⟨ Art ⟩

My Surreal Life in Hong Kong

SurrealHK by Tommy Fung

Words / Elva Pang
Translation / Fanny Chan

初次看SurrealHK的作品,很自然地想起宮崎駿的動畫,雖然它們的風格並不相同,但是兩者都是介乎現實與想像之間。無論是在森林裡遇上大龍貓,還是維多利亞港口上的大熊貓,都在打開人們對身邊環境的想像。「我在香港出生,9歲時移居委內瑞拉,由於現在的委內瑞拉經濟和社會很太混亂,於是我在四年前決定回流香港。當時我不知道自己可以做甚麼,我便不斷地看本地的攝影師的風格、正在拍些甚麼,以及在哪裡拍照等。後來,我發現以修圖為主導的表現形式比較少人嘗試,大多數只停留於網上欺凌,於是我便開始了SurrealHK的創作,以修圖的形式來表達我對這城市的看法。」離開了香港一段長時間,Tommy笑言一直以來都以遊客的身份來看香港。「從前偶然回港探親,每次也會感到香港正在迅速地發展,對我來說有種像遊客般的新鮮感;直至在香港定居下來,我才慢慢地了解這個城市,明白到住在這裡的感受。」

從Tommy的作品裡,我們看到既熟悉又陌生的香港,從「打卡熱點」的彩虹邨、龍蛇混雜的深水埗,到具代表性的維港⋯⋯,都是一些你總會踏足過的地方。「我去了香港不同的地方拍照,當中我會尋找一些喜歡的地方來作為題材,例如深水埗是一個很貼地的地方,能夠看到本地人的真實生活;於是我把本來已是非常密集的深水埗,修改成如《潛行凶間》裡的場景般,連天空也是密密麻麻的樓宇。」第一次在社交媒體裡看到Tommy的作品,不禁驚嘆被修改的圖片裡連影子也很真實,這種超現實、誇張的表現方式讓訊息更深入觀眾的心,並帶來更多的思考。「在現今的網絡世界,人們滑手機的速度很快,如果一樣東西不能吸引到別人的注意,它很快便會消失。因此,作品首要的任務是視覺上吸引眼球,然後讓人提起興趣,思考哪裡是真的、哪裡是假的,最後看看文字便會明白相片背後的意義是甚麼。」Tommy笑說有時候連自己都會覺得修圖的效果太真實了,如果觀眾也會因而感到驚訝或共鳴,他會很高興。「我創作靈感來自不同的地方,有時候是從喜歡的電影裡,有時候是社會正在發生的事。我認為創作需要連結身處的地方,不能脫離現實,說一些沒有人明白的東西。例如,疫情初期,我創作了一個人山人海的搶口罩情景,表達當時一罩難求的情況。」Tommy說。

看著一張張細緻的修圖相片,心想必定花上很多時間在後期製作吧?「事實上,前期和後期都一樣地花時間,拍攝的部分是很重要的,如果拍得很差,怎樣修改也無法把相片變好,令真實感大大降低。因此,我非常執著光線、角度,唯有拍攝到讓我滿意的相片才開始著手修圖。靈感出現的時候,我會思考在哪裡取景;沒靈感時便四處逛逛,看見甚麼便拍些甚麼,然後看看相片可以加些甚麼、變成些甚麼。」Tommy說修圖的時候,他會把圖放至最大,所有細節都被修改得一絲不苟。「我把這些作品打印出來,製作成一個真實的展覽,讓大眾能看到這些相片的細節,相比在螢光幕上觀看,實體的展覽更有感染力。」

早前Tommy與13 New Street Gallery合作的首個個人作品展中,展出了他精心挑選的相片,還有特別為展覽創作的立體作品。「我選了比較輕鬆、讓人發笑的作品於展覽中,像SurrealHK的instagram般,甚麼類型的都有,當中有很多關於多交通工具的相片,這是因為我對香港的交通工具情有獨鍾。不過,今次的展覽最想表達的是香港的房屋問題,也是社會上最大和最切迫的問題。例如是《Infinity Choi Hung Estate (2018)》和《Infinity Wah Fu Estate(2019)》,以無限伸展的方式表達密密麻麻的房屋和狹小的生活空間,帶來震撼的視覺效果。」立體的相片表現出層層遞進的壓迫感,給人一種喘不過氣的感覺。「彩虹村是我最喜歡的作品,因為它本來是一個『打卡位』,而我採用了一種壓迫感的方式演繹,視覺上十分豐富、搶眼。相片背後想說的是香港的劏房問題,雖然大廈的外表色彩繽紛、予人快樂的感覺,但現實是香港的劏房愈劏愈小,屋裡面會不會是很灰暗呢?居住在裡面的人仍然是快樂嗎?」Tommy更把彩虹邨變成立體的俄羅斯方塊遊戲,以輕鬆、幽默的方式喚醒我們對社會問題的關注。

當人對身邊的一切感到習以為常,往往失去了對城市的想像。「香港對我來說是一個有趣的地方,任何事物都讓我感到新鮮和好奇。或許對居住在這裡的人來說,一切不過是平平無奇的事物,但我想以我角度來告訴大眾,香港是一座美麗又有趣的城市。上下對倒的旺角黑夜、電車在漫天雪花的上環裡行駛、黃埔成為了水上樂園⋯⋯香港對我來說是一個超現實、充滿想像力的城市。」世界是神秘又充滿未知的,想像力為世界打開各種可能性,就像我們仍舊相信有天能在樹洞裡看見正在睡覺的龍貓一樣。

When I came across Tommy Fung’s SurrealHK series, I couldn’t help but think of Hayao Miyazaki’s animated work. The two works are obviously different in style, but they both juggle the elements of realism and imagination. Whether it’s Miyazaki’s Totoro (a large furry creature that appears in one of his films) or Tommy’s giant panda on the Victoria Harbour, these creatures, as well as the other works by the two, open the door to infinite imagination. “I was born in Hong Kong but migrated to Venezuela at the age of nine. Four years ago, I decided to move back to Hong Kong because of the social unrest and economic crisis in Venezuela. When I first came back, I had no idea what I could do, so I spent a lot of time looking at the work of local photographers trying to figure out where and what they shot. Eventually, I noticed that photo manipulation as an art form was still catching on in Hong Kong. It was frowned upon because of its association with unethical photo retouching and cyberbullying. So I started to create the SurrealHK series. I wanted to express my views on the city via manipulated photos.” After spending years in Venezuela, Tommy laughed at how he has always looked at Hong Kong from the perspective of a tourist. “In the past, I’d come back to Hong Kong to visit my relatives. Every time I was in town, I could feel that the city was rapidly developing and prospering. Everything was new and exciting which made me feel like a tourist. It wasn’t until I moved back to Hong Kong that I gradually understood the city and began to have that feeling of actually living here.”

From Tommy’s work, we can see both the familiar and unfamiliar sides of Hong Kong from the Instagram hotspot Choi Hung Estate, to the clamorous Sham Shui Po neighbourhood, the iconic Victoria Harbour, and more. “I went all over Hong Kong to take photos, and I picked the places that I am particularly fond of as the subjects for shooting. For example, I’ve picked Sham Shui Po as it is a very down-to-earth and densely-populated neighbourhood where you can observe the everyday life of the locals. I modified a picture of Sham Shui Po to resemble the scene setting in the movie Inception. I’ve even edited the sky and filled it up with densely-packed buildings.” I was amazed when I first saw Tommy’s work on social media for the fact that even the shadows in the modified pictures are so realistic. Such a surreal and exaggerated way of expression not only makes a bold impression to the audience, it is also intriguing and thought-provoking. “In today’s world, people browse through their phones at a very high speed. If something fails to catch their attention at the first glance, it will soon be gone and forgotten. Therefore, I put it as the first priority to make my work very eye-catching. When people feel interested, they will start thinking about what’s real and what’s not, and when they finally look at the text, they will understand the true meaning behind the photos.” Tommy joked that sometimes even he himself is amazed by how realistic the retouched photos look, and if his audiences feel the same, he’d be very happy. “My creative inspiration comes from everywhere; sometimes from the movies I like, sometimes from current social issues. I think that my creative work has to be connected to where I literally am. They cannot be disconnected from reality, nor that they should depict something that no one can understand. For example, at the beginning of the pandemic, I created a piece where huge crowds of people fight for masks. It actually reflects the chaotic and desperate situation in Hong Kong at that time.”

Looking at the meticulously retouched photos, I wonder how much time was spent on post-production. “In fact, the time spent on shooting and retouching the photos is the same. Shooting is very important indeed. If the shot is a bad one, no matter how hard I try in modification at the post-production stage, it still won’t work. The output just wouldn’t look realistic. Therefore, I am very particular about lighting and angle. I’d only modify a picture that I am satisfied with. When I feel inspired, I’d think about where I can shoot. If not, I’d just wander around and take random pictures, which I’ll experiment with.” Tommy said that when he works on an image, he would maximize the picture on screen so he can see every detail clearly. “I’ve decided to run a real exhibition because I want the public to see the details of my photos. Compared to viewing these images on a screen, the physical printouts are way more inspiring and powerful.”

In his first solo exhibition at the 13 New Street Gallery, Tommy has showcased a series of carefully selected photos as well as three-dimensional works specially created for the exhibition. “Similar to my SurrealHK Instagram account where a wide range of work is showcased, the exhibition also displayed a variety of work and I’ve selected some images which are more relaxing and fun. Among them are photos of different modes of transportation because I am particularly fond of Hong Kong transportation. What I really want to express via this exhibition is the housing problem in Hong Kong. It is the biggest and most pressing problem in Hong Kong society. For example, both ‘Infinity Choi Hung Estate’ (2018) and ‘Infinity Wah Fu Estate’ (2019) portray the densely-packed housing in Hong Kong. These visually shocking images give a hint as to how the locals survive in the very limited living space.” The images create the visual illusion of a three-dimensional scene. They radiate a tremendous sense of oppression, and are simply breath-taking. “The image of Choi Hung Estate is my most favourite piece. Choi Hung estate is an Instagram hotspot which is visually vibrant and eye-catching. Yet I chose to present it with a sense of oppression for it is a genuine reflection of the housing problem in Hong Kong. Although the exterior of the building is colorful and cheerful, the reality is that the living spaces within are tiny and restricted. I wonder whether it’s much darker inside the apartments? Are people living there happy?” Through Tommy’s magical transformation, the Choi Hung Estate has turned into the tiles in a game of Tetris. Most importantly, it draws our attention to pressing social issues in a relaxed and humorous way.

When people feel accustomed to their surroundings, they often lose their ability to explore the various possibilities in their city. “Hong Kong is an interesting place for me. Everything makes me feel fresh and curious. Perhaps for the people who live here, everything is nothing but ordinary. But from my perspective, Hong Kong is a beautiful and interesting city. An upside down Mongkok, a tram cruising in snow-filled Sheung Wan, and Whampoa turns into a water park… Hong Kong is a city with infinite imagination and surrealness.” The mysterious world is full of unknowns. With imagination, infinite possibilities come along. I am still hoping that one day I will bump into the sleeping totoro in a tree hole.