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'Grate Art' in Hong Kong

by Ocean Recovery Alliance on 14 Sep 2016
Ocean Recovery Alliance - Installing first tiles in Stanley. Doug Woodring, Co-founder of Ocean Recovery Alliance and Hiromasa Suzuki, Japanese environmentalist Ocean Recovery Alliance
Leading artists bring colourful Street Art for Awareness to Hong Kong pavements.

In an effort to help Hong Kongers play their part in protecting the world’s ocean, Ocean Recovery Alliance is raising awareness through a unique public art installation called ‘Grate Art’. Hong Kong’s drainage system is one of the main sources for debris outflow into the ocean, and Ocean Recovery Alliance is tackling this problem upstream through an initiative that uses “art for awareness”. Collaborating with seven leading local and Chinese artists, the Hong Kong charity will install ceramic art tiles on pavements above storm drains throughout the Southern District.

This is the latest initiative of Ocean Recovery Alliance which aims to bring innovative solutions, technology, collaborations and policy together to impact positive improvements for the health of the ocean. “The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that 80% of the trash in our ocean comes from land, much of which gets washed into our waters from our streets and communities via drains, gutters and sewage systems. Given the recent high levels of trash on our beaches, this need for awareness and education comes at an important time. Our Hong Kong based project is one of the first environmental undertakings to combine local art with storm drain pollution awareness, by putting colourful reminders next to the grates along the gutters. We believe these vibrant artistic messages will mark a new turning point in drawing awareness to the detrimental consequences of drainage pollution and littering, while reminding the Hong Kong public that we are all linked to the ocean, even when walking down our city’s streets,” says Doug Woodring, Co-founder of Ocean Recovery Alliance.

“We are glad to support this meaningful and innovative project which aims to raise public awareness on keeping the ocean environment clean. Every one of us has a role to play in reducing waste generation at source. Let’s join hands to keep our waters and shorelines clean,” says Miss Amy Yuen, Assistant Director of Environmental Protection (Water Policy).
The first set of tiles will be installed within the next two weeks in the districts of Ap Lei Chau, Aberdeen, Deep Water Bay, Repulse Bay and Stanley. Baptist University will be the first university campus to apply the Grate Art plaques to their campus drains and grates, and will be installing 50 plaques before the start of the coming school year.

The Grate Art project was funded through donations raised by Simon Holliday and Shu Pu, for the record breaking Clean Cross Swim from Hong Kong to Macau on 24 May 2014 which raised over HKD235,000. Simon’s swim broke the record, previously held by Beijing marathon swimmer Zhang Jian, for the 35km crossing of the Pearl River Delta with a time of 10hrs, 20min and 30 secs. Ocean paddler Shu Pu, who guided Holliday, also became the first person to paddle solo across the delta. A video of the record breaking swim can be viewed here:

Commissioned Grate Art artists include:

Man Chi Loy (Armechan)
With a vested interest in the relationship between people and their surroundings, local artist Man Chi Loy is uniquely positioned to compare and contrast the rolling green spaces of the United States and dense concrete jungle of Hong Kong after having trained as an artist at UC Davis in America. With a witty style and a penchant for parody, his take on Klimt’s kiss for Grate Art is sure to draw attention.

Douglas Young
Better known as the co-founder and creative brain behind local lifestyle brand GOD (Goods of Desire), Douglas Young has had his hand in everything from fashion to home furnishings to luxury gift designs. His strong Hong Kong identity is apparent in everything he creates and his unapologetic depiction of local issues in his art has garnered many a controversy, cementing his status as one of the city’s boldest artists.

Chen Hua Xian
As a Chinese artist based in rapidly urbanising Xiamen, Chen Hua Xian has seen firsthand how pollution has affected the world’s waters and sees ocean conversation awareness as a necessity. Taking a more traditional approach than his co-artists, his loving attention to detail and depiction of ocean warriors are a rallying cry to save the environment. He says, “We are gradually becoming disconnected from our oceans and losing the original tie between us. We have forgotten about the existence of the ocean and it has become something to see for us – just a landscape.”

Liina Klauss
This Hong Kong native and German artist is no stranger to environmental art, having collaborated on various eco-conscious art installations and paintings before. Using primarily man-made and natural waste to create her pieces, ocean conservation is of particular importance to her and all of her work aims to encourage her viewers to take action and do their bit to save the environment.

William Tong
As an award-winning multi-disciplinary artist and avid fisher, Hong Kong local William Tong is combining his two passions to help protect the ocean. Having explored the city through his Temphouse collection and touching on marine life in his mind-bending aquatic series Amazing Fish-Fusion, his strength lies in illustration and his confident work shines through every piece he creates.

Tang Nan Nan
When mainland Chinese artist Tang Nan Nan isn’t bringing a work of beauty to life, he can be found lecturing on art at Jimei University Art Institute in Xiamen or completing his PhD at the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou, China. Favouring multi-disciplinary pieces, his artwork has spanned many mediums including oil and watercolour painting, photography, film and art installations. With the sea as a recurring motif through his work over the past few years, his nostalgia for the ocean once past leaves viewers with a bittersweet feeling.

Graphic Airlines
This hip design duo have been a permanent fixture in Hong Kong’s street art scene since 2002 and champion their self-proclaimed approach to art: ‘the aesthetics of ugly’. Their quirky style has drawn international and commercial attention, leading to international exhibits in places as diverse as New York and Tokyo as well as collaborations with Nike and Moleskine to name a few.

About Ocean Recovery Alliance – a Hong Kong registered charity, bringing together new ways of thinking, technologies, creativity and collaborations in order to help to improve our ocean environment. It has two projects with the Clinton Global Initiative focused on the reduction of plastic pollution, and is one of the only NGOs in the world to be working with both the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Bank’s Global Partnership for Oceans. The group also organizes Kids Ocean Day and the Plasticity Forum, and will be hosting the Ocean in Motion Film Festival in Portugal this year as well, in collaboration with Portugal’s Blue Week of activities.

Follow Ocean Recovery Alliance on Twitter and Facebook. More info is available at

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