12 August 2021
When Elsa Jean de Dieu first arrived in Hong Kong in 2008, she says there was hardly any street art, but now mural paintings are found across the city.

“People are now asking for street art on the facade, they want colourful patterns and meaningful artwork,” she says.

Jean de Dieu has contributed to the street art scene by painting 16 murals around the city, including four live mural paintings for French May Arts Festival at the revitalised Central Market.

“I create a story and characters, and I connect with people passing by, it’s unique. That’s why I’m obsessed with painting smiley faces,” she says, referring to the fun portraits at Central Market. She says that Hong Kong streets are more colourful than ever and before the pandemic people visited the city specifically to see street art.

Street art has helped transform Hong Kong’s image as a business-focused metropolis into a nature- and art-oriented city. Street art is now found in different neighbourhoods across Hong Kong, making buildings a playground for artists who paint in different styles. Their work turns the streets into public galleries and makes art more accessible and easily appreciated.

They also beautify neighbourhoods with their funky designs and kaleidoscopic colours; they draw people in to check out the street art and post images on social media for others to see what they have discovered.

While Jean de Dieu says it’s cool to have more artists painting street art, they aren’t in competition with each other. Rather, they are focused on finding their own style which will make the city look more visually striking. She credits HKwalls for organising legal places to paint and inviting artists to participate.

What makes her work most rewarding are the reactions she gets from people as she is working. “I have very touching contact and conversations with people in the streets, like the cleaners who tap my shoulder and have a big smile, and taxi drivers and bus drivers give me the thumbs up. Because I bring joy, smiley faces, it’s like a huge wave of happiness around. It’s really amazing.”

 
Live mural paintings Jean de Dieu painted for French May Art Festival at Central Market
Jean de Dieu has created 16 murals around the city
Jean de Dieu has created 16 murals around the city

Elsa Jean de Dieu

Originally from Nîmes, in southern France, Elsa Jean de Dieu, 37, was born into a family of artists and entrepreneurs, so it was only natural she followed the same path.
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