For two weeks this February, BELOWGROUND is presenting 18 new works by the Japanese skateboarder Hiroki Muraoka.
If you’re into skate culture, chances are you’ve come across Japanese skateboarder Hiroki Muraoka once, twice or even thrice. Since picking up his first skateboard at the age of nine and pursuing the sport professionally at 19 in the United States, Muraoka has made a name for himself. He has even gathered sponsors such as Adidas and Traffic. While he’s widely recognised for his achievements in the skate park, the Tokyo-based skateboarder also has an artistic side. Now, for the first time ever, he is bringing his art outside of Japan to BELOWGROUND in Hong Kong.
This February, 18 recent works are on display at Muraoka’s first international exhibition titled SWITCH. Each piece displays the skateboarder’s love for his sport, reimagined through the vivid dynamism of his paintings. The brightly coloured acrylic paintings typically depict skateboarders through a flattened perspective, in a humourous manner that allows the audience to experience the ups and downs of the sport.
“I like to connect the lines of a picture in a way that feels good, similar to the flow of skateboarding,” explains Muraoka. “The two disciplines are alike in that I’m able to express myself and be creative.”
His favourite works in SWITCH are Chill and Chaos. Both are painted in shades of blue and shades of red respectively. Meant to be viewed as a pair, they depict the skateboarder’s interests and dislikes. For example, in Chill, multiple figures are smoking, travelling on a plane or taking a dip in an onsen — activities that Muraoka deems enjoyable. In contrast, Chaos shows the same figures arguing with each other, falling off a skateboard or being chased by the police.
“Chaos and Chill are like two sides of me — on and off — which is also where SWITCH, the title of this exhibition, comes from.”
SWITCH is not only Muraoka’s first exhibition in Hong Kong but also the skateboarder’s first visit to the city. When it comes to Hong Kong, he only has positive things to say, especially about the art and culture here.
“Lots of artists have their own exhibitions, whether solo or as a group. There’s street art everywhere I go. And the government really supports art, from funding large-scale museums to creating communities for artists to gather and work.”
He continues: “Plus, there are so many skating spots and parks built just for skateboarders. Like art, the sport is really encouraged here, whereas in Tokyo, skateboarding in public is akin to a crime.”
If you like Muraoka’s art but can’t afford the actual paintings, don’t worry. Created in collaboration with ZISE by Asterisk, the skateboarder has designed two limited edition T-shirts in black and white colourways that are up for grabs during the exhibition period. Now’s the time to wear your appreciation for skate culture loud and proud.
Catch SWITCH from 8 to 26 February at BELOWGROUND, Shops B49-52, B55-56, B59-61, LANDMARK, 15 Queen’s Road Central, Central, Hong Kong.