A Conversation With Kasing Lung at His ‘EVERYBODY KNOWS’ Exhibition

The artist sheds light on his creative processes, themes for his painting as well as his plans for the near future.

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In tandem with Art Basel Hong Kong this week, Belgium-based artist Kasing Lung has unveiled EVERYBODY KNOWS, his first large-scale solo exhibition in the city. Situated in LANDMARK, the exhibition is spread across the mall’s Atrium and BELOWGROUND areas, offering three entirely different experiences that invite visitors into the artist’s vibrant and playful world.

At the Atrium, 25 new paintings are displayed in a podium, where its walls are fitted with cut-out silhouettes of Kasing Lung’s iconic characters from “The Monsters” series. In BELOWGROUND, the artist invites visitors to a more intimate setting in the form of a drawing/archival room. The room also serves as a retrospect to Lung’s working process, where almost every available surface has been plastered with an array of his sketches, drafts and prototypal artwork.

A few steps away from this space is a mirror room decked with over 700 figurines the artist has conceived over the years with HOW2WORK. Connecting the two BELOWGROUND exhibiting spaces is a short passage and retail concept, where a selection of collaborative goods by Lung and brands such as Vans and Hidden NY are available for purchase.

At the exhibition opening, Hypebeast caught up with Kasing Lung where the artist walked us through the themes in EVERYBODY KNOWS while shedding light on his creative processes and plans for the near future.

It’s been a while since you’ve been back to Hong Kong. How are you settling in this time?

I’ve been back for three weeks now and only just about recovered from my jet lag! This is a recurring problem I have all the time, so I usually try and arrive and settle into the city weeks before my exhibitions.

What’s an average day like for you?

I’d wake up around 8 a.m. and have breakfast every day. I used to take my daughter to school, but now that she’s in middle school, I don’t have to do that anymore. Instead, I’ll finish breakfast, read the newspapers and then I’ll start working. I’ll draw and paint until lunch, then draw some more until 4 or 5 in the afternoon. If a deadline or project is going on, I’ll work a little longer. But otherwise, that’s basically my everyday routine.

Roughly how many pieces of art do you make in a day?

Up to 10 pieces if it’s black and white sketches. But for full-colored paintings around the size of an 80cm x 80cm canvas, that will take a full day. Generally, the actual painting process isn’t that long – it’s the conceptualization and ideation that takes up the most time. For this exhibition, it took me almost half a year to come up with the individual ideas for all 25 paintings.

“I’ve divided the exhibition into several different rooms and spaces to discuss different aspects of my work.”

You haven’t had a solo exhibition in Hong Kong for years, how does it feel to be back this time with EVERYBODY KNOWS?

My last exhibition in Hong Kong was seven years ago, but the scale of it was much smaller than this. This time, I’ve divided the exhibition into several different rooms and spaces to discuss different aspects of my work. I also included topics that I wanted to explore and discuss for a while, things such as climate change, sustainability and natural disasters. Most of these are things people already know about, but are often ignored and undiscussed.

What kind of experience do you hope this exhibition will offer to visitors?

I planted a lot of messages, subtle motifs and themes of all the things I wanted to express in this exhibition. So I hope everyone who comes in can discover these elements in their own way and have fun while navigating the spaces.

For instance, this BELOWGROUND sketch room is curated to showcase my sketches, creative process and artwork developments. In this room are pieces that go as far back as 2005, including things I contributed to magazines and children’s picture books to numerous collaborative projects. These are also pieces I released with HOW2WORK in 2010, alongside old works before “The Monsters” series.

Is there a specific section you’d like to highlight?

There’s an important wall in the drawing room featuring all the sketches and drafts for the 25 paintings on display. These paintings took a long time to conceptualize and spent an awful lot of time making proposals, concept sketches and storyboards as well as testing various design layouts. Some of these ideas went through as many as 50 versions.

My wife usually orders boxes and boxes of photocopy paper whenever I begin working on an exhibition, and this time, we’ve used it all up! So I have a clear idea of how many drafts I went through. I’ve actually never displayed my storyboards as part of an exhibition before, so I hope everyone who comes can catch a glimpse of my creative process.

“I planted a lot of messages, subtle motifs and themes of all the things I wanted to express in this exhibition. So I hope everyone who comes in can discover these elements in their own way and have fun while navigating the spaces.”

Out of all the characters you created, what drew you to Labubu the most? How has he evolved throughout the years?

There are changes. I don’t think I truly knew myself when I first created Labubu. Over the past 9 years, my state of mind changed as my experiences accumulated and varied. Over time, my state of mind changed and so did Labubu. I feel that this character has grown with me throughout all these events. In the past, I’d just thought of him as mischievous and kooky, but now I think he’s showing much calmer and amicable qualities.

You’re always creating new characters, have your top three changed at all in recent years?

Not really, as I’ve always liked Labubu since he’s always going to be the first character I ever created for the series. Another more recent character I adore is Yaya, who also shares my daughter’s nickname. That’s also the reason why I have and feel a strong connection with this character as well. Then, there’s Zimomo who I also find quite endearing. He’s the leader of Labubu’s tribe, and also much bigger than Labubu in size. A lot of the character’s names, like Zimomo’s, are made up by my daughter as well.

Which three paintings are you particularly fond of from EVERYBODY KNOWS?

“LEANING!” is the first painting I created for this exhibition and also one that I feel deeply about. To me, it also best represents the concept and theme of EVERYBODY KNOWS. Then there’s “CONFUSION,” which is imbued with many messages I feel needed to tell the world, but expressed through the eyes of this new character. It’s a piece that I hope viewers will spend time looking into its details and hopefully, resonate with as well.

In “MACHINE,” I wanted to comment on human’s dependency on machinery and technology. The two characters here are dressed in white, which serves as a symbol of their purity and innocence. At the same time, they’re surrounded by a lot of color, which in this painting represents something a little less harmonious, as it points to the amount of pollutants and artificial substances that make up our environments.

Since you’re in town, will you check out other art fairs and events this week?

Yes, I’m planning on going to Art Basel. I’m hoping it’ll trigger me creatively. I do feel uninspired at times since I mostly work indoors and alone, so I value all the chances I get to see other creators’ artworks.

Saying so, I haven’t had many opportunities to travel in the past year. Bringing this exhibition to life has exhausted a lot of my creativity and ideas. So after this, I’m going on vacation to search and discover new sources of inspiration.

Any hints on upcoming projects you’re working on?

Picture books used to be one of my biggest creative outlets, but I haven’t had the chance to publish any since the mid-2010s. The editor at the publishing house I work with has been so kind and patient, so I’m planning on focusing on my next book for the rest of the year.

What will the new book be about?

There are actually two books. For one of them, I’ll work with a Belgian author whom I’ve collaborated with in the past, and the book will focus on retelling mundane and amusing everyday stories. As for the other book, it’s more in the line of a quirky fairy tale and it’ll be written and illustrated by me entirely.

Kasing Lung’s EVERYBODY KNOWS is currently on view at LANDMARK ATRIUM and BELOWGROUND until April 17, 2024. To ensure the best of experience, visit the exhibition’s website to reserve tickets.

LANDMARK
15 Queen’s Road Central,
Central, Hong Kong

 

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