There may be a millennium or two between the advent of ink painting and that of virtual reality technology, but California-born, Hong Kong-raised artist Chloe Ho marries the two in her upcoming exhibition. Doing the unexpected with traditional mediums is nothing new for the 30-year-old—in fact, it has become something of a signature. For example, a collection exhibited at the Forbes Galleries in New York contrasted ink with spray paint and coffee. “There is something mystical about ink,” says the 2016 Gen.T lister, whose work hangs in the homes of collectors around the world. “It is not simply a material—within it, it contains multitudes.”
Chloe’s plunge into new territory is titled Ascendence, a two-part exhibition that showcases both old and new works. At the Hong Kong Arts Centre from November 1 to November 5, it focuses on three realms—the universe, the human and nature—before moving to 3812 Gallery from November 15 to December 3 with a more intimate collection exploring themes of identity, human and nature, animal and machine.
Visitors are sure to be drawn to several new works created with technologies such as digital tilt brushing, virtual reality and an animation programme specially designed for the show. They will don virtual reality headgear to experience the ink creations in an immersive, 360-degree environment.
When I meet Chloe at her Aberdeen studio, her passion for the project is palpable. “My gallerist [Calvin Hui, curator of 3812 Gallery] introduced this idea of using virtual reality technologies to present ink art to me, and I’m curious to engage with this experiment,” she explains. “As an artist, I think there’s this ambivalence towards technology. I’m trying to figure out what purpose technology serves in creating dynamic, legitimate artworks. This will really test the boundaries of ink—if it can even be named that. What is ink art and what are the principles that govern it?”
Excited to demonstrate her work, Chloe dons a hefty virtual reality headset, connects a heartbeat tracker to synchronise her pulse with the art she’s about to create, and picks up two sensors. As soon as she begins to wave the sensors around—“They feel almost like wands”—colourful, textured streaks of neon paint suddenly come to life on the monitor. “There’s a sense of being in space, or underwater,” says Chloe of the process. “As a traditional two-dimensional painter, you’re trying to create the illusion of depth—well, the depth is there [in virtual reality]. It’s very exciting; it’s a lot like being a sculptor.”
Video: Kevin Cureau / Hong Kong Tatler
Chloe wants the exhibition to spark discussion about the boundaries of art—how technologies are redefining what is or isn’t considered acceptable art. “Art is changing and not static,” she says.
What’s next? “I may choose to use new technologies in the future. I’ll continue to find inspiration in other human beings, too. I think there’s such mystery in people. Or my two cats—I can watch them all day. Some of my work will be exhibited at the upcoming MGM Cotai, which is a huge show. There is a lot to be done, a lot more work to do."
Part I of Ascendence will be held at Hong Kong Art Centre from November 1 to 5, while Part II will run at 3812 Gallery from November 15 to December 3. For more information, visit 3812gallery.com
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