Where photos in this mess of waffle are followed by a date, it is the date that these minute sculptures were chanced upon by Graffoto, which probably bears no relation to the date they were installed by Three or if they do it is pure fluke.
As waves of these concrete sculptures kept appearing they continued to fascinate. In 2013 beautiful metalwork sculptures appeared and were duly written about on the Shoreditch Street Art Tours blog, more sculptures appeared and then among the intermittent miniature monuments a “My name is 3” sticker was found and at that point it seemed that the question could no longer be avoided…your name is Three but who are you?
It turns out that Three is a regular visitor to the UK but he is based in Hong Kong so a chat over a couple of beers and a recorder wasn’t going to happen. Three’s patient answers to a long list of questions proved to be so poetic that they stand on their own as a monologue so here in his own words is The Power Of Three:
I was born in London but I came to live in Hong Kong when I was 4. I studied at art school in U.K. [East Ham & Bath] then returned here to HK.
To me the pieces echo the architecture of cities. Some brutalist buildings, some natural rock formations , motorway bridges etc. I enjoy walking in the mountains and the city.
I make the originals from Plasticine then make a silicone mould in which to cast the cement. I have a idea of the shape I wish to create and sometimes make sketches. As I cut pieces of Plasticine and build the piece, the work evolves and I keep trying things until I’m satisfied with the shape. The moulds can be used many times I’ve got around 20 now, not all are out on the street much, some I’ve put up multiples over the years.
I started in 2003, I had seen graffiti, Banksy’s stencils and Space Invader’s tile pieces around. I was inspired and wanted to get involved in this non-commercial art movement. I thought these tiny sculptures would be a new take on the streetart idea. It’s also nice that people took an interest in seeing art in the street.
I’m usually in London in August / September as a break from the heat of Hong Kong and I often do a few missions. The tile glue I use needs to stay dry overnight while it sets so weather is a factor.
I usually walk around and look for spots that are suitable. I think about how the light will fall on them or cast a shadow. I used to place them in rather hidden locations, where they may blend in a bit too well but now I go for spots that already have some streetart around. I kind of like that they may go unnoticed, remaining sometimes for years.
I try not to place them inappropriately, the tile glue can be hard to remove so heritage buildings etc. are out. When I visit friend’s places I often will sneakily place one somewhere on their house.
The sculptures appear overnight like mushrooms and maybe people wonder “what is that?” If they take a closer look they hopefully realize that some time has been spent crafting them but I suspect most are possibly unsure of their purpose.
I use a combination of monikers with the number 3. When I was first getting into graffiti I thought about “what is in a name ?”, so decided to be just a number. There a lots of design possibilities with the shape of the number and it also has plenty of cultural references. My mates at Eggshell Stickers gave me a pack of “Hello my name is” stickers so I thought I’d better use ’em up. I think there was around 12 stuck up one night in September last year.
I’m a freelance artist and I try to make a living from art related activities when possible. I did a lot of antique restoration in the past, I’ve also put on exhibitions and made sculpture installations. I sometimes work with a crew called “Start From Zero” making furniture and event related installations. I really enjoy using tools and materials. I pick up skills from where ever I can.
Electronics is something I have learned from the net over the last few years and am now building synth modules. For me it’s one more useful method for making art. I make all my modules a round shape, it’s awkward but I want them to have a sculptural aspect, I think about the aesthetics of the placement of the components and colour of the wires.
I have also made some kinetic art pieces using these methods, sound making sculptures built both for their look and the noise produced.
My most recent show was for HK Walls, a group exhibition and streetart event that takes place every year here. I hope to be installing some cement things for them again this March.
So, process, background rationale have been established but let’s look a bit closer at the passerby’s experience of Three’s street art. Three’s sculptures exist in the dim margins of your vision, you never go out looking for Three’s work because photographs tend to be so close-up that there is no context and no clues to location. Three’s sculptures play a game of chance, your chance of discovery against their chance of evading detection, when you notice one it feels like a lottery win.
Three’s art does not scream for attention, check the “My Name Is 3” sticker earlier on, even when he does introduce his name on the street the preliminary civilities have been carefully lined out, he’s not introducing himself, just quietly stating his name. Three is an interesting word, it suggests triangularity; it is a number as well as a word; it is the number of axis in a cube and when we talk about the cube of a number, we mean “raising to the power of Three”. We are starting to poke at the flexibility built into Three’s choice of identity, take his ID, raise it to the power of three and you have what is in some circles (avoid!) expressed as 3x3x3, another variant on his pseudonym.
Their understated presence means that even if you find a miniature block once, you may not notice it next time you pass by. Then weeks later you chance upon it again and it is like a renewal, a re-discovery “Ahhh yes, Three’s sculpture, still there!” Then you start to doubt, is it the same one, did I spot this before, is it a new one in the same spot?
So you photograph it and then when you get back to base and compare with previous photographs you notice how Three’s sculptures change. They silently adopt fresh camouflages each time someone with a spraycan and an eye on a big mural sweeps another dusting of aerosol paint across the lurking sculpture.
Even a slight shift in viewpoint dramatically changes how the artefact looks, you could even convince your self from two photos at different angles that you had photographed two different specimens.
Brutalist is a word often used to describe Three’s sculptures and in their raw state, the concrete appearance, the flecks of grit, the embedded stones and other artifacts for sure suggest a detail from a brutalist building. Three describes them as miniature echoes of a concrete cityscapes, and most observers will see mausoleum blocks and towers in miniature though such things are relative, to an ant they would be glorious cathedrals.
The placement of a Three sculpture is a result of a complex assessment, a hunt for suitable spots in which context is surprisingly significant. In this 3x3x3 sculpture has the chocolate mouse colour of the aggregate and the darker tones of the grit been matched carefully against the brick and cement of the Old Truman Brewery? The world is a better place if we assume it was.
Each little piece of Three’s art captures within its tiny abstract form so much of what make street art so fascinating. Each one represents a tiny secret – how many people look for naughty non permissioned accretions like this? Each one has so much intrigue about its purpose or its charming lack thereof, and mystery about its creation and creator though perhaps a little less now in Three’s case!
Photos: Dave Stuart except Three where stated