The City and the Paradise

Artist Eric Fok has just launched his first book: Paradise When Antique Maps Meet Modern Cities

Jointly published by Join Publishing (H.K.) Co., Ltd and local magazine NEW GEN. Monthly, with publishing funds partly provided by the Macau Culture Bureau, local Macau artist Eric Fok’s new book, Paradise: When Antique Maps Meet Modern Cities, has just been launched and is now on sale in Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan. 

Published in Chinese and English, with a first print of 1,400 copies, the new book features 60 selected pieces from over 200 pieces in Eric’s Paradise series, that he been working on since 2012.  Included in the book is a print of  his first-sale Paradise No.15; Paradise No.11 and No.16  which were selected for the 50th Bologna Illustrators Exhibition; the awarded piece Paradise No.20 of the Portuguese Orient Foundation; and the work Heung San O Lee Ba which he specially created for the 5th Macau Literary Festival based on the Festival’s theme: “Tang Xianzu in Macau”.

Eric has been using ancient western map styles to discuss the problems and issues that come along with the development of modern cities. On specially made brown drawing paper, Eric uses needle lines to depict the past and present of Macau, as well as some other post-colonial cities like Hong Kong and Singapore, and Taipei.

Like many local schools, Eric’s school didn’t really teach Macau history. His own interest in Macau’s history was trigged in 2012, when the gaming industry was booming and Cotai was full of construction sites. On one occasion Eric found an old map of Macau, and noticed the coastline had changed a lot. It was quite a shock to him. Therefore, with many questions, he started to read relevant books, watch films, and go to libraries; he even tried reading Portuguese references, in order to search for the past of Macau.

“The city has been decaying and developing in turns; to review its history is also a rethink,” says Eric.

Eric then started to draw his own observations and thoughts about the city. Some of his works show an old map of Macau occupied by crowded casino shuttle buses, big casino buildings standing in the centre of the city two or three hundred years ago, a group of early Portuguese explorers from 1513 chasing after a taxi refusing to take passengers, or trying to get on a crowded bus…

In his Paradise series, Eric not only draws about Macau, but also of some European cities from the Age of Discovery and other post-colonial cities. In doing so, the artist hopes to find some answers to his questions about Macau, and to understand the development of other cities.

Also featured in his new book is a scroll named Paradise: Hong Kong. In this painting, Eric depicts when British merchant ships landed in Hong Kong over a hundred years ago, together with the present-day modern buildings alongside the Victoria Harbour. And if you look closely, you can see many tents on the bridge with journalists taking photos - a familiar scene of the protest movement that happened to the city two years ago.  

“I wanted to draw about Hong Kong’s past and present, to examine the opinions about the Umbrella Revolution; it was a very important historical event,” Eric explains. “I was looking for solutions when I started to draw. I read each city’s developing stories; some teach you about the experiences, some teach you lessons. However, gradually I realized not everything is that simple and easy to change, especially when you do care about the city,” Eric comments emotionally.

“What can we do? What can we change? ” Eric writes in his book’s preface. “I confess that I do not have the courage to step up and protest, but perhaps I can record my thoughts and questions for this society and generation with my technical pen at best.”