For many, Chai Wan is just the final stop on the MTR Island Line. For British-born Hong Kong artist Simon Birch and gallery owner Katie de Tilly, it's now home to a project that promises to put the harbour district firmly on the local cultural map. On Friday, an ambitious group show - the first at the new 10 Chancery Lane Warehouse Annex - opened in what was a defunct warehouse in Chai Wan Industrial City. Titled Outside Context Problem and curated by Birch, it features an eclectic mixture of artists from Hong Kong, the mainland and Japan, most of whom created bold works to respond to the theme. The term 'outside context problem' comes from Excession, by Scottish writer Iain Banks, and Birch interprets it as 'the idea of something unexpected and sudden happening in society, or in one's life personally'. This concept of a turning point provoked by outside action could also be applied to the new art space itself. De Tilly, founder of 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, which has just celebrated its fifth anniversary, wanted to do something 'very different in Hong Kong' and was inspired by dynamic gallery/studio complexes in former industrial areas such as Bergamot Station in Los Angeles (de Tilly's hometown), and 798/Dashanzhi in Beijing. Similar attempts at alternative art centres have been made in Hong Kong, but de Tilly says 'they're separated, so we'd like to encourage people to come to one area and try to get it going'. She chose Chai Wan rather than studio communities such as Fo Tan or Kwun Tong because of the distance - at least psychologically. 'I just think it's too far for people - on Hong Kong island, it's more accessible,' de Tilly says. 'It's a 13-minute drive from my gallery in Central - I've done it on several occasions and timed it.' It took a year of planning and two months of renovation to complete the Annex. With five-metre ceilings and 2,000sqft, it's now a 'dedicated, New York-style, warehouse exhibition space'. For the current exhibition, two gigantic sculptures of revolvers dangle from the ceiling. The guns are Birch's first sculptural installation - not that he's ever let a lack of experience stop him trying anything. His first foray into curating was for last year's Box exhibition of Hong Kong artists in Langham Place mall. 'That taught me a lot, and made me want to do a better job - hopefully, this is a better job,' Birch says. As well as holding exhibitions, de Tilly plans to provide international artists and curators with studio space (in an adjoining unit) for residencies and research. Birch - who arrived in Hong Kong 10 years ago and went from being an 'unemployed and absolutely bankrupt' DJ to becoming a successful painter and Sovereign Art Prize winner - recognises the challenges of being an artist in this city. He says he'd rather take action than sit around and complain, which is reflected in the Outside Context Problem show. 'I like people who are very driven and get on and do it,' he says. 'All the artists I've chosen have that ethic.' Featured mainland artists such as Li Wei, known for his daredevil physical performances, and Cang Xin, known for licking the ground in different cities, embody this confrontational energy. Conceptualist Huang Rui was a founder of Beijing's 798 district. Although 10 Chancery Lane leases the Annex, the curator and artists are all chipping in for exhibition costs - designer Stanley Wong Ping-pui (aka anothermountainman) has paid for all his own photographic prints and framing, for example, simply because he wanted to take part in the show. Next month, Outside Context Problem will move to a new studio at 798 Space in Beijing run by contributing Hong Kong photographer Wing Shya. The Central gallery and Annex will then hold a simultaneous exhibition of Birch's solo work. After that, another group show, Defining Women, will be held in both spaces. Other than that and a residency by a Spanish artist in the spring, de Tilly says she's 'waiting for proposals'. 'It's a baby that's just been born - well it hasn't even been born. It will be born next week,' she says. Chai Wan, once a blank canvas, is gradually being sketched in. Hipster fashion has come to Ka Yip Street as alternative art moves into the factory buildings above. 'The more things that start happening, the more it will start picking up,' says de Tilly. With more and more on offer, Hongkongers may soon realise that nine MTR stops east of Causeway Bay isn't so far after all.