Giulia Monte in conversation with Ticko Liu

Ticko Liu is a Hong Kong artist who received a Bachelor of Arts in Visual Arts from Hong Kong Baptist University in 2019. His artistic practice is deeply inspired by oriental art, focusing on the line and point presentation method. The creation process mainly seeks to reinterpret the  daily object through art.

Ticko has exhibited at various fairs and exhibitions, including Fine Art Asia, Affordable Art Fair. His work was exhibited in Berlin in January 2020 and shortlisted for the “Hong Kong Human Rights Art Awards 2020”.

He has recently inaugurated “the Mystery Boxes”, a solo exhibition at the PMQ 元創方, a famous point of connection for arts and design in Hong Kong. 

I would start this interview by asking you, what was your artistic path? Have you looked up to something specific to develop your work?

I received my BA in visual art in 2019, and I started my first solo exhibition when I was in year 2. The Solo was not that great but it was a shot in the arm: it gave me a clear picture of what an artist is doing, and now I am sure painting or making artwork is something I am going to do for the rest of my life. One of the graduation requirements for the final year was doing a research paper and, based on that paper, made an artwork. At that moment I started to research Van Gogh, especially the Japanese culture that inspired him. After the final year, I was expecting to study for a master’s degree, work in the university as a lecturer, start a family, rent a studio. No one expected a huge change was coming – Anti-ELAB Movement (Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill Movement), we thought the government was willing to hear our serious voices. Instead, they decided to worship the CCP and chip away the political autonomy and freedoms in Hong Kong. When we thought it was worse enough, there came the COVID 19 and now, under the national security law, Hong Kong is no different from China. It is a white terror period for Hong Kong, I can say it surely.

I am just looking for a tiny point of view to represent a bigger perspective. I do not mean visual perspective, more about things happening around us.Andrew Salgado, Andy Dixon, Peter Doig, all artists made good paintings are my reference. If you are talking about the only specific element that influences me, it has to be Ukiyoe(1), aka Japanese woodblock printmaking. The way that they record daily life was a huge difference from western art. How to refine it into my art creation is another issue I am working on.

Ticko Liu, The Mystery Boxes, PMQ, Hong Kong 2021.

About your recent Solo “The Mystery Boxes”, was it a specific topic or just a collection of your most important works?

Yes, it is a specific topic! The idea of mystery boxes is from Schrödinger’s cat: before you opened the box, you have no idea if the cat is dead or not. As long as you do not open the box, the problems can be ignored for a while, pretending everything is fine. I aim to put this idea into procrastination because no matter it is small stuff and big things, the attitudes of would not handle it are the same. In the exhibition, I separate it into three parts: the first part is visualising this attitude, the second part is exploring the interaction and distance between the audience and the box. The last part of it is simulating the process of handling the box. 

Ticko Liu, The Mystery Boxes, PMQ, Hong Kong 2021.

How do you navigate the art world? Are there any differences in the approaches between the Asian and Western art field?

I never really approach the western art field, yet I think it is similar to the art fair in Hong Kong with many overseas galleries. My approach usually is to make friends and be good to your peers, always be nice, not fake nice because people can feel it, help your peers with your heart, they will help you back in the future. No one knows when but in the future. Doing good quality works, not the crazy deep concept art that no one knows what you are working on but a clear, presentable concept that makes sense in both theory and practical. Also, do a lot of work, as much as you can, do not worry about the “bad works” because it will be a strong foundation for your good work. I think it is crucial how to present yourself, and also manage your time. The core is always to make good artwork.

About the current situation of Hong Kong, does your work comment on the social and political issue? Do you think this situation will affect your way in becoming a successful artist?

I believe this situation will affect not just me but all artists and people who work in the art field. Art is breeding under resistance, just like rap it was created under a particular period and has been a way to resist and voice-out. Now rappers in China must say something good for the government and support the government, and it kills the spirit of rapping. Also, movies, ‘Documentary Screening: Inside the Red Brick” is a documentary of Siege of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, but the screening is scrapped(2) and, now, Hong Kong cannot accept the movie. The national security law(3) is a complete set of persecution tools, you never know where the red line is. This is how china works, they want people to just shut up by themselves. With this law, they sent all the parliamentarians of the democratic party to jail. My work is not particularly political but is affected by it. Especially what happened in 2019(4) aroused people to be aware of politics, including me. Last but not least, becoming a successful artist is not important at all. Painting or art working are somethings I love and I will do for the rest of my life. The saddest part is this situation has obliterated the beauty and value of Hong Kong, the place I lived for the last 25 years is gone.

Ticko Liu, The Mystery Boxes, PMQ, Hong Kong 2021.


(1) Ukiyo-e is a genre of Japanese art which flourished from the 17th through 19th centuries. Its artists produced woodblock prints and paintings of such subjects as female beauties; kabuki actors and sumo wrestlers; scenes from history and folk tales; travel scenes and landscapes; flora and fauna; and erotica.

(2) Hong Kong cinema scraps screening of protest film to avoid ‘unnecessary misunderstanding’

(3/4) 2019–20 Hong Kong protests