Urban graffiti artist creates 'The New Wave'

A 100-meter-long wall full of graffiti works was recently unveiled on downtown Hengshan Road, attracting many passers-by to stop and view the innovative art form.

A 100-meter-long wall full of graffiti works was recently unveiled on downtown Hengshan Road, attracting many passers-by to stop and view the innovative art form.
Urban artist Lin Zinan, and his team, have been spraying on the wall outside the construction site of a life and art center at No. 8 Hengshan Road for several weeks now to create “The New Wave.”

The wall is intentionally divided into 24 frames, like the number of frames per second in a movie, taking viewers across time and space through artworks.

“It is in a public space and I wanted to create something connected to this area, a street with a rich history where East meets West, as well as connecting new and old. I want to pay tribute to its rich history using modern artistic language and aesthetics,” Lin told Shanghai Daily.

“What we did was sampling some classic Eastern and Western symbols, such as Art Deco patterns, Western statues, flowers and birds in the style of ancient Chinese paintings.”

Lin, one of the earliest Chinese graffiti artists, first started in Shenzhen of southern China's Guangdong Province back in 2003, when it was completely “underground” and “little known to the public.”

“Now it is much more mainstream and accepted,” Lin said. “Legal walls are provided. There are also a lot more commercial opportunities provided by companies and events.”

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This wall is one of those opportunities. A 50,000-square-meter cultural center is under construction inside of it, while a 4.5-meter-tall wall has been turned into a temporary exhibition space before it is taken down after the center is completed.

“The New Wave” will be displayed for three to four months, followed by works of other artists who may use three-dimensional paintings, interactive installations, music or lighting to re-innovate the wall. It matches with a neighborhood that has a long history of art and culture.

Hengshan Road, constructed in 1922 as Avenue Petain, is amid the central area of the former French concession. The area has long been a significant cultural zone where many Chinese musicians, film stars, artists and writers lived and worked, as well as home to many significant buildings such as the Community Church and Shanghai American School.

“I’m very proud to see this graffiti work in a public space on the street, rather than enclosed in a gallery, event space or creative zone, not to mention this is central downtown and one of the most culturally significant areas in the city,” said the work’s curator Li Qian. “It is quite rare and I hope it continues to happen.”

The area was also once China’s music valley, as 811 Hengshan Road, nicknamed the Little Red House, was once the headquarters of Pathe Records, the China subsidiary for EMI subsidiary Pathe-Marconi. 

The company entered the Chinese market in 1908 and started by recording traditional Chinese opera. It later became a major label in Mandarin pop songs before 1949. A galaxy of stars recorded there, including Peking Opera master Mei Lanfang, “Golden Voice” Zhou Xuan and Spanish singer Julio Iglesias, among others. Today, the house is a bistro.

“Many old idols left their marks on this street, and I hope to recreate and to continue their artistic presence in this modern space,” Lin concluded.


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