Not your ordinary jam session, Hong Kong.
4 friends, 4 canvases and 3 hours of speed-painting. As part of a unique birthday celebration, I was invited to an artjamming session in Hong Kong’s Sheung Wan district.
Artjamming involves a studio where they supply you with free-flowing paint, all kinds of paintbrushes and a canvas of your choosing. The staff give you a 3-4 hour slot and the challenge is to complete a painting by shift’s end. Perhaps it is something of a tall order for those of us who like to take it slow, but the reality is that warp speed is the norm in this time-obsessed city.
After a quick briefing on the tools and facilities, we were left to our own devices. Now the big question was this: what on earth was I going to paint? Eyeing the rows of seemingly industrial-sized containers, I decided to start out with a background of gold.
If the paint-splattered window sill was anything to go by, this spontaneous act had the potential of being rather messy. 10 minutes into the painting and I had already managed to get gold stains all over my sneakers.
And in true Hong Kong style, space was at a premium – I had to try hard not to bump into my friend behind me. But I guess it was all part of the experience. After all, with the astronomical rents of Central close by, opening an art studio was never going to be easy.
Part of the fun of artjamming is seeing how other people’s paintings take shape. My friends’ canvases ranged from the moody and expressive to the impressionistic. What also struck me was the fact that it was really an all-ages activity; just opposite there were a few kids painting flowers in brilliant technicolour.
Older artjammers were bringing in bottles of wine, and they didn’t hesitate to sip the stuff out of little plastic cups. We ourselves had a box of morsels – mango, green tea and chocolate delights from a hotel cake shop. It was something else to look forward to after finishing our spontaneous works of art.
And so it was that I found myself doing the final touches 30 minutes away from the deadline. Stepping back as far as I could, I paused to assess the fruit of my labour. At that moment I finally understood the true meaning of “untitled” – I had no idea what this painting meant or signified. More than anything it seemed subconsciously inspired by the Mirós I had seen in Madrid’s Museo Reina Sofia.
By 6 o’clock we each had a painting to take home, all of them freshly completed. While we lined our stomachs with cake the artjamming staff had the paintings packed in boxes specially designed to allow them to dry.
The session as a whole set me back a good several hundred Hong Kong dollars. Definitely pricey in my books, but the truth is that it would cost just as much – if not more – to buy all the paint supplies yourself, including the canvas.
And in hindsight, nothing beats flexing some creative muscles after a good meal.