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Devil in the Details and Process: Artist Kristopher Ho on Style, Context, and Perspective

His work has adorned the likes of K11 MUSEA, TOWNPLACE SOHO, and countless other establishments in Hong Kong. ECHELON interviews Kristopher Ho to learn more about his art and process. 

By Ashlyn Chak
July 19, 2022

Kristopher Ho is no stranger to the international street art scene, having participated in the Brisbane Street Art Festival in Australia and our home-grown HKWALLS; but it doesn’t mean he is a graffiti artist. In fact, his work can’t look more different from the typical street tagging style. 

One look at his elaborate murals and the incredibly painstaking details and you’ll see why his work once graced the likes of K11 MUSEA, TOWNPLACE SOHO building, and many other storefronts and establishments in the city. We invite the artist himself for a chat about his unique aesthetic, process, and identity as an artist in Hong Kong. 

Photo: Kristopher Ho

How did you find your style? 

My style now has completely changed from the work I had done when I first moved back to Hong Kong after graduating as an illustrator. 

I wanted to establish a visual style in my second year at university, and that’s the moment I decided to focus on illustration within the graphic design pathway. I simply used the first thing I found on my desk—a marker. Since then, I have used markers as my main tool to make art. Even though the subjects I focus on now are vastly different from my work maybe eight years ago, the one thing that didn’t change is that my work has always been very detail-oriented. 

My style is simply a cumulation of experience, experimentation, and finding the most comfortable way to express myself. It’s constantly changing, just as we are constantly growing as human beings. 

What inspires you?

I am inspired by many things: movies, animations, music, other artists’ work… Anything can be a source of inspiration. It’s all about perspective, how we see things and the angle we see them from. 

Usually, I like to spend more time and effort on building the story behind the work. The context is crucial in my process. Yes, art should be visually inspiring and aesthetically pleasing, but I prefer to focus more on the idea behind what’s seen. Once the concept is set, I can begin to visualise the piece. For me, this is the more linear way, instead of creating something and then trying to come up with a story. 

Photo: Kristopher Ho

What’s it like to paint on the street and other different public spaces?

Painting on the street is the best! It creates a bigger reach with the audience, and it’s inspiring to see how your work interacts with the ever-changing surroundings on the street. Painting indoors is fun, too, but I personally enjoy my work more in outdoor public spaces. 

Mural painting is, in some ways, like a performance. Of course, the final product is important, but I also immensely enjoy the process of creation and the interaction I can have with the audience and onlookers during it. I think it brings people closer together and can be a form of bonding practice. 

Your work has a relatively dark aesthetic. How has it been received in Hong Kong, especially commercially? 

[Laughs] I suppose my work is a bit niche in Hong Kong, especially in the commercial sphere. I have been fortunate enough to have friends and clients who had enough faith in me to allow me to make art for them. 

At the end of the day, my art is personal to me. Each piece says something I relate to, and I get that it can be difficult for some to understand what I do. The reason I do what I do is that there are things that I want to express and present to the world. I guess being able to have control over your work and create freely would be the biggest achievement in the commercial world, which I am still working my way towards. 

That’s not to say I don’t enjoy commercial work. I appreciate that it can sometimes push you out of your comfort zone and expand your view and visual language. There is an intricate balance that I want to achieve, and I still have a ways to go. 

Photo: Kristopher Ho

What has your path as a creative been like in Hong Kong? 

Hong Kong isn’t the easiest place on Earth to do art and design. Most projects are commercially oriented, and it can be really rare to have projects or opportunities where you can create art from a genuine place.   

Nonetheless, I believe in the power of self-discipline and the importance of creative integrity. If you are going to do something, go all the way. Once I’ve decided to go ahead with a project, it becomes my responsibility to create something that represents and defines me as an artist. There will always be moments when you can do things the easy way, but the right way is always the hard way.