Feng Su, a 25-year-old Beijinger, is proud of his apartment and the colorful tree painted on the living room wall. Indoor graffiti, he says of his home in Maizidian, Chaoyang district, is in vogue.
The art designer came upon the idea of indoor graffiti about two years ago through foreign films.
"(To me it represents) a totally free and luxurious life for young people," Feng says.
The concept became a reality when Feng's college classmate Chen Lijuan, a painter, moved in with him early last year.
Feng found a tree picture online, and Chen said it would not be difficult for her to paint it on the wall.
It took the pair one week to finish the picture on the wall. "At first I thought it was a daunting task, but it proved to be easy and fun," Feng says.
Graffiti, a cosmopolitan art form, is difficult to promote in China as regulations forbid its citizens from writing graffiti outdoors.
Lu Yan, a 29-year-old graffiti fan in Beijing, secretly painted his university campus wall at night with some friends when he was in college.
"It felt good but we knew it was illegal. The school would have punished us if they knew what we had done," Lu says.
A tree grows under the brush of art designer Chen Lijuan. The painting adds a lively touch to her apartment in Beijing. [Courtesy of Feng Su]
He has since quit college and become an online game designer. However, he still goes with loyal graffiti fans to paint garages.
As such, they've been invited to some graffiti events, like those at 3.3 Shopping Mall or 77 Street in Xidan. But Lu says a prohibition of graffiti in public places deters him.
That is why Luo Xi, a 24-year-old interior designer, decided to make indoor graffiti a business. "It frees every artist who has a dream to paint," Luo says. "I have loved painting since I was young and have found it a good outlet to paint at people's homes."
He started a studio with his classmates when he was a sophomore at Beijing Forestry University. Their first clients asked only for simple wallpaper-like patterns, but in time Luo's studio became well known, and he registered as a company in late 2007.
The company, Beijing Youlishe Shouhui, now has 10 to 20 orders per month. It charges 150 to 300 yuan ($22-44) per sq m, but prices vary according to difficulty.
"Beijingers got to know about this in mid-2007 and it boomed in March or April of 2008," Luo says.
Feng believes most Chinese favor traditional white walls.
"Take a look at those who are in their 30s and 40s. No matter how luxuriously they decorate their apartments, they keep the walls white and clean. Indoor graffiti changes the situation," Feng says.
Most people who accept graffiti at home are in their 20s and own villas.
"Young people are creative," Luo says. He met one client who wanted a fireplace painted opposite his bed. Luo is also expanding his graffiti business to furniture.
Some other companies and individuals have also sensed a change in the market.
Brazilian artist Heloiza Montuori etched some graffiti on a refrigerator. She painted a persimmon tree across three panels of the refrigerator for Siemens as part of a harvest scene.
"It was quite challenging because I used a palette knife. It was difficult to use the metal knife on the metal refrigerator without scratching the surface while still building up texture," Montuori says.
Chinese artist Wen Wenwu used oil to paint Chinese peonies on an industrial refrigerator. Wen has also painted wooden chairs and automobiles.
Compared with other forms of art, "you need to be careful with home graffiti, in terms of light, space and colors", Feng says.
"It is something you have to look at for a couple of years, so do be careful with your selection," Feng says.
Other young people are putting DIY graffiti on their mobile phones, chairs and tables.
"When graffiti is indoors, it can be accepted by more people, not just a knowledgeable few," Lu says.
(China Daily January 7, 2009)