Artist brings jungle
to Taipei streets

Artist Hayley King (aka Flox) recently returned from Taiwan where she spent three months as an artist in residence at Taipei Artist Village. Making it a family affair, accompanying King on the trip was her partner Gareth Moon, their 18-month-old baby, Indiana, and for the final month the family were joined by King’s 8-year-old son, Bo.

I've always dreamed of combining my work with travel... I think it really informs my practice, says King in part one of the documentary about her Taipei residency.

While in Taiwan, King lent her weight to highlighting the plight of some of the island nation’s endangered animals by depicting them in jungle-scene murals on city walls.

She says, “By presenting the works in alleyways, and on the streets of Taipei, people are forced to stop and take a moment, as the works act as a subtle reminder of our natural heritage among the hustle and bustle of everyday life.”

Although she describes her first five weeks in Taipei as “mentally and physically demanding”, she also says it was refreshing to be able to fully dedicate herself to a project.

“I spent a good time researching, exploring, tracking people down, and taking everything in...I was feeling so inspired. I also felt somewhat indulgent having for the first time in my life total freedom to just ‘make art’.”

However, finding walls to paint on proved a little more difficult than she expected. She discovered that street-front walls in Taipei are effectively collectively owned by the whole neighbourhood, so getting permission to do a mural potentially involved getting buy in from numerous people. It became “a red-tape nightmare,” she says.

In the end it was in Hong Kong, not in Taipei, that she got to paint her first Taiwan-inspired mural. She spent two days in Hong Kong “sweating it out in the hot Asian sun” painting a 12-metre-long public mural in the beachside community of Stanley.

On her return to Taiwan, the staff at the Taipei Artist Village had found a wall for her to create a work on at another artist residency in the city, as well as a job creating a mural for the interior of a German cafe, which she worked on at night after the last customers had left. It was while working on the cafe mural that King spotted “a perfect little wall” out the back of the kitchen that, with the enthusiastic consent of the cafe owner, became the first Taipei alley she got to paint.

“Finally, I had scored an alleyway to paint. I was desperate to paint my clouded leopard [a species that is believed to be now extinct in Taiwan] stencil in Taiwan.”

As well as her mural painting, King packed a lot in during her three-month stay, including researching local handmade paper, running a stencil workshop and organising artists’ dinners for residency artists to get to know each other.  

She says of the dinners: “This weekly event gave us a sense of unity and really allowed us to bounce ideas off one another.”

Towards the end of her stay in Taipei, King painted a wall built for the purpose at Huashan Creative Park – a refurbished factory filled with boutiques, galleries and shops. It proved a hit, with hundreds of people observing her at work throughout the day.  

“[After building the wall] I then proceeded to paint for the next seven hours nonstop to a really supportive and enthusiastic crowd, while my volunteers spoke on my behalf.

“I was inundated with photos and autograph signings; I couldn’t believe the reception I got – it was absolutely magnificent. I felt truly satisfied knowing that this was what I had been building up to my entire residency.”

She describes her time in Taiwan as a “truly rewarding experience” that provided her with a platform from which she was able to create artistic networks within a totally new culture and creative community.

“I feel like I gave it my all. My natural way of working is reasonably fast, and I like to have my fingers in as many pies as I can. I accomplished what I set out to do in terms of my project objectives, and even more.”

Part two of the documentary portraying King's time in Taiwan.

King's residency was sponsored by the Asia New Zealand Foundation and Creative New-Zealand.

King’s exhibition Made in Taiwan was held at Allpress Gallery, Auckland, in August 2015.