Read the interview here!
The show is entitled, Portland Street, a famous red light district in Hong Kong that’s filled with neon signage and light box.
by Matthew J
I am Xeme and I’m from Hong Kong. Along with my friends- Sinic and Redy- I run and operate Invasian Magazine; the first graffiti magazine to specialize in Asian graffiti and focus on its culture.
We first did an interview together back [in '08] around the time when Invasian Magazine was starting to circulate issues. The publication is now two-years strong and the website is steadily progressing, too. How would you say things have been going with Invasian? Are you meeting expectations? Overall how important do you feel the magazine has been Asian graffiti?
I always use our platform to bridge people together and let everyone know what’s going on in Asia. I’ve seen some good exchanges going on over these few years so it’s good in general.
I’d say things are progressing bit by bit in Invasian. I can’t tell how important we are to the Asian graff scene, but I hope we could influence some good people to push graff in Asia that’ll have a bigger impact than us.
What are some of the graffiti scenes like in Asia? Internationally, people tend to think solely of Japan when the topic of Asian graffiti is brought up and because of this more attention is given to Japan. I want to know what the other scenes in Asia are like. How do the scenes differ from country to country?
No doubt that Japan is really big in graff. They have the longest continuous graff history in Asia. A lot of writers in Japan are for real and they don’t quit easily. I don’t want to misrepresent any countries so what I’m saying below are based on my personal opinion.
- Korean writers are very talented, they are good with everything: realism, characters, letters etc. Their letters are influenced by the west coast.
- China has a good variety of different styles. A bit more commercial based stuffs going on and lack of bombing in this huge piece of land. There are loads of potential out there.
- Thailand has a good graff scene; people paint hard and still loads of spot to paint. A lot of foreigners go there to leave there mark too.
- Taiwan, Philippines and Indonesia all have loads of good spots to hit. There a lot of good street bombing writers. Some people like to paint cute comic style characters. A bit west coast influence on letters as well.
- Singapore is more piecing based country due to different restrictions. There’s a bunch of good piecing writers out there.
- Malaysia has a lot of people piecing as well.
I’m sure you get asked this question a lot, but I want to know what exactly spawned the creation of Invasian?
Me and my friends- Sinic and Redy- wanted to expose Asian graff and the local culture(s). At the time, there wasn’t much graff related publications in Asia, too, so we decided to give it a try and do this ourselves.
If I can start buying local graff mags from different Asian country and see them having their own events and shows, the goal of Invasian, in my view, is fulfilled.
You intentionally write using Chinese characters rather than Western alphabet as a way to celebrate your culture. How have people responded to your use of characters? Is it catching on with other writers?
I get people appreciate me using my own language in my pieces. Normally I think people enjoy seeing stuff that they don’t see every day. Some friends also express their view that they can’t understand what I’m trying to write. So I try to keep a balance of Chinese and English writing. Yet if more people start to write Chinese I think it’s more important for us to keep pushing styles instead of using Chinese or other language as an exotic piece.
Note from Matthew J: I agree with what Xeme is trying to do by incorporating his own language into his work. I find it strange that people would make a fuss over the use of Chinese characters because you would never hear a non-English speaker complain to Futura about their use of English text in his work; the art is accepted because it’s good, not because of its language.
I understand wanting to “keep a balance”, but at the same time English-speakers need to be more open-minded in regards to the art. Graffiti is worldwide; language shouldn’t matter.
What can you tell me about your Ground Release project in the UK?
It’s an East meet West project. We want to bring some talented writers from the West to Asia. It’s hard for Asian people to travel to America or Europe, so it’s a really a good opportunity for both side to paint, learn, exchange and have a good time.
Please check out www.ground-release.com We will constantly update it and release some surprises
Invasian Magazine has been around for a couple years now and things are progressing; you’re making a name for yourself. Where do you see Invasian going in the next few years? I know the Asian graffiti-magazine market is NOT as competitive -on mass- as Europe and North America, so what are you doing to keep the publication running strong??
The magazine itself has always been like a hobby thingy for us. We can only do it when we all have time to work together and we’ve never treated it as a money making thing. Thus we do it with our passion and thanks for my 2 partners for making it happen.
You were one of the artists featured in BOMB IT 2. What was that experience like and what does it mean to you be featured in such an important project?
It was interesting to be part in the project. I guess every time when I talk with different people it’s a good experience. You get to know yourself a bit more as well as learn different people’s point of view. Thank director Jon for having us in the video.
Have you had a chance to do any writing in Canada or other North American spots?
I haven’t done much in the past year. But hopefully I can make it there this year and hit some more spots out there.
Apart from the obvious cultural and differences, what would you say most differentiates Asia’s graffiti scene from that of North America’s scene?
We don’t have a long history base for graff, thus the meaning/definition of “graffiti” is slightly different from you guys.
I assume most people in North America started writing at a young age and probably started because seeing some other people’s tags or pieces. And here people tend to start at a later age due to some other reasons. They could be inspired from a fashion magazine, an art gallery show, design schools etc which makes the definition of “graffiti” very vague and unclear. If you talk with different people in Asia about graf, not too many people would focus on letters. Stuff like that I guess is really different from the West.
As far as Asia is concerned, there is such a vast diversity of cultures and philosophies, how is it that these different cultures are able to co-exist yet remain individualistic? I find here, in the Western world, people copy the East Coast style (New York/Philly) or the West Coast style (L.A) even though they don’t necessarily live in those regions. Writers in Europe copy American styles and vice versa. What keeps the Asian scene so unique? Or is it very similar to what is happening here?
To be honest, I think there aren’t much people that have a unique style in Asia, for sure; not myself either.
99.9% of the graffiti stuff we see comes from outside Asia, and it’s very natural that our foundation is based on the Western influences, as well.
Asia’s graffiti history (excluding Japan) is still young and I think it needs time to grow. As soon as people start writing for a longer time, they will realize that finding a unique style is important then there will be more good stuffs coming out from Asia.
I’m looking forward for the next 10 years. There are lots of talented writers/artists out here and I can see the potential for them to become successful in their field.
Outro: Any final words before we end this??
Big up to SensesLost for the interview; much appreciated. Thanks Redy for opening my mind and Sinic for the trust. And thanks for everyone who supported us in the past.