A picture paints a thousand words. While the artworks for the Pursuit of Happiness Art Exhibition have been hung up at theDesk since 15th December 2017, there’s still more to uncover as we continue to learn about how happiness is interpreted in the eyes of these six talented Hong Kong artists.
This Christmas weekend, many of us will be showered with gorgeously wrapped material goods and feasting over a big scrumptious spread. Yet, the spirit of Christmas is to spread love and joy to all. There are many in our society who are often ostracised because of their identity. Local artist and arts educator Hernoke Amon is using her passion for Greek mythology and her artistic talent to depict bigger issues in society today, and give a voice for the underrepresented.
Tell us more about how you got to where you’re at as an artist.
I started art since I was nine years old under the tutelage of prominent local painter Eric Ng. I got to participate in several art contests and group exhibitions, and by 19 I had my own pop-art solo exhibition called “Words Fail, Art Speaks”.
To broaden my understanding of the world, I decided to take up communication studies at Hong Kong Baptist University. It taught me how media can influence thoughts and has definitely helped me improve the way I express the message behind my artworks to the general audience.
In addition, I also took up a Certificate in Childhood Visual Art Education as I had a passion to teach the younger generation to learn and appreciate art.
Both your artistic moniker and many of your portrait works are influenced by Greek mythology. Why is that so?
I have been obsessed with Greek mythology since I was a child, yet I can’t seem to pinpoint exactly how it all began! Most of my artworks feature mythological figures. Art is a powerful medium to give a voice to the suppressed and I find empowerment through my favourite Greek god Hermes.
While many people recognise the name as the French high fashion brand, Hermes is actually known as the messenger of the gods. I hope to emulate his spirit in modern times with acquiring knowledge of media and communications to use my artwork to spread meaningful messages.
As for my interest in painting portraits of Greek mythological figures, I was fascinated by human proportions as displayed by prominent Greek sculptures and mythological paintings found in galleries worldwide.
Moreover, the dreamy and vibrant colours of the mythological world is a whole other fantasy that can’t be translated when drawing a landscape or normal still life. These colour palettes also allow an avenue for the desire to dream, as too many people are caught up in their busy life being money driven.
As someone who has been in the arts scene for quite some time, what are your thoughts on the support for local artists?
As a Hong Kong-based artist, I honestly don’t think we are getting enough support, be it commercially or just recognition from the general public. Sadly, we as artists deal with unnecessary differential treatment as compared to foreign artists.
I have exhibited artworks of partial nudity, and they have been frowned upon or mocked by locals. Yet, opinions change when I surveyed strangers regarding their thoughts on naked sculptures by foreign artists.
I hope the government and private entities can divert their resources from the big international art fairs towards supporting local artists.
Be inspired: Pursuit of Happiness: Up and coming artist Sharu Sikdar
The other artists we’ve interviewed emphasize the importance of improved education on the arts. As an arts educator, how are you trying to influence children to better appreciate art?
There are many “tiger parents” in Hong Kong who are persistent in the textbook way of teaching. Thus children are conditioned to follow model answers.
Apart from practising the techniques, I always encourage my students to apply critical thinking and develop ideas into their art. I don’t glorify students who sketch well but aren’t able to conceptualise or interpret meaning in their work.
I also teach my students to learn to embrace diversity and the human body in its rawest form. Eventually, I hope they not only learn to appreciate fine arts but also grow to be openminded and respectful to others.
You’ve participated Tree of Life’s charity outreach prior to the exhibition. Can you share more about your experience?
Eugene from Geneyclee Gallery (a co-organiser of the exhibition) reached out to me for this collaboration. I quickly jumped onboard as it was a great opportunity for me to learn up close how charity drives are organised. Through the charity centre Tree of Life, I got to participate in several activities such as clothes donation, fellowship and the dinner banquet.
It’s heartening to know such a transparent charity organisation exist where we directly act upon improving the lives of the less fortunate, instead of just donating money. At one of the dinners where we prepared homecooked food was prepared for the beneficiaries who were homeless or drug addicts, I personally got to speak to these people and learn about their stories.
Be inspired: Pursuit of Happiness: Hong Kong artist Adwin Yau
It has taught me to see people in a new light and not simply stigmatise them because of their mistakes. We are all sinners after all. Moreover, the definition “unfortunate” is relative. Though they have hardships, many of these beneficiaries are jovial people.
What other ways do you see yourself using art to help others in future?
I feel strongly about giving a voice for the underrepresented, such as the non-heterosexual communities. I am in the midst of preparing for a solo exhibition in March of next year that is themed around sex education.
Schools lack in teaching holistic views of sex education as they still treat it as a taboo topic. Collaborating with others who specialise in sex education, I hope to use art as a medium to better educate the public and hope society learns to equalise acceptance.
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Tell us more about the motivation behind your commissioned work for exhibition.
My commissioned piece was inspired by a conversation I had with someone I met at Tree of Life. This person so happened to help former sex workers, many of whom were forced into the industry, find proper jobs.
In my painting, there is a naked woman lying on a bed of ocean. If you look closely, the ocean is a mixed media comprising of paint and physical items such as tabloid newspaper and condom packages. The ocean symbolises washing away one’s negative past; the individual floats weightlessly above the water as her burdens are being washed away.
Exhibiting alongside with my commissioned work is an older painting of similar theme, called PTBF (part-time boyfriend) of Gods. The artwork depicts one of Hong Kong’s prominent hotels in the background, whereas the gods tower over the weak.
I wanted to convey how people of power abuse their position and often not held accountable for their actions. Many of times, their abuse are often swept under the rug similar to many illegal sex trades that happen in hotels.
Meet our neighbours: Pursuit of Happiness: Hong Kong artist Anthony Choy
What: The Pursuit of Happiness Art Exhibition
Where: theDesk, G/F Queen’s Road West, Sai Ying Pun
When: Until 15th February 2018 | Monday – Friday, 9 am – 6 pm
Transport: HKU Station, Island Line, Exit B2
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