Exhibition honours graffiti art byKing of Kowloon

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 January, 2008, 12:00am

The wordy calligraphic works of late graffiti artist Tsang Tsou-choi have been treated as masterpieces of indigenous culture ever since his death last year.

To commemorate the King of Kowloon's contribution to local culture, a shopping mall has staged an exhibition of his work.

Many of the paintings on show are being displayed for the first time in Hong Kong. They even include a summons issued by the local court and medical cards recording Tsang's treatment for psychiatric illness. Both the summons and medical records are covered with his characteristic calligraphy.

With his trademark letter-style writing adorning the exhibition hall, the show reappraises the unique

artist's confrontational personality.

Born in 1921 in Guangdong, Tsang became notorious for his omnipresent graffiti, which some claimed verged on vandalism. Brandishing his ink brush, the old master was often seen defacing walls and lampposts with his rambling diatribes.

Lacking logic and coherence, the messages behind his scribblings were often vehement protests against the government. His anger stemmed from an alleged miscarriage of justice by the British colonial government.

Tsang claimed that he had a land contract, which he said was granted by a Qing emperor. He accused the government of appropriating his lands in Kowloon and the New Territories.

While his writings are recognised by some as outstanding examples of popular culture, many dismiss his works as the grumblings of a crazy old man.

Critics may be divided, but organisers hope visitors to the exhibition will form their own opinions.

'Tsang is a controversial figure in Hong Kong. While some regard his rebellious writings as a courageous attempt to defy convention and authority, others have criticised him for damaging public property,' said Lau Kin-wai, the exhibition curator and Tsang's friend.

In spite of the differing views, Mr Lau highlighted Tsang's contribution to Hong Kong culture.

'His works have gained recognition in art circles. His trademark words are a valuable part of our collective memory,' Mr Lau said.

The King of Kowloon Street Calligraphy Exhibition is on at Telford Plaza in Kowloon Bay until January 20. For enquiries, call 2750 0877.