Nine artists, six countries, three days and countless bottles of beer and paint later, the event I came to London for has finally drawn to a close.
Saturday 20th September was showtime for Tiger Translate London. The artists have slogged through day and night to produce the kind of work that’ll earn them exposure and recognition, and now they get to showcase their work in the global city of London.
We arrived at Hearn Street carpark just as the workers are putting their finishing touches on this unusual art exhibition venue.
Adoring the walls of this indoor-carpark-turned-art-exhibition are works by current and previous Tiger Translate regional competition winners.
The number of displays at the venue were modest, but there was plenty to command my attention. It’s cool also that Malaysia was well represented with three pieces from our very own artists, including this one by a Dennis Juan Ma.
Dennis is also the guy responsible in producing this year’s flyer for Tiger Translate.
But my favourite piece has gotta be this one by Mongolian artist Badral Bold. It is his unique interpretation of the theme ‘Voyage’ that earned him the ticket to London.
I know it doesn’t look like much in pictures, but upon closer inspection I noticed something quite unusual about it.
See those hairy orange stuff in the middle of the painting? Those, my friends, are actually HORSE HAIR!
REAL horse hair!
Badral has a fine arts background and he’s been getting a lot of acclaim back in his home country. London was his chance to show off what he is capable of to people outside Mongolia. With this piece, Badral illustrated the bridging of cultures between East and West. And what better way to do it with some fine Mongolian horse hair.
I didn’t ask which part of the horse he got the hair from though.
Right smack in the middle of the entrance is the perspex glass by UK street artist EINE and Danish architect Andreas Kjaergaard.
One side of the glass, EINE wrote “LONDON’S CALLING.”.
London called him alright. Ironically, he got a phone call halfway through and had to rush off to respond to a family matter. Andreas was left with the perspex glass, who painted the other side with what he thinks Londoners are calling out about.
Not sure if Andreas deliberately left it unfinished.
Either he didn’t have enough time, or there’s some kinda deeper meaning behind his work. Like how London is so diverse, different and multicultural.
Quietly sitting next to Andrea and EINE’s work is the iconic black London cab, or at least, what resulted after Pure Evil (UK), Ben Qwek (Singapore) and Mee Wong (China) vandalised it.
If you remember, three days ago, the cab looked like this.
This is how pimped out it looks like right now.
Notice the figurine of the prancing horse and the words “Mongolian Express” in front of the car?
It is a tribute to fellow Tiger Translate artist Badral Bold from Mongolia.
The fact that Badral comes from a place where horse-drawn carriages are a common mode of transportation fascinated Pure Evil so much that he dedicated this taxi to him.
The passenger side of the car is dominated by Pure Evil’s monstrosity of a tiger.
Not sure where he got his inspiration from. I thought it looked like either a tiger on steroids, or what happened when Venom from Spiderman 3 drank Tiger Beer.
On the other side of the car, Ben added his touch of Japanese and Chinese culture influenced paintings.
Right at the back, Mee Wong drew two cute little pandas eating Chinese Xiao Long Paos.
But knowing how Mee Wong always eroticises her artwork, I knew she ain’t just gonna draw a normal Xiao Long Pao.
Take a closer look at them.
Yes, your eyes fooled you not.
Those are breast-shaped Xiao Long Paos!
We left for a break and returned to the carpark at 8pm.
As night fell and guests streamed in, Hearn Street Carpark slowly transformed from a quiet art gallery into one big party hall.
In keeping with the Tiger Translate theme of ‘Voyage’, Monorex (UK) painted this excellent mural to welcome the guests at the entrance.
With comfortable sofas to sit on all over the place and spotlights creatively lighting up the venue, that manky old carpark I saw during daytime suddenly turned into something completely different.
Heck, they even parked some tuk-tuks outside to attract the crowd!
The taxi received quite a lot of attention. One guy even offered to buy it for 2,000 pounds (RM9,000) but Tiger Beer is not selling it just yet.
They had a better idea.
Pure Evil suggested taking it for a road trip from London, UK to Ulan Bataar, Mongolia.
Sure sounds quite like an adventure, but unless they overhauled the engine, I don’t think I’m gonna bet my life on the roadworthiness of that old vehicle.
Towards the far end of the carpark, Udisha (India), Ben (Singapore) and Badral (Mongolia) showcased their spontaniety when it comes to art.
Painting in front of a live audience, they finished the large canvas earlier contributed by all of Tiger Translate London’s artists.
Indian graphic designer Udisha dominated a large portion of the canvas.
She first painted “Time For Tiger“, Tiger Beer’s old slogan, as roots of a tree in black and white. As if to underscore the brand’s growth through time, she painted the new slogan “It’s Tiger Time” in colourful stylised letters on top of it.
At Hearn Street carpark, it wasn’t just the artists that were hard at work.
The guests who attended the event weren’t just sitting around drinking beer either. They were given little tiles of canvas to paint and to hang on the wall.
It sure didn’t take long for the wall till fill up with everyone’s artwork. I didn’t even had a chance to paint my own tile dammit!
Try to see if you can spot the Malacca flag on the lower-right hand side of the wall, done by Claudine Yap, a Malaccan living in London whom I met up with to eat roast duck in Bayswater that costs 9 pounds (RM55) per plate.
As Thai band Circle 22 rocked the crowd at Hearn Street carpark, a couple of familiar faces began rocking up as well.
This is Jasiminne the Penguin, whacky as always, leaping onto her tall curly-haired man friend.
Those long time readers who’ve been following kennysia.com should remember Jasiminne. She used to be quite a hit until she quietly disappeared off the blogging scene after she moved to London, so it’s great to catch up with old friends again.
On a totally unrelated note, I swear her boyfriend Daniel looks EXACTLY like singer Josh Groban.
(And I am so gonna get killed for this.)
With old friends as company, I finally took my eyes off the art for a while. I checked out the crowd in attendance.
I thought Tiger Translate, being an independent underground arts exhibition, would attract more hippies and stereotypical artsy fartsy homosexuals. Quite surprisingly, not only were the crowd at Hearn Street carpark a mix of sophisticated and hip-and-casual souls, they also included many people across different ages, races and background.
Some came looking like a supermodel.
Others wore apple-bottom jeans, boots with the fur. The whole crowd was looking at her.
She hit the floor, next thing you know, her hand hurts.
The highlight of Tiger Translate came in the form of something called Secret Wars.
It is a live graffiti arts battle created by UK collective Monorex. And the way it works is pretty awesome.
Two teams of two artists get a white canvas each.
Working in front of a live audience, they must completely decorate the canvas with graffiti within a time limit of 90 minutes. When the buzzer rings, the team who gets the loudest cheer from the crowd wins.
Usually the teams would draw something sarcastic or insulting towards the other team, but they pretty much got a free reign on what they wanted to draw.
Due to time restrictions, the teams would not be able to coordinate or plan anything among themselves. The teams were only given black paint, so if they made a mistake, too bad.
Anyway, Team A on the left squared off against Team B on the right.
The crowd was enthusiastic, glueing themselves to the canvas for the whole 90 minutes as if they’re watching a football match between Arsenal and Man United. At the end of 90 minutes, this was the result of Tiger Translate London’s Secret Wars.
Not bad for an impromptu work done only by four people.
Although I personally preferred the cleaner artwork on the left, graffiti is meant to be messy and the crowd rightfully cheered for Team B to win.
I left when the live shows concluded around midnight, although many chose still stayed on and party till dawn (including Dawn who karaoked till morning came).
Tiger Translate was definitely an experince that was different from anything I’ve experienced in the past. I have been to many galleries and art exhibitions, but they’ve always been modern and contemporary, and none of them was as hip and underground as this one was.
Sure, a lot of focus was placed on street art and all the artists have names I had never even heard of before. But wandering through the makeshift gallery of Hearn Street carpark, I can’t help but to feel that there is an undeniable sense that these works, for all their different mediums, approach and styles, are bound by a shared spirit of togetherness.
And that, in a world like today, is unfortunately something we always take for granted.
I’m heading home to Kuching!
Wah! What is with the recent government crackdown and arrests of bloggers?