Hong Kong-based French artist Ophelia Jacarini has a chat with us about her change in direction and what she still loves about Hong Kong.
Is Hong Kong a “cultural desert”? Not in our books. In fact, Hong Kong is a special place that breeds many different kinds of artists, from photographers like Camilla Warburton, to pioneering forces like Lynus Woo, to rising NFT artists. Among these talents is Hong Kong-based French artist Ophelia Jacarini, whose artistic focus has evolved over the past several years, much like the landscape of our city. What has changed, and what is she holding onto – in both her art and in this city we call home?
Diving deep with Ophelia Jacarini
Hi, Ophelia! Having been born and raised in France, what’s led you to Hong Kong?
I went travelling across Asia to study traditional minority costumes back in 2014. The very moment I stepped out of the plane, I felt that there was something special about this continent. After a few months, I decided to stay in Asia, but I wasn’t sure where exactly it should be. I opened the map, closed my eyes, and just pointed to a random place on the map with my finger – it was Hong Kong! This city has since been my home for eight years and I’m now a proud permanent resident.
What do you find attractive about Hong Kong (still)?
When it comes to living in a certain city, one of the most important things for me is its convenience and accessibility. Because ideas tend to come to me when I’m on the go, I like to change my scene very quickly – and Hong Kong allows me to do exactly that. I can be in nature one minute, then in urban areas the next. Say, when I came up with the idea of Manifest Ephemeral, I was just passing by a fire station! Plus, we can also travel anywhere in the world with little trouble. I believe these are all privileges for us who live in Hong Kong.
While your older works revolved around the female nude and the subconscious, your recent pieces seem to take on a different path. What are your new sources of inspiration?
I’ve always been fascinated by movement, in relation to dance and nature. In my previous works, my intention was to arrest a moment through movement. I believe that the nude is the purest form of the human body, therefore the movement performed by a nude would be the purest as well.
Recently, I’ve been concentrating more on abstracting the human body from the captured movement. In Manifest Ephemeral, I used a fabric as an extension of my body while I danced, and captured the path of motion of my performance through photography. Then, with the help of AI, I removed my body from the images in order to shift the focus towards the motion itself. In Hysteresis and Intraverse, digital sculptures just present the movement with no human body visible in the images. I aim to capture temporal motion and I’m constantly exploring new ways to witness the passing of time.
From acrylic on canvas to fabric to film, you’ve explored a wide range of media. Do you have a favourite?
Indeed, I’ve been working across a variety of media, producing photography, videos, hologram, embroidery, paintings, as well as interactive and immersive installations. I’m still in search for and experimenting with different ways to materialise time, space, motion, and evanescence. As such, I prefer not holding onto a medium, instead letting my process determine the outcome. My goals come with its own challenges, because what I’m trying to do, at the end of the day, is surfacing the invisible.
What made you shift towards making art with technology?
Pushing the boundaries of conventional techniques drove me to explore new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), hologram, neural network, computer vision, and motion capture. I see technology as a tool that allows me to extend my abilities and reach beyond what’s possible.
Back in 2021, I made a recording of my dance performance and used the latest technology to construct a digital sculpture. By leveraging a hologram device, I presented the digital sculpture in holographic form made of light beams. This was how I produced Hysteresis. Without these technologies, I wouldn’t be able to achieve the result I wanted.
What are your plans for 2023?
The last months of 2022 have been very interesting for me. After a long time, I finally had the chance to visit significant art hubs around the world. In September, I showcased Lightness of Being in CICA Museum in Seoul and in October, I had an exhibition named Légèreté de L’être in Kyoto for La Nuit Blanche 2022. Afterwards, I took some time visiting fairs and museums in Paris.
I have some new work coming out next year, though they are all in progress at the moment. I’m currently doing my research and exploring new techniques. A hint to my upcoming pieces? Movement in relation to natural ephemeral phenomena is the area that gets most of my attention these days!
Find out more about Ophelia Jacarini.