We Speak with 3 Shenzhen Artists about Their Craft and Inspirations

By That's PRD, September 5, 2018

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In early August, we asked our readers to submit their personal works of art in WeWork’s Creative Capital Contest. The contest was open to artists from a variety of fields, from painters to photographers, and all submitted work had to symbolize the bustling metropolis that is Shenzhen. 

As always, our readers answered the call, offering up an impressive array of photos and paintings that are as riveting and brilliant as their makers. 

On August 25, That’s, along with the WeWork team and the music lovin’ folks at Vinylhouse, displayed the three winning submissions. The event (or beer-fueled party, rather) was held at Vinylhouse in Shenzhen’s Nanshan District and attracted a diverse crowd of art (and beer) loving Shenzheners. 

We chatted briefly with the three winning artists about their passions and inspirations in the art realm. But before we dive into the chitchatty, interview-y goodness, we’d like to thank everyone who took part in the event as well as WeWork, Wolf beer and Vinylhouse for making the event possible. We also want to thank WeWork’s community manager, Faye Gao, Vinylhouse Co-founder Tomasz Guiddo and our very own That's Shenzhen and That's Guangzhou editor-in-chief, Matthew Bossons, for serving as judges at the event. 


Marlon Villaverde

First Place for ‘Fast Lane’

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Image via Marlon Villaverde

Marlon Villaverde (pictured above), originally from Lucban, Philippines, has been living in China for 16 years and currently resides in Shenzhen. His interest in photography and design has led to some astounding works of art. 

Tell us a bit about your first interaction with the world of art. 
As far back as I can remember when I was a kid, I loved to draw images of war, with lots of rockets and parachutes. But in photography, it all started when we had a photography class during my high school days. It was like love at first shot. At that time, we used film, so the excitement of getting the prints developed was an indescribable experience.

Now, briefly tell our readers about your artistic work.  
Photography is my vision that’s left unseen by many. My work is a reflection of my soul. I express myself through my own photographs. I love working on documentary style, street and fine art photography.

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‘Fast Lane.’ Image via Marlon Villaverde 

Who are your greatest artistic inspirations? 
There are too many to mention, but the works of Joey Lawrence, Brooke Shaden, Roger Ballen, Sebastiao Salgado and Henry-Cartier Bresson have influenced me. 

Does their influence show up in your work?
Maybe in some ways, I like the techniques they used and how they compose subjects; however, I want to have my own style that people will remember.


Matt Franklin

Second Place for ‘Construction Time Again’

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‘Construction Time Again.’ Image via Matt Franklin 

Hailing from England, Matt has honed his photography skills while living in Shenzhen. He’s as motivated as they come, and really captures China’s mixture of economic boom and hard work.

Tell us a bit about your first interaction with photography.
Living here in Shenzhen, I developed a keen interest in street photography, initially using my phone and an old Fujifilm camera. It wasn’t until after meeting a photographer called Jesus Salazar that I began taking photos on a daily basis. I was fortunate to be featured in the recent Red Flower ‘Borders’ exhibition alongside many great photographers based here.

Now, briefly tell our readers about your artistic work.  
I like walking around, trying to capture this ever-changing city. I keep my equipment to a minimum and edit my photos on an iPhone over a cup of coffee, or a beer at Peko in Baishizhou, one of many amazing areas in Shenzhen for photographers. In the photograph that I entered [for the contest], it looked to me as if the people were hard at work in the fields. They were hard at work, but it turned out that they were laying concrete for a construction site.

Who are your greatest artistic inspirations? 
I have so many inspirations! Here in Shenzhen, Jesus Salazar has been a great mentor through his photography, insights and connections to the many great photographers here. I particularly love the work of Sean Tucker and Joshua K. Jackson in London. Here in China, a guy who goes under the moniker of 4.23 in Shenzhen and Jennifer Bin, a Shanghai-based photographer, are also great. My favorite photographs ever would have to be by the late Hong Kong photographer Fan Ho. What else can I say?


Alevtina Kovalenko

Third Place for ‘Mama’

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Image Alevtina Kovalenko

Moving to China from her Russian homeland, Alevtina Kovalenko (pictured above) has been based in Shenzhen for almost three years. She spends her time diligently crafting up abstract acrylic paintings and murals. 

Tell us a bit about your first interaction with the world of art.
I made my first painting while I was still a student. One day, suddenly, I decided to draw and paint. I’m still not sure of the reason behind it. Those first works were mostly about my past, my family members and events that profoundly affected me, and I was completely unaware of the feelings and emotions stored in my mind and heart. By painting those emotions, I could bring them to the light.

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‘Mama.’  Painting by Alevtina Kovalenko

Briefly tell our readers about your artistic work.
My acrylic painting ‘Mama’ is a portrait of my mother through the lens of my heart. It depicts compassion, kindness, embarrassment, love and life. I used warm colors, like yellow, brown and green, representing our motherland. 

This image is not only connected to my mom but also Mother Nature. You can see roots, seeds and fruit from plants and flowers. It’s all part of the circle of life. The essence of one’s mother is coming out of the head of the central figure. It sees itself, recognizes its own nature and understands its own beauty.  

If you had to describe your art to a blind person, how would you do it?
Blind people can see. They have images in their mind. I believe all images have their origin in the mind. My drawings are like your dreams; they are subtle and touchable. Whatever you see in your mind, you can see in my paintings.


The above interviews have been edited for clarity and length. 

[Cover image via Pixabay]

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