“I want to create art that can reach me on a deeper level, before and until it touches the hearts of others,” says Zoie Lam AKA Zlism.
At Honeycombers Hong Kong, we think it’s important to support your local artists, such as the amazing Isatisse, The Forest Mori and Kylie Chan. And if you hang around in the Sheung Wan district long enough, it’s hard not to get distracted by the stunning brightly-coloured mural everytime you walk pass Square Street – which was created beautifully by local artist Zlism. Intrigued by its whimsical qualities, we chatted with local illustrator and fashion designer Zoie Lam (aka Zlism) about creating artwork that resonates with others and the sentiment behind these bubbly colours and shapes.
Hi, Zoie. Thank for chatting with us. How did Zlism all get started six years ago?
I’ve worked in the fashion industry for over eleven years. Back in 2012, I finally felt a bit worn out and I realised how badly I wanted to do something different, something creative and of my own, hence the birth of Zlism. Zl- refers to my initials, and adding -ism means that it’s something of my own imagination. Zlism is like my little planet of fun and art.
Can you explain to us the philosophy behind Zlism?
The characters in my drawings all look a bit quirky and eccentric on the outside. But they’re actually kind-hearted people who carry optimism and empathy with them. It’s my way of saying that a book shouldn’t be judged by its cover. I have always been that person who dyes her hair with crazy colours, so sometimes people just assume that I’m a rebellious outcast who does no good – and I think it’s important to get rid of this preconception.
Who are the characters in your illustrations?
One of the characters is called Tui Tui, who is sort of a representation of me. And it’s like when I try to encourage people to push their own limits with my artwork, I’m at the same time encouraging myself. Art to me is like a dialogue; it’s a two-way street.
A lot of your works are of bright colours and they carry a positive message to help lift people up. So with your darker pieces, what are they trying to say?
Sometimes I close myself off to others, and it makes me realise how accustomed we are to masquerading ourselves in order to fit into social norms. It actually takes a toll on us even though we rarely notice it. I think one of the things is that we shouldn’t measure our success with other people’s success, because seeking validation solely from others won’t be fair to ourselves.
Also, it’s so terrifying to try out new things on your own when it’s outside of your comfort zone. When I first started Zlism, I got turned down by so many places. But no matter how alone it might seem in the first place, it’s the little good things along the journey that makes it worth it – and those can’t be bought with money.
Do you have any inspiration or role model(s)?
When it comes to fashion, I really like Wilhelm and Kawakubo Rei. They do a whole lot of things other than just fashion. Because I’m also the kind of person who likes to creating art through all sorts of medium, from illustration on paper, mural to making stuffed dolls.
What’s your goal in being an artist?
Art comes from a very personal place. I want to create art that can reach me on a deeper level, before and until it touches the hearts of other.To make art that resonates with people – this is something that I want to keep doing as an artist.
If you had to choose to be a character in a cartoon, who would that be?
I would like to be one of the characters in basically any anime created by the animator Hayao Miyazaki, or maybe I would be Doraemon (laughs).
Keep up-to-date with Zlism on Instagram.