After graduating from ArtCenter, Hong Kong-born Wing Chan (BFA 85 Graphic Design) ran a design firm in New York’s West Village for more than 15 years, with clients including American Express Private Bank and Standard Chartered Private Bank.
But in 2011, after living in the United States for 31 years, Chan moved back to Hong Kong. “Sometimes life has to move in circles,” he says over the phone.
Sometimes life has to move in circles.”Wing Chan
That statement refers as much to Chan's return to his homeland as it does to the dramatic professional shift he's undergone recently. Today he’s enjoying a second career as an artist, creating intricate large-scale photomontages of Hong Kong’s lively street life.
Chan's Urban-Tapestry exhibition has shown throughout the world—it recently ran at the Choeunsook Gallery in the Gangnam District in Seoul, Korea—and can currently be seen at Ginza’s Gallery Kanon in Tokyo, Japan, through May 1, and at ESPACE in Hong Kong through May 11.
“All my life my career had been in graphic design,” he says of his 25-year design practice. “I felt like it was time to work on something that I had always wanted to since I was a little kid.”
What reignited this dormant artistic ambition? “I wanted to convey how congested it is here in Hong Kong,” says Chan, describing his kaleidoscopic images of commuters aboard subway trains, riding escalators and crossing streets.
Having lived in New York for 25 years, Chan was used to the hustle and bustle of urban life. Hong Kong, however, was a different beast entirely, and the size of the crowds caught him off guard.
“When I first moved back, I made the terrible mistake of setting my morning appointments for 9:30 a.m.,” says Chan with a laugh. “At that hour, the inside of subway trains are like sardine cans. It’s unbearable. So I learned to make all my appointments after 10:30 a.m. and before 4:00 p.m.”
While Chan admits that life in Hong Kong comes with its share of headaches, he also found it invigorating and shortly after moving there he began taking thousands of photographs of people on their way to and from work and school.
“Nowadays it’s very easy to take pictures of people on the subway, because they are off in their own world,” says Chan. “Most of them are either taking a nap or on their cell phone doing social media. So I could be very close to them, sometimes just four feet away, and take pictures of them without them ever noticing.”
And speaking of life moving in circles, Chan says that the importance of getting out into the real world and paying attention to your surroundings was ingrained in him by Illustration and Integrated Studies instructor Christine Nasser.