“Smell of Stars”: East-meets-West captured in a mural

Hong Kong, the place where East-meets-West. Cliche or not, it’s definitely true of the recent collaboration between The French Girl Caroline and Rainbo and their mural Smell of Stars for the Colour the World exhibition.

The Artists

Born and raised in Paris, Caroline developed an early appreciation for street art, especially for the works by Invader and Mr. Andre. But it wasn’t until she came to Hong Kong that she started doing art herself. Caroline made her first steps towards street art in December 2019 when she visited French street artist CEET at Jardine Orange just across the border in Shenzhen. CEET gifted her with 20 spray cans for Christmas and encouraged her to try it out.

Experimenting with stencils, Caroline created her signature thick-edged double heart as one. The Chinese symbol of double happiness was her design’s inspiration. Initially, she inserted her double heart into the circle of the double happiness symbol but quickly wondered if “universal love was supposed to be in a circle or if it needed to breathe,” she says “I decided to get rid of the circle, keep the double heart and add the sparkles for universal live and happiness to spread around.”

Rainbo grew up in a small town in Hunan province, surrounded by lots of nature, making most of it by climbing trees and hiking the mountains, always dreaming of travelling the world with a skateboard. A self-taught multidisciplinary artist, she first tried her hand in graffiti in 2006 in Shenzhen where she also met Hong Kong artist Uncle. The two didn’t only start creative outlet AWS, AfterWorkShop, but also fell in love and married. Reason enough for Rainbo to settle in Hong Kong for good in 2009.

The Mural’s Inspiration

The mural art was inspired by one of their very first encounters. Rainbo mentioned that one of her predominant associations with France is perfume. With Caroline being a graduate of renowned ISIPCA school in Versailles, specializing in perfumes, the two instantly connected. Although communication was not always easy due to a bit of a language barrier, they made up for it by communicating with smiles and gestures and ultimately by painting together. 

The Mural Smell of Stars

The mural is about two travellers meeting, surrounded by mountains and lit up by numerous stars. 

Caroline painted the mountains and the stars, which come in the shape of her double hearts. “It was the first time that I painted so many of them at a time,” she says and adds that Rainbo inspired her to do so. 

The mountains to the sides of the mural stand in for the Alpes and Phoenix Mountain (Fenghuangshan, Hunan). Caroline’s choice for the three-tipped Chinese mountain couldn’t have been more appropriate since it mirrors the original image of the Chinese word for mountain.

Rainbo painted the image of the two travellers in the centre of the mural. Her travellers are fantastic creations that sprung from her imagination and are inspired by her character creations Wuyin Wuma. Rainbo describes them in a little poem as follows: 

“Wuyin Wuma lives in the Phoenix mountain ranges, Hunan North.
Face of a human, body of a bird, horn on the head with three strong talons, voice of a hundred birds and the face of a child. 
Likes to appear in pairs and could bring peace and rebirth. 
It’s a mystical bird and a spiritual beast.”

Sculptures and knits

In addition to the mural, the exhibition also showcases 8 of Rainbo’s sculptures and 6 knitted canvases of Caroline’s double heart that were created in collaboration with Hoopla.

Rainbo’s sculptures are a reflection of her childhood days. Each sculpture embodies either something she loved doing or someone she hung out with when she was a child. She sculpted, for example, a friend in school uniform during the challenging times when new teeth are growing. She also portrayed herself as a broadly smiling girl with blue hair in a yellow dress and green ice cream in her hand. Happy days :). 

Sculpting has been an ongoing interest of Rainbo’s, with the girl in the yellow dress dating back to 2008. The sculptures in the exhibition are made of fibre glass and each one is hand-painted and sometimes embellished with other little hand-crafted elements such as the peony flower made out of clay.

Exhibition details

  • Title: Colour the World
  • Duration: 7 – 27 June, 2021
  • Hours: open daily from 12:00 -20:00
  • Location: The Garage, D2 Place Two
  • Address: Leroy Plaza, 15 Cheung Shun Street, Cheung Sha Wan
  • Closet MTR: Lai Chi Kok, exit D2
  • Admission: free
  • Organizers: French May and D2Place

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