Last year, Sean Leow took my Street Art tour of San Francisco’s Mission District. He knew a good bit about art in the streets and eventually asked me “do you know about any stencils and graffiti in China?” My answer was no. I believed that it existed and was not that well known due to language barriers (as well as accessing evidence of a sometimes illegal art inside a tightly-controlled country like China). Leow not only knew about street art and graffiti from that part of the planet, he also was part of a group of people who were creating content for the site Neocha Edge, based in Shanghai. He gave me links and jpgs of art from China, Taiwan, and other parts of Asia. I eventually posted them up in the Asia Archive, and was happy to have two artists, Brother and ROBBBB, get their own artist archives.
I am happy to know that there are stencil artists getting up in China. When I wrote “Stencil Nation,” I attempted to include parts of Asia in the content. I was fortunate enough to find a few photographers via Flickr who had traveled to Taiwan and Japan and snapped up some stencil photos. Back in 2008, Asia seemed to be a blank spot in the Stencil Archive geography. There were no books, and artists like Logan Hicks were just starting to travel there with stencil art. I knew it had to be there, and, like the rest of the world, street art and graffiti has blossomed in all cracks and corners of the globe. Including Taibei and Beijing.
(Stencil by ROBBBB, Beijing)
During our most recent email exchange, ROBBBB wished that the English-speaking world could find out more about stencils in China. So I asked him some questions and he was glad to answer them. I have cleaned up the grammar of ROBBBB’s answers, but have tried to keep the spirit and intent of his answers intact. I look forward to seeing more mu-ban art and graffiti from China. Keep an eye out for new works by ROBBBB, along with other folks who cut the negative space.
Stencil Archive: How do you say “stencil” in your dialect?
ROBBBB: We call stencils “模板”. To pronounce it, it is spelled “mu-ban”.
Stencil Archive: My research shows that cut out art originated in China. Do you have any historical details about cut out art?
ROBBBB: Do you know the ”paper-cut for window decoration”?
Stencil Archive: No.
ROBBBB: “On the joyous New Year’s Day, a lot of people in this area stick various kinds of paper-cut – paper-cut for window decoration – in windows so that they can enjoy it. The paper-cut for window decoration not only sets off the joyous festive air; it also brings beautiful enjoyment to people by incorporating decorating, appreciation, and an ease-of-use into an organic whole. The paper-cut is a kind of well popularized folk art, well received by people through the ages. Because it is mostly stuck on the window, people generally call it “the paper-cut for window decoration”. (more…)