3 May, 2016 | Author: Calvin Hui, Co-founder & Artistic Director of 3812 Gallery
A piece of amazing portrait drawing is always worthy of appreciation but, to me, the most fascinating aspect of portraiture is the spirit behind the drawing, because when an artist draws, the portrait becomes a tangible record of the subject’s particular condition, in a particular moment.
We live each day among a sea of faces. All the faces we encounter – if for no more than a fleeting instant – represent a different story, a story that is at once personal and universal. When these stories are assembled, the viewer can engage their own imagination, and relate these stories to their own experience. The portrait thus becomes a way for us to record memories of others, and of ourselves.
Chloe Ho’s Sea of Faces is a conceptual art project. It was put together during a most critical moment – completely by chance – however, to me, the timing could not be more perfect.
We had already planned to hold a major solo exhibition for Chloe in April; unfortunately, some of the more important works intended for the show were damaged during framing and could not be exhibited. We discussed cancelling the show. This incident deeply affected Chloe, who truly gives herself to her art creation and cherishes each piece as though it were her own child. This terrible incident broke Chloe’s heart as she was consumed by a sinking feeling. I reminded her, “Life is not easy, but we must face the challenges that befall us and always be prepared to restart.” At that moment, as we were in her studio sharing the sadness and assessing the damage, a vivid sea of faces suddenly appeared before me. I quickly recalled the Sea of Faces concept that Chloe and I had discussed some two years ago. Perhaps this was the ideal time for this concept to finally actualise?
I have to stress that Sea of Faces is absolutely not a substitute, because to me this was no accident. I believe that all things happen for a definite reason. Without the rainstorm, how could we ever see the rainbow?
Chloe Ho, Sea of Faces installation
Chloe was born in America and moved to Hong Kong after completing her art course in America. She possesses extraordinary talent and insight – art runs through her cells. Her multicultural background is reflected on the canvas through her unique perspective on art, and she continues to challenge her artistic limits through the use of ink mixed with unexpected contemporary media. Chloe’s paintings are a marriage of fresh concepts and traditional medium, resulting in a bold and vivid artistic language.
Chloe working in Wei Ligang’s studio (Song Zhuang, Beijing, 2013)
I first met Chloe in 2013, and was in instant awe of her imposing 6-foot stature. She invited me to view her most recent ink work in her Wong Chuk Hang studio one day. I was amazed with what I saw: there were so many works, ranging from abstract to sketch, from nature to human figures, each making such a powerful visual statement. While, at the time, I admittedly found it difficult to reconcile such work to this young woman – especially one of her privileged upbringing – I would soon come to realise that the diversity of these works reflected the psychological complexity of the artist. She continued to show me more and more non-framed works, and I was quickly convinced of her artistic talent and her career potential. Chloe explores the use and language of ink, and commonly marries this traditional medium to various others – pen, charcoal, acrylic, spray paint, even coffee – and through this she has developed a highly personal artistic language. While she masterfully employs the traditional Chinese medium of ink in nearly all her works, her subject matter strays far from that of typical ink paintings. Chloe does not depict mountains, water, flowers, or birds – but rather, snails, sharks, crabs, even skulls and brains. Her extraordinary talent notwithstanding, she is too far humble to purport to depict the aesthetics of the human form, choosing instead to relate to the emotional, psychological, or spiritual side of her subjects. This is a young woman with many, many stories to tell.
Chloe Ho, X-ray Fish, Acrylic and Chinese ink on paper, 2014
It was in this electric atmosphere of artistry and creativity that we sat down to talk about our first collaboration. The fruitful outcome of this meeting was Chloe’s first solo ink exhibition – Forces of Nature – What Do You See? – at 3812 Gallery in 2014. A group of collectors from the International Council of the Louvre visited the show and purchased some of the pieces. Among them, the chairman Mr. Christopher Forbes invited Chloe to present her second solo ink show – Under the Surface – at his Forbes Gallery in New York that same year. Her star catapulted, and upon her return to Hong Kong, Chloe graced the cover of City Magazine.
Whenever Chloe begins to talk about art, she finds it hard to stop. Her eyes glitter like diamonds, her hands – and her hair – fly all over the place; she listens with interest while expressing herself with passion and sincerity. Chloe and her artwork are indeed unique creatures.
This time Chloe tells us her story, my story, your story… all the stories in the Sea of Faces that we encounter each and every day. Her portrait drawings are deeply personal, filled with emotion, sensuality and character. Chloe’s portrait drawing is distinct from that of other portrait artists – her work is at once recognisable, and her investigation into the very nature of mankind allows her work to transcend geographical boundaries. Through her drawings, she seeks to find her own identity, talking with herself while at the same time communicating with the world at large. In this Sea of Faces project, we hope to trigger a discussion of identity issues at a personal level – which may cover topics like sex and sexuality, psychology, or even nationality – that at the same time play out on a global scale. As a viewer, I invite you to relate to your own experience when considering Chloe’s drawings, and ask yourself deeper questions about your own identity. Chloe’s portrait drawings are a door, waiting ajar for you to open fully.
As Chloe’s mentor, confidante, and gallery representative, it is my hope to provide the best platform for Chloe to learn and be able to assert herself. This will need courage on her part, which I know she possesses. I believe that after the unfortunate experience in March, Chloe will come to understand that none of us can hide or escape from bad situations; instead, we should be proactive and keep walking ahead with positivity. As they continue onward on their journeys, artists come to embody the range of their own lived experiences, and this is often echoed in their own art production. Herein lies the difficulty of life as an artist: having to constantly face one’s own deeply personal life experiences – be they moments of joy or of sadness – to express a vision that is shared with the world. Chloe dares to face this challenge and deal with it head-on, and as a result the individual stories in her Sea of Faces become the stories of all of us. It is from this honesty and sincere commitment to her art that she will gain admiration and respect from the viewers.
Chloe Ho, Past and Present, Acrylic and Chinese ink on paper, 2016