and more people appreciated the uniqueness of my works. In the commercialised art market filled with cute stuff and funky figures, my rambling works stood out. Soon I got invited to stage exhibitions in galleries and create artworks for commercial companies.

YP: What are you working on now?

P: I'm staging an exhibition at Harbour City. Titled Urban Calligraphy, the works are inspired by Chinese calligraphy and the Chinese cosmological concept yin and yang. I can't read Chinese. Chinese characters are just a bunch of irregular shapes to me. But I think the strokes . . . are filled with energy. I used rich and bright colours in Urban Calligraphy to convey a sense of vibrancy.

YP: Do you enjoy making artworks in Hong Kong?

P: Absolutely, Hong Kong is an energetic city with lots of potential for budding artists. It's also great fun to create public works in Hong Kong like the ones I did for Harbour City. Compared to artworks in galleries or arts centres, public works enjoy much wider appeal.

Hong Kong people's hectic lives may deter them from pursuing artistic interests.

But instead of being artistically indifferent, most Hongkongers are curious people who would stop to enjoy an interesting artwork on the street.

I also want my works to soothe the stressful lives of Hong Kong people.


1979: Began to draw graffiti

1982: Graduated from high school in New York

1983: Began to paint big murals in New York

1985: Staged his first exhibition at Fun Gallery in New York

1987: Moved to Paris

1991: Opened his first studio in Paris

How to get there

Course: Graffiti Workshop

School: Warehouse

Duration: $250 for four lessons

Characteristics: Students learn the basic techniques of drawing graffiti. They also learn how to use different types of spray-paint to create street art. The styles of graffiti masters and history of the art form are also covered. There are walls inside the compound for students to put what they have learned into practice.


Course: Short-term Graffiti Course

School: Pure Galaxy

Duration: $450 for six lessons

Characteristics: Students learn to construct different shapes of letters and characters. The course covers a wide range of graffiti theory and practises. Courses on the combination of letters and how to create 3D effect with special techniques, such as shadowing and juxtaposition of letters, are also included.


The path

Graffiti artists can find work in the design and other creative industries. With graffiti and street art enjoying wide popularity with young people, many commercial companies such as hair salons, hip restaurants, bars and party venues employ graffiti artists to furnish their walls with their creative works. With the youth sportswear market filled with hip and funky products, experienced graffiti artists can strike lucrative deals with commercial companies to design hip products.