LATE ONE NIGHT outside Somerset House in Quarry Bay, Victor Ash stands on a hydraulic lift platform, spraying paint on the wall of the second-floor balcony. The Hanging Falling Graffiti Artists, which looks as if four men are clinging on the edge of the balcony, is one of three works that the Denmark-based artist has created as part of the Work in Progress exhibition, to be held from June 17 to July 7.
One of Ash's other works draws from the cover of The Clash's album London Calling and depicts a man smashing a ghetto blaster. Another features a family of monkeys sitting on military weapons such as tanks and missiles.
The exhibition, which aims to promote street art, will also feature large-scale murals, installations and mixed media works created on-site in a defunct office space in the same building by eight other international artists. They include Beastman, and Meggs and RONE from Australia, as well as local artists 4Get, Mark Goss, Pantone C, Parent's Parents and XEME. In addition, Martin Mazorra and Mike Houston of Cannonball Press in the US were flown in to create a "tornado" out of office debris.
Many of the works are created inside the defunct office instead of on the street. But Ash says the spirit of street art is maintained, as the works are all site specific and "melt with the architecture".
Portuguese artist Vhils, for instance, has been drilling and hammering directly on the wall to reveal different layers of paint, cement, and bricks for two textured murals. One features two men, of whom Vhils took snapshots in Hong Kong and Shanghai, set against the artist's abstract take on the harbour view. Another, which he created in collaboration with US art collective Cyrcle, depicts a Caucasian and a Native American alongside the words "Rise" and "Fall".
The Wild West is the theme that Cyrcle members David Leavitt and David Torres chose for the exhibition. "Not only we are growing as artists, but also America is very much a work in progress to us," says Torres. "So we're using cowboys and Indians as an example of the methodology of old America and new America. We're like the cowboys and Indians now, working in the Wild West from Los Angeles.
"We're the ones pioneering the new America today - the new world that we want to create as artists."
The same theme appears in their spray-painted mural, titled Capture the Flag: the Domestication of All Things, to which they are putting the final touches during the interview, spraying polka dots on it.
The duo has also created two wood sculptures - one of them a horse's skull which transforms into a cowboy shooting his rival, the other a wolf's skull which changes into a Native American shooting his arrow.
Torres explains that the struggle for the new world is not just for them, but for everyone, no matter where they're from. "It's a new generation of artists and people supporting a new world. Hong Kong, too, is becoming a place that's pushing to become stronger in the arts," says Torres.
"Art in general is a huge inspiration, and a catalyst for change and evolution in the world. I think the creative minds are what take the planet where it needs to be. Introducing street art in a gallery may bring some of the people who don't understand it to be more accepting of it. Maybe then the walls around the city will start being painted."
Leavitt adds: "If you've no background in art, and you haven't gained an interest in it yet, you can become overwhelmed trying to decide how you should look at artworks. Street art gives you the opportunity to see right in front of your face. You have no choice but to witness it."
Work in Progress, June 17 to July 7, 13/F Somerset House, Taikoo Place, Quarry Bay. Open: 10am-7pm. Inquiries: 2284 4877