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Gifted artist Elaine Chiu: Exploring a Hong Kong identity

Elaine Chiu is one of Hong Kong’s most prominent emerging artists. With more than 25 exhibitions, many awards and projects, the artist is running a charity workshop and pop-up gallery at Hotel Jen in Sai Ying Pun.

Elaine met theDesk to talk about creating a local identity and traversing two cultures. And how she’s bringing these two conversations to life through her art.

Multiple perspectives

Having studied art history at Hong Kong University, Chiu’s vision of art has transformed from being ‘spontaneous and intimate as a child’ to becoming ‘quite complicated’ today.

“I’ve learned that different cultures see art differently,” she tells us. And it’s precisely this variety and complexity that she attempts to bring to her art.

Elaine feels that watercolours are not her ‘final destination’. In the future, she wants to combine ‘ink and oil painting’.

“Ink and oil are traditional mediums for East and West,” says Chiu, and she hopes to use the blending of media as a way to traverse awkward questions about her local identity.

“I feel an identity crisis as a Hongkonger, especially in recent years,” she tells us. “I always ask myself ‘Who am I?’, ‘What do I represent?’ ‘Is there a Hong Kong culture?’.”

These questions often recur in her mind, as they do in the minds of many other local youths. “I love Chinese literature,” she says. “It’s the language that I speak.”

Staying humble

Chiu acknowledges that ‘practical financial reasons’ make it difficult for people to become a full-time professional artist. But her true goal in art is not monetary. It’s spiritual, and a means of understanding the world.

“I want to give myself an answer to what art is and means,” she tells us. Many artists explore their reality through asking questions. What strikes you about Chiu’s self-questioning is how humble its origins are.

“Whatever the answer ends up being,” she says, “it has to come from the heart. It shouldn’t be a part of any ‘marketing trend’ that happens to be around. I have to be sincere.”

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All Image Copyright @ Elaine Chiu

Hong Kong, 2020

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