Artist offers a bird's eye view of Hong Kong sights

Aerial photos are a common sight, but how about aerial paintings? Artist offers a different take on Hongkongers' high-rise existence

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 August, 2015, 11:06pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 August, 2015, 11:20pm

Few would argue that Hong Kong is a bustling city. Using bright vibrant hues interspersed with shimmering gold accents and armed with a unique perspective, local artist Martin Lever attempts to capture the magic that distinguishes this city from the rest of the world.

Lever's collection of oil and acrylic paintings depicts locations around Hong Kong from a bird's-eye view. Titled "Above/Below", the so-called "groundscapes" series, Lever says, highlights the relationship between what happens at street level and life on the top floor of a skyscraper.

"I was searching for a fresh way to visualise some of the stories that Hong Kong has to tell," Lever says. "The insight that I hit on was that we spend so much of our time up in the air in Hong Kong. It's a vertical city. We sleep on the 30th floor, we eat on the 20th and we work on the 10th, but we very rarely look down."

The lofty concept not only describes the physical vantage point of the paintings, but also represents Lever's goal to tell Hong Kong's real stories.

"There are so many iconic images, but I've always felt that the longer you're here the more you realise that the magic is behind that surface layer, behind the tourist veneer and clichés," says Lever.

It is not the first time Lever has used Hong Kong as inspiration for his art. But the Briton says this series is different owing to a "double layer" of meaning he was able to create within each piece.

"I think it's the fact that it looks so abstract," says Lever. "Any piece of art should speak to the person who's enjoying it and should be open to their own interpretation. When you first look at the collection, it can be anything you want it to be. It has a playful marriage of colours and structure, but then when you realise the idea behind it, it takes on another meaning. I think in that way it makes it richer and deeper than what I've done before."

The collection consists of 16 pieces of varying sizes. As a result of Lever's technique, districts such as Kennedy Town and Repulse Bay appear as splashes of colour that can be loosely interpreted as streets and vehicles, or boats and sun umbrellas dotted on beaches.

"I close my eyes and paint what I see," says Lever. "We all see the world around us, but I don't try to be literal. I try to apply my imagination to the everyday things we see around us and look at the world in a fresh light."

Lever used a special metallic paint in his work to capture one of his favourite aspects of the city.

"Hong Kong is an electric city," he says. "It is so dynamically vibrant and the colours in this city are unlike anywhere else in the world. By using the metallic paint, it gives the works an iridescence that captures Hong Kong's magic."

Lever believes he is one of a few artists whose pieces are inspired by the city.

"You don't see enough work wandering around the streets and galleries that is really vibrant, innovative or has Hong Kong in its DNA," he says. "I find that very surprising for such an inspiring town."

Lever says that given his amateur-artist status, he was fortunate to find a gallery willing to host his show. He plans to show up to a dozen pieces at this exhibition, but will continue to add to the collection when he finds places around the city that speak to him and "form the most pleasing graphic landscape".

"I want to make a statement about the town that I've called home for 36 years," says Lever. "Everyone has a favourite place and a favourite story and I think anyone who loves Hong Kong should connect one way or another with this collection."

PubArt Gallery, 7 Chancery Lane, Central. Tuesday-Saturday, noon-7pm. Opens August 28, ends September 12. Inquiries: 2840 1809