French artist Invader brings his works to the streets of Hong Kong
In a city of protests, French street artist Invader is an unlikely 40-something rebel with a cause.
His works in white-walled galleries can fetch upwards of HK$3 million, but it is the 3D mosaics featuring his signature motif - a Space Invader alien from the seminal 1970s arcade game - which he creates in the gritty nooks and crannies of urban streetscapes that have captivated fans since 1998.
For the past 11 days, he has been "invading" Hong Kong with more than 35 works spread all over the city for passers-by to discover.
"An artist is a bit of a rebel; you don't follow the establishment and you have to disturb the system a little, but in a good way," Invader said yesterday, speaking exclusively, and in disguise, to the Sunday Morning Post, just hours after finishing one of his biggest illegal outdoor works - in Central.
"I don't try to damage the walls of the city, I try to add something new and nice and I think the people of Hong Kong are receptive to this."
His latest piece, measuring several metres high and wide, is on a pylon under a walkway going towards the Central piers.
It took more than an hour to finish.
Each small tile representing a pixel is meticulously cemented into place to create the alien image that has become his global autograph.
Invader, whose real name and age has never been revealed, described the work as a "masterpiece to me because I don't do a piece like this everyday".
During his first visit in 2001, he met the late calligraphy graffiti artist the King of Kowloon, also known as Tsang Tsou-choi.
"He is one of your city's great artists because what this guy did in Hong Kong, I had never seen anywhere in the world," Invader said.
"He really took possession of the city with his art because it was graffiti, but not graffiti because he used brushes, and to see Chinese characters on the wall, it was very interesting to me."
Invader said using tiles as real-life representations of computer-generated pixels had given him scope to be creative, despite the apparent simplicity of a square.
"It was symbolic of the new world of technology and now we are being invaded by digital technology," he said. "It's just a little square, but when you put them together, it can create many things."
A few nights ago, half a dozen police officers caught him in the early hours atop a ladder, creating a work on a wall along Hollywood Road in Central.
"I was frightened about what might happen," Invader said. "So I told them, 'I am an artist and I did not ask for permission, but what I am giving is a gift. If you don't like it, you can take it off'.
"The police looked at my piece and said, 'No, we like it, you can keep it'.
"But they said don't put up any more, so I went to Kowloon to continue."
Today, Invader said he had no time for video games, "but they were important in my childhood, games like Pong and Space Invaders. I play video games with tiles and cement now".
In the decade since his last visit to Hong Kong, Invader's style has evolved and so has the landscape.
"The city has moved on a lot since my last visit in 2003," he said. "You still have a lot of energy and you feel that something has really happened with the city."