Patrons of street art

Street art in Hongkou Gongping Lu 01

“What is this?”

“What does this all mean?”

Existential questions? Hardly. Just curious thoughts being blurted out, accompanied by some headscratching.

This past summer, I met with BrandFury and Grayson, Shanghai-based street artists on active demolition site – an acre of rubble – now sadly flatter than a panini.

Street art in Hongkou Gongping Lu 04

Street art in Hongkou Gongping Lu 03

Whipping out bags of spray paint, they began doodling. Chances were, the walls would be taken down in a matter of weeks.

We attracted a few individuals: the demolition company’s lady boss , a few construction workers and one or two migrant workers – all from Chongqing.

One gentleman in particular stood there for a long time, trying to make sense of it all. I gave him Grayson’s moleskin sketchbook, and watched him thumb through page after page of intricate designs destined for Shanghai’s walls.

Grayson’s work is mostly intricately sketched portraits and emblems with great detail and a very Australian aboriginal feel to it, You might have recognized it on Moganshan Lu (莫干山), a stretch of wall in Shanghai popular among graffiti artists.

Street art in Hongkou Gongping Lu 02

“Do you have a favorite design?” I asked, watching the middle-aged man, mesmerized by the book. He hemmed and hawed, I could tell the designs were very alien to him.

Pressed for an answer, he stopped at a page and pointed at a design. A large diamond.

We smiled at each other.

July 2010

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