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Interview with Hong Kong's Emerging Artist, Elaine Chiu

Interview with Hong Kong's Emerging Artist, Elaine Chiu

Picture of Jianne Soriano
Updated: 23 February 2017
With 25 exhibitions, 17 awards, 11 projects/publications and nine art field experiences under her belt, University of Hong Kong fine arts degree major, Elaine Chiu, deserves the title ‘Hong Kong’s Emerging Artist.’ Just this year, she will have her artworks exhibited in France, Italy and Bulgaria. With a style that combines urban sketching with a personal modern touch, Chiu paints Hong Kong in a delicate and inspiring style.
Talk a little about your background and what you’re doing now.
I’m currently studying towards a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts at the University of Hong Kong, where I study art history at school and make art during my leisure time. I use watercolor as my primary media in painting. The airy and fluidic traits of the material and its unpredictable outcome produces countless emotions. It fits well with my goal— to express myself through my art where the process is always free and personal. I became serious in my art career only after I got into the university. I started with a style called ‘urban sketching’ where sketchers have to be truthful to what they see and have to always draw in location.
My sketches soon got people’s attention, and I started to shift my mode of creation to a more inward, self-expressive language. ‘Art is self discovery’—this definition of art by Jackson Pollock is the one that would most accurately describe me as I went further with my art. During these two years that I stepped into the art field, I’ve grown quickly. It’s all thanks to the various people around me who are willing to give me a lot of opportunities to exhibit, demonstrate and be interviewed. Being labeled as ‘Hong Kong’s Emerging Artist’ bears quite a lot of responsibility and affects the direction of my art. The relationship between our ‘hometown’ and us, and the emotions stirred up by the environment that I’m living in are some of the major concerns I wish to tackle through my landscapes and cityscapes of Hong Kong.
Elaine with her art work at the Asia Contemporary Art Show.
When did you first start doing what you do? Is there any story behind it? How did you discover this talent?
I couldn’t remember the story of when I ‘first started’ well. But I think it was the moment when my mum first gave me a crayon, probably when I was two or three. My mum was my very first teacher and enlightener in art. People always said that when I was a kid, I must gotten the talent from my mother as she was a painter too. I just became immersed in drawing since then. I felt excited during art classes in my kindergarten, and painting has become an inseparable part of my life.
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One of Elaine’s art works, Against the Crowd

Tell us how it was like when you were first starting.
It was doodling around, drawing nonsense pattern, creating unknown types of flowers on notebooks, papers and everywhere in my home back then. The first experience of encountering art was so free, so spontaneous and beautiful in my memory. I didn’t know what art was, I only knew I felt relieved, peaceful and complete when I painted.
What are some of your notable achievements? 
The International Children’s Painting Competition (ICPC) that I joined a few years ago was the competition that made me want to ‘win’ with my art. That was a week-long on-site painting competition in Hong Kong. Young painters gathered at some famous spots in Hong Kong everyday and painted on location. Winners were announced right after the painting session everyday. Although I didn’t win then, that time was when ‘art’ become my aggression instead of merely my remedy or partner. The challenge I faced at the time was my first exposure to the public because I had to deal with others’ comments on my art. I felt quite frustrated that I have to alter my style of painting to suit the jury’s ‘taste’ and to get others’ recognition. However, after getting more and more experienced, such as exhibiting in the Asia Contemporary Art Show and Affordable Art Fair and in some overseas watercolor festivals, I have adapted to the viewing of the ‘public’, and I am more comfortable in talking about myself, my style, and my own source of inspiration.
What is the style that you go with? What is the inspiration and vision behind your style?
I don’t want to have one single ‘style’ in terms of just the visual elements. I never wanted a style to burden or limit my creation. However, I aim for a path toward the total discovery of myself. The art history classes from my school provided me with a lot of perspectives in looking at art, from the classic to the contemporary. The definition of art itself is always changing. If I have to pick one movement from history that fits with my notion, I think that would be Expressionism, particularly the Abstract Expressionist art that was created after World War II. I especially like how these artists sourced their inspirations from and within themselves. This will be the beacon of my art life in the future.
What makes your art different from others?
I find inspiration within myself which is what makes my art uniquely my own. I’m a product under the age and the society I’m now living in. The hybrid of Eastern and Western culture in Hong Kong particularly shaped my unique worldview and how I place myself in the world. As a unique being that sees the world on my own terms, my art is different from other artists’ interpretations.
What are you doing now in relation to your art?
As a university student, I haven’t established a full career on becoming a full-time artist yet, but I’m learning and working towards my goals. Although the Fine Arts courses in University of Hong Kong don’t teach us practical art and drawing skills, the history and theories of art inspire me a lot. Seeing how the masters slowly developed their vocabulary in art is very insightful and interesting.
Elaine with her mural painting.

Elaine with her mural painting.

Have you ever seen your own work being exhibited? If so, how did it feel? If not, do you have any plans to?

Yes, my works were exhibited in Fabriano, Italy this April, and they are going to be exhibited in France and Bulgaria this August. I am really excited and happy to share my works with foreign people. Exposure is important for all artists.
Have you done anything interesting with regards to your art?

I have received commissions from Watsons. I painted their anniversary water bottles, and I also painted the walls of some local cafés. If I have to choose the most ‘fun’ one, then the experience in Italy was probably the most unforgettable and most enjoyable memory in my art life. Since I have my work being exhibited there, I got the chance to go to Italy for an artist’s watercolor festival. The cultural shocks, and the great artists I met there, marked a really important capstone in my life as an artist.

Any future plans and hopes for your career?
I think I will pursue a Master’s degree in studio art because I wish to have a more solid foundation in drawing techniques. I hope my art could be more representative and recognizable in Hong Kong or even other places in the future.
What’s your message or advice for aspiring artists?
As an aspiring artist, my road in the future is extremely foggy and shaky. The road to becoming a full-time artist could be all-in or nothing. In the very first stage, sometimes there are people who commission me to draw for their commercial products or projects with little respect to the artist’s creation and intellectual rights. They would usually use the ‘exposure’ that the product could bring in exchange for all the cost and time you spent. If I could bring a message to all the other aspiring artists, I want to say let’s stay together and stand against all the disrespectful use of our precious art pieces. We are the forces to raise the public awareness about copyrights, so let’s protect the value of art.