Q: How did you start painting and become a commercial artist?
A: I always liked painting when I was a kid and did a lot of experimenting with different types of paint, but it was nothing serious. In 1998, I had an accident when playing football and tore my ligaments. Since I couldn’t run around for a prolonged period of time I started painting more consistently until it become a habit.When I moved to London, the place where I stayed was not very nice, so I decided to make some paintings and fix them on the wall. Then I hosted a house party and got many compliments on my works, so I did more of them. I told myself that I needed to start painting every weekend and gradually started exhibiting at the gastro pubs in the area and then collaborating with art galleries and pop-up exhibitions around the city.
Q: Tell us more about your paintings, the style and subjects.
A: It is a combination of my memory and fantasy of places that I have travelled to. I try to recreate the key elements of the cities and places and their unique landscapes.The paintings are usually composed of two contrasting elements. Take Hong Kong as an example: the city contrasts with nature, a cluster of tall, slim buildings reflected in the sea against a backdrop of green, rolling hills.
Q: What is your usual process when you work on a painting?
A: I go to a place, see the buildings, see the landscapes, smell the aromas, taste the food, live the adventures and feel the emotions, then I go away and absorb all of that. When I paint, I put everything down on the canvas and allow my feelings to take over.As I was trained to be an architect, it is my instinct to pay attention to building typologies and I incorporate them in layers with the landscape. I take out the perspective as it is more of how I remember or feel the place and less of a conscious decision or precision exercise.
Q: What are the key techniques that you use?
A: I like to mix different techniques. The base is acrylic, to which I add collaged pieces, paper cuts, glue, etc., to give texture. I also like to mix the paint with sand or soil collected during my travels, so as to create a stronger connection between the artwork and the place the painting is portraying. I also add pieces of magazines and newspapers from those locations to help reinforce these connections. The text bits add some fun elements when I compose and give me the opportunity to embed messages or thoughts I have in my mind or that may be related to the specific painting. I also use ink, markers, crayons and wax pastels to enrich my work. Then I finish my paintings with a thick, glossy resin.
Q: What is the most important message that you hope your work communicates?
A: My work celebrates the beauty and the dynamics of Hong Kong and places that I travel to. I would like to somehow take the viewer to those places and make them feel the same emotions that I experienced.
Q: What do you think your viewers like about your paintings?
A: I think they like the many colors in my paintings. Many viewers have told me that my paintings make them feel happy. There are also many details and elements in each so they discover something new each time they look.
Q: Do you ever get a “painter’s block”? How do you resolve it?
A: I don’t have it. I get inspirations as I keep working on a task and I travel sometimes. Of course, there are days that I feel more and some days less, then I focus on less “artistic” tasks like preparing the canvas, etc.
Q: Which painting is your favorite one? You can only pick one.
A: The one hanging in my home. It’s my painting about Laos, In Vang Vien.
Q: What is your travel bucket list? Top three at the moment.
A: Uzbekistan, Bhutan, and Samoa.
by Stephanie Fan | event organizer