Go Hung – Hong Kong’s Warhol?!

A classic pop art image, Warhol’s Campbell soup represents an everyday household item turned into art. Local artist Go Hung’s equivalent to Warhol’s Campbell soup is the ubiquitous Good Morning towel. 

Good Morning towels???

Let me quickly introduce them. Good Morning towels are lengthy white cotton towels with a red bilingual “Good Morning” print. They are so much part of Hong Kong’s daily life that no one gives them a second look when walking past them in the streets while they dry over fences or on hangers. 

The origin of the towels is a little difficult to trace. Most likely, they first appeared in the tea houses and restaurants of Hong Kong in the late 19th century. Clever manufacturers decided on a bilingual print to appeal to locals and expats alike. 

A little fun fact: these days, they are the only towels allowed in Hong Kong’s prisons. Why? Beats me.

Go Hung’s Good Morning towels

Original and papier-mâché towel

Being a true Hong Konger, Go Hung has seen the Good Morning towels all around town since childhood.

He crafts his version of the towel out of recycled cardboard boxes that he collects in the streets or receives from friends. Creating a papier-mâché, he hangs it to dry over a nail on the wall or on a regular clothes hanger, resulting in a draped or straight shape. When the towels are completely dried up, he paints them white and adds an always witty sometimes socially critical message at the bottom replacing the classic “Good Morning” inscription.

To place them around town, he usually goes out in the dead of the night. Comes daytime, his towels blend in so well with the fabric of the city that they are hardly recognisable as the art they are.

A little bit of info on Go Hung

Seeing Go Hung’s handcrafted creations in the streets these days, it’s surprising to learn that he actually has a digital arts’ background. Studying in London in the early 2000s, he hit the zeitgeist with the creation of his digital spray painting wall digiti, for digital & graffiti. He was successfully exhibiting his work as far as São Paulo. Upon his return to Hong Kong he straightaway became a multi-media lecturer for a HK design college. Parallel to his full-time job, he continued creating and exhibiting his art.

Spreading himself extremely thin, he decided to fully focus on art in order to distract his mind and to go with the flow again. He completely changed the direction of his art practice, wanting to craft things by hand this time. “I’m using a lot of skills that I was learning in primary school arts’ class,” he says. He also put it upon himself to create all his work out of recycling materials that he finds in the streets or that are given to him. 

A closer look

The towels are by far not his only series of street installations. I have to admit, though, they are my personal favorites. So, let’s have a closer look at some of them. Go Hung was so friendly to provide me with the translation and meaning of his inscriptions.

The peony is fine

This one is actually a two-part installation. There is the inscription on the towel “the peony is fine” and the chalk inscription next to it on the wall “but it still needs the green leaves to support it”.

The idea is that the flower needs the support of its leaves just as a society needs all different types of people in order to thrive. Not only lawyers, bankers or doctors but trash collectors, bus drivers or factory workers too. This is one of my favourite towels because it looks like the towel/ the flower is about to wipe away the chalk/ the leaves.

1% vs. 99%

Papier-mâché towel with the inscription "99% vs. 1%" by Hong Kong artist Go Hung in the streets of Hong Kong.

The idea is pretty straight forward, 99% of the society are slaving away for the 1% on top. 

Hands stop mouth stops

Papier-mâché towel with the inscription "Hand stop mouth stop" by Hong Kong artist Go Hung in the streets of Hong Kong.

If you lose your job you might not be able to put any more food on the table. Go Hung hints at the problems of unemployment that have recently been rising in Hong Kong.

Lock your door and window

Papier-mâché towel with the inscription "lock your door and window" by Hong Kong artist Go Hung in the streets of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is a pretty safe city. Therefore, it’s hard to imagine that the numbers of break-ins increased but they apparently went up along with the unemployment rate. This inscription, therefore, is a reminder to keep doors and windows securely locked.

Good Night – wish you a good night sir

Papier-mâché towel with the inscription "Good night sir" by Hong Kong artist Go Hung in the streets of Hong Kong.

The Canto words he uses here, indicate a very respectful way of saying “Good Night Sir”. He simply wants to wish a good night to all those who have to live on the streets these days.

Needle hasn’t poked into flesh

Papier-mâché towel with the inscription "Needle hasn't poked into flesh" by Hong Kong artist Go Hung in the streets of Hong Kong.

It’s difficult to understand or imagine the pain that people have suffered if you haven’t experienced it yourself.

What you don’t want

This inscription is Go Hung’s way of saying to treat other people like you want to be treated yourself.

When the boat arrives at the pier, it will align naturally.

To Go Hung this is a metaphor and a reminder not to overthink or worry too much. 

Digital Detox

Papier-mâché towel with the inscription "Digital Detox" by Hong Kong artist Go Hung in the streets of Hong Kong.

The inscription on this towel promotes the idea of digital detox. He did it for a while and found it beneficial to his state of mind.

Let’s appreciate kindness not abuse

Papier-mâché towel with the inscription "Let's appreciate kindness not abuse" by Hong Kong artist Go Hung in the streets of Hong Kong.

“I don’t want to be part of a world where being kind is a weakness.”

Keanu Reeves

This quote inspired this inscription. Go Hung is very aware that in a highly competitive city like Hong Kong kindness often tends to be abused. He would like to remind people to appreciate and respect kindness rather than to abuse or take it for granted.

Where to find the towels

I’m not going to give away exact locations, not wanting to see them taken from the streets, but if you keep your eyes wide open around Sheung Wan and Central, you’ll most likely spot a few of them.

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