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27 Questions: Peter Yuill, artist

Hong Kong is a place brimming with talented and intriguing people. In our 27 Questions column, we get up close and personal with the city’s notable personalities, learning about their whims and aversions, pivotal life moments, and hopes and dreams — all in roughly the same duration of a casual speed date. In this edition, we speak to artist Peter Yuill on the eve of his new solo show, Echoes.

Even if you don’t know it yet, you’ve seen Peter Yuill’s work. Don’t believe me? Take a walk through your neighbourhood. And whether that’s Chai Wan or Wan Chai, Aberdeen District or Aberdeen Street, Sai Kung or Sai Wan or Sham Shui Po, you’ll find plenty of Yuill. From walls and street signs to fire hydrants and steel gates, for every Ross Turpin pill, every Lousy “kissface” or “all-seeing eye”, you’ll often find a golden circular illustration — Peter Yuill’s unmistakable signature — holding court nearby.

In this way, perpetually on exhibition for all who pass by, his work is in abundance here in Hong Kong. There are few places where the Canadian-turned-Hongkonger, tagger-turned-ink and paint maestro of hand-drawn, meticulous geometric abstractions can’t be seen — but to catch his newest work, Echoes, you’ll have to make a trip to Central.

“With this collection I’m focusing more on trying to understand the way my energy interacts with the world around me — the ebb and flow of  wavelengths, understanding the fabric of reality I move through and how I resonate with it,” says Yuill, who recently returned to Hong Kong after a long spell visiting family and friends in his native Canada, an experience he calls “invaluable”, as it allowed him to reconnect, recharge and refresh.

Yuill has joined forces with Young Soy Gallery to exhibit Echoes, opening 17 November (tomorrow!), at Soho’s Kong Art Space, where he has also been finishing this latest round of works. “I’ve know the Young Soy team for years, watched them grow and mature, and we’ve always wanted to work together. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to finish the show by working on site, so I can fully become the space that the show will live in,” Yuill adds.

Channelling “scientific, existential and spiritual energies” with Echoes, Yuill says he leaves the interpretation of his work up to each individual, but adding that at its core, the show is a fusion of mathematics with the metaphysical. “I never tell people what they should feel, and let them get there on their own,” says Yuill.

“I don’t have a specific message, or slogan or concept I’m trying to sell. I’m just a conduit for the energy. I just paint what I’m supposed to paint — it is my purpose.”

27 Questions: Peter Yuill

Peter Yuill’s work, shot by Simon Schilling

Name: Peter Yuill
Age: 37
Neighbourhood: Wan Chai
Occupation: Artist

1. What is your life motto?

“Alt levende ma dod” — it’s been my motto for as long as I can remember, actually. It’s from Hamlet, where his mother explains that “all that lives must die”. The deep understanding that we are all here for a purpose; we are born into this world and we die from it, and we have one opportunity to make a difference. We only die once, but we live every moment between now and that time, and to understand that and embrace that is everything.  So many people fear the concept of their own mortality, understandably. But if we embrace the knowledge, it frees us to live life without hesitation or regret, being present for every moment.

2. What is the best meal you’ve ever eaten in Hong Kong?

Maa laat fo wo.

3. Who is your role model?

“Sting, Sting would be another person who’s a hero. The music he’s created over the years, I don’t really listen to it, but the fact that he’s making it, I respect that.”

4. What is your drink of choice?  

I’ve been known to enjoy a tequila soda every now and then.

5. Which phone app do you think more people should know about?

The block site app that I have that you can put in anything you want to stop yourself from obsessing about, other apps or websites or whatever. I always struggle with being distracted, so having one app that scolds me is invaluable.

6. What is the top destination on your bucket list?

New York. I’ve never been somehow — the stars have just never aligned — but I’ve dreamed about it since I was a little kid.

7. What is your greatest fear?


8. When did you last ride the Star Ferry? What were you doing/where did you go?

Last week. I take the ferry any time I can, and I often give myself extra time so I can take that little moment out of my day to enjoy that ride.

9. What is your biggest guilty pleasure?

The chocolate marquise cake from Starbucks. It might be the best chocolate cake in the world. 

10. What is your typical Sunday like?

If I ever have “a typical Sunday” routine, I’d probably kill myself.

11. If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be?

Tokyo. It’s one of my favourite places on Earth and I love it so much.

12. What makes someone a real Hongkonger?

A genuine love of this place as their home, the energy of it, the life of it, the pure soul of it. You know it when you know, when you feel it.

13. If you could invite any five people in the world to your dream dinner party, who would they be?

Pieter Bruegel, Caravaggio, Julius Caesar, Aleister Crowley and David Gilmour.

14. What is one song you know all the lyrics to?

“Bobcaygeon” by The Tragically Hip, the Canadians will understand. 

15. Where do you go when you want to be alone?

Actually when I need to be alone, I go for walks through the city. When you join the crowd you can become truly alone, anonymous, free. I go for long walks through the city and just observe my surroundings, take in the beauty of the little moments, those beautifully indescribable points that mean nothing.

16. What’s your favourite childhood memory?

Going sledding with my dad when I was very young, and we went down together on one (what I’m sure was tiny) sled and wiped out together and crashed everywhere. And then even though he hurt himself, he slowly dragged me home on the sled.

17. What is your favourite scent in the whole world?

The smell of a wood fire on the sharp autumn air in October, when the leaves have started to turn. You’re wearing a sweater and it’s when you first feel that northern chill on the breeze and the smell of wood burning reminds you of a big crackling fire, and the warmth of it.

18. Are you a good cook? What is your best dish?

Whether I’m a “good” cook is up to interpretation, but I love to cook. And my favourite is my everyday salsa that I like to keep in the fridge. I love to make a big batch of pico in the food processor and just have it for every occasion.

19. Who is the best teacher you’ve ever had? What is one important lesson that they taught you?

I had one teacher in high school that absolutely hated me when I was just a random burn out. Later I had her for art history, we deeply bonded and she help to point me on the path I have lived ever since.

20. What is your unique party trick?

Making extremely obscure Simpsons or Seinfeld references until someone understands it, and then becoming best friends with that person.

21. Have you ever experienced love at first sight? Tell us about it.

When Taco Bell announced they were finally joining forces with Doritos.

22. Would you rather never be alone for a single moment, or be alone for the rest of your life? Why?

Both options would be an absolute nightmare. But if I had to choose one? Never be alone, because feeling the love and energy from friends and family makes it all worthwhile.

23. What is the last dream you remember waking up to?

I was alive in some sort of apocalypse — I think zombie — and I ran out of ammo, and I was trying to get another belt and then I woke up.

24. What’s your favourite tradition?

Christmas, in all its pomp and pageantry, the mysticism and celebration, it’s the best time for true bonding and rejoice and warmth and feeling.

25. When was the last time you felt starstruck?

The only time I’ve ever felt star struck was Anthony Bourdain when they were filming here in Hong Kong. I saw his interview on The Daily Show when I was a teenager, and he changed the course of my life from that one TV moment. I was lucky enough to smoke a cigarette with him in between filming on Aberdeen Street and just talk as people, and it will be forever be burned into my soul, that brief moment in time.

26. What’s a relationship deal breaker for you?

Being close minded and hateful, bigotry, racism, nationalism, homophobia, and basic “entry level human” shit like that.

27. If you could snap your fingers and fix one thing about the world, what would it be?

To erase everyone’s pain from their past; we all struggle to survive, and it would be so much easier if we could just erase certain moments.

Peter Yuill’s Echoes will be on display at Kong Art Space from 17 November to 5 December.

Kong Art Space, G/F, 3 Staunton St, Central, Hong Kong

27 Questions: Peter Yuill, artist

Nathan Erickson


Born in Seoul and based in Hong Kong, Nathan has been writing about culture, style and food for some of the world's biggest publications for over a decade. He likes Canon lenses and the films of Chow Yun Fat.

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