Space Invader: Street artist turns Hong Kong into 1980s video game

CNN  — 

Two years ago in Hong Kong it looked like game over for a street artist trying to transform the city into a 1980s video game.

Authorities didn’t appreciate pixelated characters such as Pac-Man and Super Mario appearing on their walls, and so wiped them out.

Now Invader, as the anonymous French artist is known, is back with a newer, bigger exhibition of his works – his biggest solo venture to date outside of Europe.

And this time he has official approval.

Invader’s guerrilla pieces made from mosaic tiles have made him one of the world’s most famous street artists, alongside Britain’s Banksy.

Some of his favorite works have been recreated for display alongside newer pieces in a Hong Kong gallery. They’ve also returned to the streets.

The works include Rubik’s Cubes, LED “moving painting” displays inspired by Hong Kong’s neon-saturated skyline and a tribute to Bruce Lee.

Invader says he was left “saddened” when authorities wiped out almost 90% of his new works a month after they were set up in 2014.

He tells CNN (via email to preserve his anonymity) he named the new show “Wipe Out” – featuring new works and replicas of older pieces – in memory of his lost Hong Kong exhibits.

“I want the Hong Kong public to be able to see the works in person, up-close in detail and engage with them on a very different level,” he says.

Invader says he takes his inspiration from each city he works in.

“Endless project”

“It’s also a good opportunity for them to understand more about my work and how it has invaded the city in different locations which I research with lots of thought.

“It is a way to show what Hong Kong has lost and to keep a memory of these works.”

Invader says he’s worked alongside local craftsmen to produce new pieces and, as always, takes his inspiration from local culture.

“For Hong Kong, for example, I have works around the figure of Bruce Lee, dollars, red and gold colors, dragons, Ming vases.

“Each time you discover new ways of communicating with different cityscapes, different audience and of course, to research and understand the locale is an important part of the process to ensure I remain innovative and inventive.

Invader says his favorite motif among his artworks is, appropriately, the space invader – but it’s a different matter when it comes to actually playing video games.

“‘Space Invaders’ is important because it is the prehistory of video games,” he adds. “But ‘Pac-Man’ is much more fun to play.”

Invader, who won’t reveal where he’s staging his next invasion, sees his work as an “endless project” which is helping redefine the future of art.

“I think that street art is becoming the most important art movement of the 21st century,” he says. “I noticed that young people were totally fond of it. This is the art of their generation.”

The Wipe Out exhibition takes place at PMQ in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong from May 2 until May 17, 2015.