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Interview: We Talk To... Us!

Updated: Sep 19, 2023

Meet our founders. We sat down and had a chat about the arts in Hong Kong, how we got here and where we see it going.


Kyra Campbell


Tell us about yourself


I’m a British photographer living here in HK. I studied photographic arts at University in London. I fell in love with photography during sixth form collage when I learnt how to use a darkroom. I love alternative photography processes and experimenting with analog photography. Besides working as an art photographer I also work in events. In University I started photographing live music for an online publication and absolutely loved it.


Meet one of our founders and directors Kyra Campbell. I’m a British photographer living here in HK. I studied photographic arts at University in London. I fell in love with photography during sixth form collage when I learnt how to use a darkroom. I love alternative photography processes and experimenting with analog photography. Besides working as an art photographer I also work in events. In University I started photographing live music for an online publication and absolutely loved it.

Photograph: Kyra Campbell


How and why did you start HKARTS?


Like most good ideas it started in a bar. Pete and Marc had been working as full time artists for a while and found that opportunities for artists living and working in Hong Kong were few and far between. After a few pints we came up with the idea of the Hong Kong Arts Collective, a way for us to help, create and find opportunities for artists living and working in HK. Being in the art scene for a while we all had some contacts that we could ask to join us and when we were offered a space for our first show we jumped at the chance to put HKARTS in motion. We started out as about 20 artists, people we knew and finding people through shows and instagram, and are now around 65 artists. We hope to grow this community and find as many opportunities as we can for our artists.


What do you think about the local art scene?


Hong Kong has an amazing and vibrant art scene. We have so many passionate artists from many different backgrounds, doing many different types of art. We are so lucky in Hong Kong that we have people from all over the world coming together to create. We get so many different point of views and ways of thinking. Every art show you go to you see something new and different. What we want to do is give everyone access to these incredible artists and give artists room to show people what they create.


Tell us about your work, process and inspiration.


For my art I work almost exclusively with analog photography. So working in the darkroom or using 35mm film. I love experimenting with alternative processes and finding old techniques. A lot of what you can do in photoshop you can do in a darkroom. I’ve recently got into film souping where you put unprocessed film into random liquids. It’s fun and terrifying as you have no idea of how it will turn out. That's what I love about analog photography is that it’s all a

big experiment. There is so much cool stuff you can do with it.


The Hong Kong Arts Collective. Meet one of our founders and directors, Kyra Campbell. For my art I work almost exclusively with analog photography. So working in the darkroom or using 35mm film. I love experimenting with alternative processes and finding old techniques. A lot of what you can do in photoshop you can do in a darkroom. I’ve recently got into film souping where you put unprocessed film into random liquids. It’s fun and terrifying as you have no idea of how it will turn out. That's what I love about analog photography is that it’s all a  big experiment. There is so much cool stuff you can do with it.

"Bamboo" by Kyra Campbell. View in shop.


What's been your favourite project?


My favourite project I think was the first time I did double exposure back in University. It was the first time I really got into alternative processes and learnt so much. I did it all in camera, no photoshop. I basically ran the film through my camera twice. Even though you don’t know until it’s developed how it will turn out, you start to learn how the film will behave. It really inspired me to experiment more.


What advice would you give for future artists?


Experiment! If you have an idea in your head, try it, go for it. It might not work but you never know.


Read more about Kyra Campbell and view her work over on her profile page.



Marc Allante


Tell us about yourself

I was born in Hong Kong although I spent a few years abroad in Australia and the UK and came back to start work in the financial industry after university. It was definitely not for me, and for many years I tried to delicately balance these two worlds but eventually I could not ignore the “itch” and left to pursue art full time. My work mainly revolves around wildlife painted in vivid oils and watercolors.


The Hong Kong Arts Collective. Meet one of our founders Marc Allante. I was born in Hong Kong although I spent a few years abroad in Australia and the UK and came back to start work in the financial industry after university. It was definitely not for me, and for many years I tried to delicately balance these two worlds but eventually I could not ignore the “itch” and left to pursue art full time. My work mainly revolves around wildlife painted in vivid oils and watercolors.

Photograph: Marc Allante


How and why did you start HKARTS?


Pete and I first met when we were trying to balance corporate jobs while creating art on the side which became a regular knitting session moaning about the lack of support for HK artists and the difficulties the city presented creatives (and an excuse to grab regular beers). After many years of these sessions, an opportunity came up to work together with Pete and Kyra in an amazing space and we decided to try leverage that opportunity to formally build a community of HK creatives and a series of exhibitions and events.


What do you think about the local art scene?


For a long time, I felt that it was underdeveloped and can still be at times quite a challenging environment. However, I realized there is a tight nit community with some wonderful people who are always willing to help and support one another. I think the opening of Tai Kwun and M+ also show that Hong Kong is becoming more of a creative hub that is seeking to establish an international reputation.


Tell us about your work, process and inspiration.


When we could travel, I used to go to ecological sites to take wildlife photos and videos which provided the references and inspiration for a lot of my work. I often try to work with conservation charities as I think art can be a powerful tool to bring awareness to endangered species. I used to work primarily in watercolour but I have moved more towards mixed media and constantly try to experiment in a fusion of styles and palettes.


The Hong Kong Arts Collective. Meet one of our founders Marc Allante. When we could travel, I used to go to ecological sites to take wildlife photos and videos which provided the references and inspiration for a lot of my work. I often try to work with conservation charities as I think art can be a powerful tool to bring awareness to endangered species. I used to work primarily in watercolour but I have moved more towards mixed media and constantly try to experiment in a fusion of styles and palettes.

"Citadel" by Marc Allante. View in shop.


What's been your favourite project?


I think our first exhibition together at the Nate was one of the best projects I have worked on as it was an eye-opening experience that showed how much goes on behind the scenes setting up an exhibition from the ground up. From the marketing, to the installation of walls, lights and managing a larger scale event (while also trying to paint and produce art!). It was stressful but I think one of the best learning experiences I have had in the industry.


What advice would you give for future artists?


I think all artists suffer from a degree of self-doubt and imposter syndrome, but I think its important to at least put yourself and your work out there and be ready to sometimes fail and also willing to adapt and learn from mistakes. There are so many avenues now to display your work to different audiences as well, so don’t be afraid to experiment and learn from different communities whether that be in a more traditional gallery environment or online with social media.


Read more about Marc Allante and view his work over on his profile page.



Pete Ross


Tell us about yourself

I was born and grew up in Hong Kong. I’ve always loved and been fascinated by this city. I’ve loved art and drawing since I was young …my babysitters used to leave me in the corner of the room with a pack of pencils. Flash forward quite a few years and I went on to study and eventually qualify as an architect which heavily influenced my drawing style and concepts. As a third culture kid I like to explore ideas of permanence especially in a city that is so fast paced and often transient. I draw mainly with ballpoint and have been fortunate enough to have been featured in international publications and galleries.


The Hong Kong Arts Collective. Meet one of our founders and directors Pete Ross. I was born and grew up in Hong Kong. I’ve always loved and been fascinated by this city. I’ve loved art and drawing since I was young …my babysitters used to leave me in the corner of the room with a pack of pencils. Flash forward quite a few years and I went on to study and eventually qualify as an architect which heavily influenced my drawing style and concepts. As a third culture kid I like to explore ideas of permanence especially in a city that is so fast paced and often transient. I draw mainly with ballpoint and have been fortunate enough to have been featured in international publications and galleries.

Photograph: Pete Ross


How and why did you start HKARTS?


When I first started working in Hong Kong I was also looking to get more involved in the local art scene. It took a long time and a lot of luck and I met some incredible people along the way. It was tough though and one of the things that became apparent was the lack of support and opportunities for Hong Kong based artists. In 2019 we started creating a database of practicing Hong Kong artists and pretty much a week later Marc got contacted by an amazing venue at the Nate, Jordan. From there we've continued to grow and push local art. Its such an amazing experience and I’m super excited to see where it will go.


What do you think about the local art scene?


The local art scene is in an amazing place at the moment. We’re seeing more and more galleries supporting local artists and incredible local talent. It’s come a long way in the last 10 years. Its honestly great to be part of it. We couldn’t have done this without our community and their support means everything.


Tell us about your work, process and inspiration.


I mainly work in ballpoint pen. I started drawing in my free time when I was still at university and was heavily influenced by contemporary ballpoint artists such as James Mylne who was amazingly supportive when I first started. I got featured by Bic and shortlisted by Saatchi Art which gave me the confidence to start approaching galleries. My work has been exhibited in Hong Kong, London and New York and is featured in the book “Ballpoint Art” which I still don’t think I’ve properly come to terms with. I often use realism and abstraction in my work to explore themes of permanence and memory. I’m heavily inspired by Hong Kong. It has such a rich history and culture that it’s hard not to be inspired by it.


The Hong Kong Arts Collective. Meet one of our founders and directors Pete Ross. I mainly work in ballpoint pen. I started drawing in my free time when I was still at university and was heavily influenced by contemporary ballpoint artists such as James Mylne who was amazingly supportive when I first started. I got featured by Bic and shortlisted by Saatchi Art which gave me the confidence to start approaching galleries. My work has been exhibited in Hong Kong, London and New York and is featured in the book “Ballpoint Art” which I still don’t think I’ve properly come to terms with. I often use realism and abstraction in my work to explore themes of permanence and memory. I’m heavily inspired by Hong Kong. It has such a rich history and culture that it’s hard not to be inspired by it.

"Changing Tides" by Pete Ross. View in shop.


What's been your favourite project?


My favorite HKARTS project was probably setting up the Water Street venue. It was our first sole exhibition venue and we had to learn a lot of things along the way. We built walls, installed lighting and curated a few exhibitions. The feedback was incredible. My favorite personal project was probably drawing the cover for Cathay Pacific’s in-flight Discovery Magazine. It’s pretty mad to think how many people saw it. I’m not going to lie… I have it framed in my apartment.


What advice would you give for future artists?


The best advice I can give is to create what you care about. Don’t worry about art movements and labels. Just create what you want to create. Find your own style. Build up a portfolio which works cohesively as a series. Find galleries that your work will be a good fit for. Once you have all that don’t be afraid to approach galleries and artists. Most importantly have fun with it. It can be incredibly challenging but it’s definitely worth it.


Read more about Pete Ross and view his work over on his profile page.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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The Hong Kong Arts Collective

The Hong Kong Arts collective (HKARTS) was established in 2019 by local artists for local artists. It was created as an online artists village to support and promote artists living and working in Hong Kong. We offer exhibition opportunities, fine art printing, art consultations and our online shop supports both our artists and the wider community as a whole.

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