Between water and ink is human and nature
Wong Oi-wah; Chai-fai
Some said that everyone in our world secretly wishes to have a painter as a lover. Only through the laser eyes of an artist can each of the unique lines of the soul be outlined, and the dearly beloved could become the one and only. This is a profound but direct relationship. Very likely, no one would be as clear about how lines provide more clarity than words in expressing and communicating as Chloe Ho, an artist born in the 1980s.
Stories hidden in paintings
The hustling and bustling Wong Chuk Hang Road is populated with regular factory buildings. Going into one of them, you will arrive at the gallery known as “3812 Contemporary Art Projects”, in which Chloe Ho’s works are displayed. From her art, you will be able to understand the deep meaning of the brushes, and that beyond the lines, there is a concealed language.
Although Chloe is only in her twenties, this is already her second solo exhibition. The theme is “Forces of Nature – What Do You See?”. Inside of each of the picture frames are the brushstrokes of traditional Chinese ink paintings with different hues of black, but they are not telling the stories of traditional mountains and waters. Instead, you will see blurry silhouettes of human bodies, muddy brains, and brightly tinted red flowers. Chloe said, “I have been drawing with Chinese ink for quite a long time, but this is my very first modern Chinese ink painting exhibition. I hope to explore the experiences of life and its relationship with visual inference. That is why the focus is put on ‘forces of nature’ – a topic that we can all relate to.”
According to Chloe, all her paintings were not unfamiliar or difficult to understand, but she does need to leave some space for imagination. She hopes that every viewer will have their very own unique interpretation into her paintings. Indeed, none of her paintings is abstract. Big Fish, Big Luck shows the form of a large fish, but between the different blacks, there is a touch or two of very pale red – fauna became an item. Behind the fish are a few strokes of ink that look like the fish tail, but they also look like a human body. When asked how she interprets nature, Chloe said, “The whole exhibition is centered around the different aspects of nature, but we discuss more than the kind of nature with flowers and trees or flying or running animals. Our nature is about both the human’s natural born characters that can be seen and those that are hidden.”
The two collections of Nature Embodied and Under My Skin have made use of Chinese ink to outline the human body directly. Nature Embodied is about the human body, and Under My Skin is the skeleton. Between water and ink, the little scattered dots look like mountain and rocks. The art asks the viewer, “Is the form locked up by nature, or is that a reflection of the connection between human and nature?”
Chloe never explains much about her paintings. She only hopes that viewers can re-evaluate the relationship between themselves and the world, allowing their imagination to fill any gaps. “I created an environment where my viewers can really “step inside with the art”. I put up mirrors in the venue, so that viewers can see themselves and be part of the exhibition.” When viewers look at their reflection, they are integrated with the art and each other.
Inspirations generated from Hong Kong
Hong Kong is neither as mottled and mingled as New York, nor is it as spectacular yet down to earth as London. Chloe is obviously Eurasian, and she grew up in Hong Kong, after University in the U.S., she chose to come back to Hong Kong for her career. “My family’s roots are firmly set here in Hong Kong. This is where my home is. I note that the art scene in Hong Kong is becoming more and more active, and I want to take part in it.” She added, “Although it is not easy for an artist to find a workshop, some new support schemes, such as the PMQ in Central, do provide a good start.”
The ultra-high speed of Hong Kong has not eaten up the artist’s creativity. Instead, it has become a muse and a part of Chloe. “Hong Kong is a dynamic city where Chinese and Western culture and history have wonderfully converged. She is so varied and therefore I can’t just stop. Instead, I need to be observant at all times to become an even more mature artist. You wouldn’t want to waste a minute or a second, otherwise, you would realize you have already been abandoned by the city.”
Not wanting to waste a minute or a second
“I can’t imagine myself working in anything but as an artist.” There is the 3812 exhibition and the Guardian/ Fine Art Asia show currently running in Beijing. She is also creating for her first installation art, A life sized lion for Le French May, and organizing her New York exhibition to be held in September. Her work schedule is fully packed. As Chloe puts it, she cannot waste one minute or one second. She continues to connect people with art – she is touching the unique souls of viewers with her vision, perception and colors.
Born in 1987 in California, USA. The works of Chloe Ho reveal her multicultural background and unique artistic horizons. Her works are held by private collectors in London, Paris, Singapore, Hong Kong, Washington DC, San Francisco, and Florida. She lives and works in Hong Kong
Caption: Big Fish, Big Luck
www.hkej.com HKEJ article: City Snapshot
Wednesday, 21 May 2014
Interviews, by Cheng Chi-hang
Text: Cheng Chi-hang
Photo: Kwok Shek-wing
Some of the photos are provided by the interviewee
Chloe Ho - Granddaughter of Commercial Radio founder George Ho
Human Emotions depicted by painting nature with coffee
Nature is a word that feels familiar yet alienating – everyone has a different interpretation of nature. City dwellers may think it is a distant concept that is hardly reachable; the eco-minded love to be in its company; in some places youth wish to conquer it; those in Hong Kong, however, would often rather spend time surfing the internet instead of getting in contact with it.
Young California-born artist Chloe Ho has her unique experiences and insights into nature. Through “Forces of Nature – What Do You See?”, her second solo exhibition held in Hong Kong, the artist reconnects her viewers with nature through her paintings.
1. Under My Skin #2, Chinese ink that depicts the dynamics of the skeleton.
2. Coffee Tree is created with coffee to show colors that more closely resemble nature.
3. Forces of Nature #16. Whether this is a portrait of the human body or a tree depends on how a viewer sees and feels about it.
4. Chloe’s works focus on the human body and nature, and she expresses the relationship between the two subject matters. The art next to her is entitled Brain.
About Chloe Ho
Name: Chloe Ho
Year of birth: 1987
Education: Mills College, Department of Art Studio
Studied art under: Liu Hong (Chinese-American Contemporary artist); Moira Roth (American Art historian and critic)
Solo exhibitions: “Forces of Nature – What do you see?” (2014); “Do you know me? – paintings of Chloe Ho” (2012)
Caption: Chloe is the granddaughter of the founder of Hong Kong’s Commercial Radio. Stephen Chan, Chief Advisor of Commercial Radio, makes himself present for the artist.
Appreciating art from multiple angles
Caption: Chloe’s winning drawing in the 1997 children’s drawing competition organized by Time was featured in the magazine.
“Forces of Nature – What Do You See?” runs until 30 June. The exhibition focuses primarily on the relationship between humans and nature.
“While I do have messages to convey in my work, it is most important that viewers can look at them from their heart and reflect on their own roles in nature, as well as what drives their interactions with nature. I hope that my paintings can provide an opportunity for introspection.”
The venue has been specifically set up and decorated to support this idea. For example, the exhibition moves from the more tranquil to the more dynamic; from men to women; from black and white to colors, etc. Mirrors are hung up on many walls. According to Chloe, they were set up to enable viewers’ appreciation of the art from multiple angles and to inspire different interpretations of the art.
“By looking into the mirror and by looking at the paintings from different angles, you will be able to see their different facets. The multiple mirrors will also show you more than one painting, which collectively brings yet another level of experience. Of course, you can always see your own face and body in the mirror, and that makes a viewer part of the exhibition.”
In addition, the mirrors also symbolize the reflection of the true self. “The objective of this exhibition is to encourage viewers to learn more about nature and themselves. Mirrors are certainly the most direct medium to achieve this.”
Caption: Chinese ink is a favorite medium of Chloe because it’s an outstanding way to convey the marriage of human and nature.
We conducted this interview at the exhibition venue of the 3812 Contemporary Art Projects. The reporter arrived earlier than the appointed time because he wanted to first experience Chloe’s works with his own instincts. The venue is very spacious and paintings were hung on the walls and from the galleries ceiling.
The reporter first looked around for a while and then he picked up the artist’s catalog, wanting to read the descriptions of work. Just then, a “Hello!” was heard. Chloe arrived at the time of our appointment. The tall artist wearing sunglasses showed some kind of star quality. Chloe took off her sunglasses and replaced it with a pair of prescription ones. “I just had an eye operation and I have to protect them from direct strong lights, that’s why I am wearing sunglasses,” said Chloe with a smile.
The difference between hot and cold coffee
The theme of her exhibition is nature because Chloe is someone who feels very deeply about nature. “Humans and nature are closely connected. As individuals, humans connect to each other through love and hate, and sometimes they can be disconnected. But every person has an inseparable relationship with nature. The human body to me has a striking similarity to trees.” She pointed to one of the works next to her and continued, “You may be able to see it as a human body, and you can also see it as a tree.”
More than forty Chinese ink and mixed media paintings were shown at the exhibition. Chloe reckoned that Chinese ink paintings have always been a mirror to the relationship between man and nature. “I was very lucky because I was introduced to the art, tools and skills of traditional Chinese painting in childhood. These laid down a solid foundation for my approach to painting at a later age. Compared to pen and oils, Chinese ink is the best medium to show the connection between human and nature for me. The biggest challenge of applying Chinese ink, however, is there can be no mistake. Every stroke with Chinese ink has to be precise. If a mistake is made, the whole painting has to be redone. Chinese inks are difficult to handle. Nonetheless, it is a challenge for an artist. To create works with impact requires the courage to embrace challenges.”
On top of Chinese ink, some of Chloe’s works were specially colored with coffee. She explained “I realized that coffee can be used to work with the effect of Chinese ink, and they are surprisingly matched. This is something that water and other paints cannot achieve. I also found out that coffees at different temperature bring out varied hues.”
Chloe was born in California in the U.S. Her father is Chinese and her mother is European. When her father needed to return to Hong Kong for his work, the whole family relocated to Hong Kong. Chloe was only five at the time and she did not know they were being “uprooted” to Hong Kong. “I remember we were on the plane and I thought I was travelling with my family for our summer. I had no idea we were staying in Hong Kong for good!” Chloe studied in an international school upon arriving at Hong Kong and her talents in painting soon became discovered. In 1997 she took part in a children’s drawing competition organized by Time, which was to commemorate the return of Hong Kong’s sovereignty. Her work was chosen best for those aged 7-9 and it was published in the magazine.
When Chloe turned 18, she returned to the U.S. to further her studies in art. Knowing that painting is her one and only love, Chloe was determined to develop her career in the art scene since she was very young. As such, she began to work in a gallery right after finishing school to familiarize herself with art-related work and with the process of curating an exhibition. “Working in a gallery allowed me to learn how to curate an exhibition. From selecting the artists, liaisons, venue set up to promotion, I needed to deal with everything. This experience was very helpful for my own solo exhibitions later on.” After working in an American gallery for a year, Chloe once again moved back to Hong Kong in 2011 and decided to stay here.
The most powerful world language
“I think drawing and painting is the most powerful language in the world. It transcends geography or culture. Everyone can communicate with others through drawing and pictures – even a child can understand it. This is why I enjoy expressing myself through painting. Because people can understand me better through my works.”
Knowing that she wanted her viewers to learn more about her through her painting, the reporter asked if Chloe would describe herself with words. She responded that describing herself through her perspective could be slightly unconvincing, but after pondering for a while, she answered, “I am an observer and I like to pay attention to people and happenings around me. These inspire my paintings. Moreover, I make people around me feel comfortable. This is what my friends told me!”
At present, Chloe lives in Hong Kong on her own. She said that she loves Hong Kong and she has plans to continue develop her career here. “Hong Kong is a very inspiring place. There are many things going on and most of them are very special. Also, I find that Hong Kong people do appreciate artists as many of them enjoy going to exhibitions. While this is hardly a mainstream pastime, I too have visited many different exhibitions, and I think Hong Kong people look at artworks with heart. No wonder there are so many local artists.” Does boredom strike now if you live alone? “Not at all! My days are so very rewarding. I wake up every morning to check my emails, and I usually have a day packed with work. For example, I need to go to other artists’ exhibitions for exchange purpose. This is an important part of my work, because it stimulates my creativity.”
In fact, every one of us can become our own artist. We could all explore our potential, and the ultimate question is whether you are willing to break through your comfort zone and to learn about your true self. Chloe continued “We all have our sensual side but most of the time, we hide it at the bottom of our heart and put on another mask in our day to day lives. Communicate more with friends and learn more about nature and life. Do not be shy and don’t be afraid to ask a silly question. Leave your familiar threshold and learn new things from mistakes, and you will discover another side of yourself.”