Janas（劉佩佩）在我們最新一季的雜誌裡以〈The Place We Belong, To Each and Every HongKonger〉為題，創作出一系列歡樂又充滿想像力的插畫。其中一幅描畫大海裡有一部扭蛋機，人們在裡面樂而忘返地玩耍，有些人則滿心歡喜地滑出了大海，既可愛又童真的畫面卻配上了讓人憂愁的文字。這些插畫讓我想起西西的《我城》，雖然時代不一樣，但同樣是在描寫香港複雜又令人糾結的現實，以及表達難以言喻的情感。「這系列大概是四、五月時畫的，在疫情下畫這些色彩繽紛、充滿歡樂氣氛的畫，也算是苦中作樂吧。系列以香港為背景，當中藏著不少的隱喻，例如其中一幅畫了一個個放金魚的膠袋，裡面換了各式各樣的人，好像在旺角金魚街的金魚一樣，被掛起來並展示著。這些金魚袋代表了香港壓迫的生活環境，也在刻畫出疫情下城市被封鎖、人們被迫留在家中避疫的情景。」
“This is the third day in a row that she has to tightly clutch on the robotic claw. This is partly due to the fact that she is aquaphobic, but the stronger reason is that she believes she should spend more time analyzing the whole situation. Everyone who escaped to the outsider world was consumed by the vast sea, disappearing into the swirls within minutes.
Who knows if drifting out there is even more exhausting than hanging here on the claw?”
In our latest issue, we featured a series of joyful and imaginative illustrations titled “The Place We Belong, To Each and Every Hong Konger” by Janas Lau. In one of the illustrations, we can see a gigantic gashapon machine floating in the sea. There are people partying inside the machine with some others having fun on the slippery slide that connects to the sea. This cute and innocent illustration comes with a contrastingly mournful caption. Janas’ works remind me of XiXi’s My City as they both capture vividly the complicated reality and unspeakable emotions of Hong Kong, though in different eras. “I did this series back in April or May. Painting with such vibrant colors and on a seemingly cheerful theme is probably a joy in suffering during the time of pandemic. For this series, I’ve chosen Hong Kong to be the background, and incorporated some metaphorical elements within. For example, there is an illustration that shows various types of humans being placed in clear plastic bags that are filled with water. If you’ve ever visited Goldfish Street in Mongkok, you’d probably know that these bags are actually used to hold the pet fish for sale and often hung up on shelves for display. These plastic bags represent the oppressive living environment of Hong Kong. They also signify the confinement that people have to endure when the city is locked down during the pandemic.”
The illustration of the gigantic gashapon machine floating in the sea is Janas’ favorite in the series. “This painting perfectly reflects the current situation in Hong Kong; some people want to leave, some people want to stay, yet nobody knows which is the right thing to do.” Leaving your hometown to move to a foreign land, there are so many uncertainties and unknowns ahead. Don’t you miss home? “I moved to London a few months ago because my husband works here. I am trying to adapt to life in London. I just have to fall in love with this place.” Janas believes that in order to genuinely live in a city instead of merely surviving, one has to fall in love with it. “I keep thinking how I can connect with this city.”
Janas is probably one of those who jumped on the slippery slide and slipped out of the gashapon machine. Out in the open sea, she tries so hard not to back out amid the rolling waves and bitter winds. Occasionally, she’d turn around and take a look at the gashapon machine. “I did a Master degree in Children’s Book Illustration and Graphic Novels in London. For my final-year project, Where is My Next Home?, I picked Hong Kong, the place I grew up, as a theme. It took me over three months to complete the book. At that time, most of my classmates chose to draw animals, but I wanted to draw something that I am familiar with, and I also wanted to let people know more about Hong Kong.” Where is My Next Home? is a mirror image of contemporary Hong Kong. The story begins with the depiction of the protagonist, Ming, living in a tiny partitioned-flat with his family, and how an arsonist attack left them homeless and forced them to move to the remote New Territories. As the family gradually adapted to their new life in beautiful nature, they were once again being forced to leave their home as the government and land developers decided to resume the land where they lived. Ming’s story makes people wonder where we can find our final home. “I grew up in a family of nine and we onced lived in a 300-square-foot cramped flat. I’ve also worked as a farmer in Fanling’s Ma Shi Po and Hokkaido in Japan. I put all these personal experiences in my book in a hope that my readers can think about what is the basic quality of human life, and how can Hong Kong become an ideal place to live?
Janas’ attention to detail and delicate painting style is fully reflected via the illustrations of the bustling streets and densely packed buildings and billboards in Where is My Next Home?. Janas developed such extraordinary observation skills from walking. “When I was studying photography in Japan, I walked from Ueno to Shinjuku all the time. I observed as I walked and there were so many new things to discover. At that time, the internet was not as developed as it is nowadays. I had to explore and discover new things by myself. During that period, I often went to exhibitions on photography and illustration, and made some illustrator friends. They planted the seeds of curiosity in me, and I began to draw based on the photos I took. For me, the most fascinating thing about painting is that I can capture the decisive moments from my own perspective. Looking at my own paintings is like flipping through my own photo album.”
Janas said that she is not a genius painter, and often she struggles to get inspired. “I started by drawing stick men.” She laughed and said, “When I was studying in Japan, I fell deeply for the Ukiyo-e style for there are so many details even in a tiny corner of the painting. Takehisa Yumeji and Fukiya Koji are my favorite painters. I often went to the Yayoi Museum of Art when I lived in Japan. They specialized in curating paintings of Japanese beauties from the 1920s and 1930s. I am especially fond of Fukiya Koji’s black and white line drawings. I started by imitating my favorite works and slowly established my own style. My recent favorite is Katsushika Hokusai’s figure paintings. Each character has his own expressions and actions. It’s so fascinating. Besides visiting art museums, I like to stroll through the old book street of Jimbocho and walk all the way to Ueno because my school is located in Ichigaya. After the walk, I’d take the subway home. Sometimes I’d sit for hours in the International Library of Children’s Literature in Ueno Onshi Park. That is a very beautiful building filled with tons of children’s books. Visits to the library broadened my horizon tremendously. As time went by, I started to develop my own style and draw naturally.” Janas said that photography has sharpened her awareness and sensitivity to the surroundings, while the Japanese culture has a great impact on her devotion to details. Although she describes herself as an impatient artist who always wishes to finish a painting as quickly as possible, you will be surprised to see how meticulous her works are. “Drawing makes me more patient. But still, I wish for a shortcut so that I can finish the work quickly.”
In My City, Swim, the protagonist Fruits’s classmate, dreamt of traveling around the world. He left the city and went somewhere far away, yet his heart still lingers on this “both beautiful and ugly city.” The same goes for Janas; no matter where she is, she still thinks of Hong Kong often. “I truly believe ‘home is where the heart is.’ Hong Kong is where I grew up and where my friends and family reside. Of course I hope Hong Kong can turn into a better place. Because Hong Kong is my real home.”