Limited Opportunities, Unlimited Talents
By Elmo Hong
“Macau designers can actually be as talented as those famous ones…We are not inferiors.”- Aki Chan
It is a surprise to find a 100-metre-enclosure painted with child-like drawings on the upper floor in Grand Waldo Hotel in Taipa, which is a multipurpose playground. The enclosure is designed and drawn by two local artists, Aki Chan and his classmate, the Macau Polytechnic Institute undergraduates who are excellent in drawing.
The main theme of the enclosure is “World of Forest” which is composed of cute animals, tall trees, green bushes, blue sky and big mushrooms. The person in charge of the enclosure in Grand Waldo Hotel was very satisfied with the two artists’ design. One thing that makes distinction from the usual child-like drawings is that all animals in the painting are without smile which is always an essential element in things for children. Chan said that it reflects the artists’ lives in Macau – happiness hardly exists.
Chan is the commissioned designer of the poster of Brainstorm Exhibition in Macau Polytechnic Institute in 2007 and a winner who received various prestigious awards, including the Antails Gift and Pocket 2008 Design Competition “Pocket Design” and “Gift Design” in Hong Kong in 2007. This talented artist has also been invited to have a short-term internship in Maxi Communication Ltd. Hong Kong.
After working there for two and a half months, he experienced the respect that people in Hong Kong give to art that is absent in Macau. Of course this does not represent the whole picture, but after interviewing a few local artists, the majority shares this view.
According to Chan, most designers in Macau are still freelancers with hardly any opportunity for full-time positions. He says the main reason is that the industry is still immature and non-pervasive enough in Macau. Besides, local companies have not yet seen the value of good design. Instead, they favour words over visual innovation in their media advertisements.
Companies that value design mostly give the assignments to the overseas design agencies. This reflects a lack of confidence in Macau’s designers. For those companies that do work with local designers, they tend to request multiple changes to the design, leading to commercialized outcomes that are neither creative nor personalized. It is no wonder that Chan felt much excitement when he clinched the project to design and paint on the enclosure in Grand Waldo Hotel.
Chan also adds that though there are now many places for exhibition in Macau, most of the exhibitions are reserved for famous foreign artists. He continued, “Hopefully there will be more and more opportunities to let local artists show their work publicly in the future, so that the talented artists can participate in contributing to the Macau art industry.”
“Macau designers can actually be as talented as those famous ones,” Chan emphasized, “We are not inferiors.”
While walking around the enclosure in Grand Waldo Hotel, the mixed feelings of passion and disappointment of these local potential artists pervade the space. Some of them may grumble that they are born in this little “culture Desert”. The general sentiment seems to be that no matter how great their design is, few people appreciate it. While some may still struggle, hoping one day this situation will change, Macau is actually a wonderful place that has many marvelous valuable artists. Let’s go to the exhibitions of local artists and give them support! Celebrate their existence, appreciate their work!