Wong Chuk Hang gallery Charbon Art Space celebrates its second anniversary this month with an exhibition by Hong Kong artist Claire Lee entitled The Awakening
The Hong Kong art scene is flourishing, and not just in an Art Basel kind of way. A group of talented Hong Kong artists are transforming spaces throughout the city, holding exhibitions and working with subject matters that are getting people talking. To celebrate its second anniversary, Charbon in Wong Chuk Hang will host The Awakening, a solo exhibition of photography, drawings and poetry by Hong Kong artist Claire Lee, and we recently sat down with her to find out more.
Hi Claire. We’re looking forward to visiting The Awakening at Charbon later in the month. How did you first know that you wanted to pursue a career in art?
I think the calling was always in me. When I reached about 30, I quit my job and changed my lifestyle to pursue art. Art is not the best word to describe what I want to do. I would say it was more self expression that I was desperate for; there was a voice inside me that was so strong that I couldn’t ignore it.
Tell us a little about what it’s like to be an artist in Hong Kong? How has the region affected your work/style?
I always try not to be too conscious about myself as an artist from Hong Kong. It is very easy to be trapped in a box when you constantly aware of your status and expectations – especially in Hong Kong.
I think the pressure and price is high to take the path of a full time artist – not only in monetary terms, but also mental pressure from family and society, and the inadequate understanding or misconceptions about what artists really do.
For The Awakening, you found your inspiration from Bison. Now, there are none of those in Hong Kong, so how were you introduced to the subject?
I have always been sensitive about relationships between animals and human. It is even more interesting to introduce this magnificent beast which represents strength and calmness to Hong Kong, this city which is embracing lots of uncertainty and insecurity.
Bison are not uncommon in the world. The picture of it came to me by accident. I realised what spoke to me was the contrast of the simultaneous qualities in bison of both power and vulnerability. From looking at bison I saw the human condition. Then, I went to see them, and there was an atmosphere of majesty, earnestness, tenderness and peace – an impression of immensity that is difficult to express without experiencing or being in their presence.
How is it different to work with visual art as opposed to expressing yourself through poetry?
Art is a journey; an exploration in visuals. Most of the time I have the visuals or subject in my mind I want to explore. Then, I develop it with other sources like reading and watching documentaries, to stretch the imagination even more, and visuals transform.
Sometimes, when an image comes to me, usually when it relates to more personal, intimate feelings, I write it down. Then it turns into a poem somehow. Writing a poem is like a conversation with myself; I usually write between the time of making artworks. So the poetry and the art are in fact speaking to each other, maybe not consciously. General speaking, the words and visuals that I create are reflecting the same interest and concern in humanity and condition of the human psyche.
What Hong Kong or international artists have inspired you the most?
One of the artists I always go back to is Bill Evans, the legendary American jazz pianist. Evans thought the whole process of learning to play jazz was to take these problems from the outer level in, one by one, and to stay with it at a very intense, conscious-concentration level until that process became secondary and subconscious. This I find very much similar to the approach I am taking in making art, though I don’t play any music.
Also, Andrei Tarkovsky is a master of visuals making. His wisdom and insights in visual creativity inspire me. I am heavily interested in aesthetic philosophy, and his works offer me something truly unique.
The Awakening, Charbon Art Space, 8/F, 44 Wong Chuk Hang Road, Aberdeen, Hong Kong, p. 6906 2330, 黃竹坑道44號8樓