Color & Identity: Portraits by Hopare, Lita Cabellut, JM Robert, Gian Piero Gasparini, Iqi Qoror & Douglas Coupland

Hopare; Untitled (ink, spray paint and acyrlic on canvas); Art Central 2017 (Avenue des Arts)

The artwork on this page features fascinating and colorful large-scale portraits by five artists. Each artist uses his or her own special techniques and materials to explore themes of identity (To view any of the photos at a higher resolution, click on the image).

1. Lita Cabellut

Coral Flowers 05 (detail view)

Lita Cabellut, a Spanish artist of Romani ancestry, specializes in large-scale portraits (though she is involved in a wide range of creative endeavors such as photography, poetry and video). In her portraits, she strives to obtain a realistic, almost luminous skin tone via the use of carefully selected media and pigments.

In her coral series of portraits, the canvas is pockmarked with tiny holes, bringing to mind coral skeletons. In Coral Flowers 05 (shown above), the vibrantly colored explosion of hair is like the living coral covering the surface of the reef. In a coral reef, the living coral organisms are anchored to the framework of the reef, a framework built of coral skeletons. Similarly, for humans, we live for ourselves but are still anchored to the culture, heritage and genes of our ancestors. We live in a present built upon the framework of the past.

Lita Cabellut; Coral Flowers 05 (mixed media on canvas); Art Central (Opera Gallery)

Video: How Lita Cabellut grew from street child to an internationally renowned artist (by the Economist)

Mini-bio: Spanish Artist Lita Cabellut was born in 1961 in Sariñena, a village in Aragon. Left in the care of her grandmother, she had a rough and tumble childhood on the streets of Barcelona. When she was 12, she was adopted by a Catalan family. As a teen, she developed an interest in art after seeing the paintings of Goya, Velázquez, Ribera and Rembrandt in the Prado Museum. She later studied at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam before becoming a full-time artist.

2. Hopare

Hopare; Untitled (ink, spray paint and acyrlic on canvas); Art Central (Avenue des Arts)

The human face is a favorite subject of Hopare, a Paris-based street artist. Rather than going for a strictly realistic style, Hopare uses bold colors to evoke emotions and moods and superimposes geometric lines and curves on the faces. In the untitled painting shown here, the bold black lines and curves bring out the natural geometry of the subject’s facial structure and are also reminiscent of Maori tattoos (known as moko), which represent the identity and history of the wearer.

Hopare came to Hong Kong to participate in a street art event hosted by HK Walls in 2015 and created the piece shown below.

Street art by Hopare (HK Walls 2015: Sheung Wan, Hong Kong)
Street art by Hopare (HK Walls 2015: Sheung Wan, Hong Kong)

Mini-bio: Street artist Alexandre Monteiro (aka Hopare) was born in 1989 in Limours, France to Portuguese parents. When he was 12 year old, he discovered street art after noticing the graffiti-covered walls of a factory. He soon started doing his own graffiti, and this interest was encouraged by his art teacher in junior high school, who just happened to be a well-known street artist known as Shaka. Hopare later worked in an interior design firm before becoming a full-time artist.

Video: Live Painting Hopare & Live Music

3. JM Robert

JM Robert; She Looked Away (2018: Ink, acrylic & spray); Affordable Art Fair (Gallery: Art Supermarket)

In these three portraits, Jean-Maxime Robert overlays stencilled and sketched female faces on vibrant graffiti-inspired abstract splashes of color. He is interested in evoking not only the visual flair of street art, but also the building surfaces on which such works are painted. He states:

The damaged walls of the houses and buildings fascinate me. I always feel the thrill in front of deteriorated and degraded walls—this is my main source of inspiration. In my paintings, I try to develop the my own aesthetic design of ruins. I want my paintings to speak a contemporary language that reflects the history and and story of our cities.

Exhibition notes from Art Supermarket
JM Robert; She Looked Away & The Woman with the Earring (2018: Ink, acrylic & spray); Affordable Art Fair (Gallery: Art Supermarket)

JM Robert’s painting process involves:

  • The surface of the canvas is scratched and scraped to give it a texture more akin to a degraded concrete wall.
  • The colorful abstract background is painted on the canvas.
  • The face is hand-drawn in black on top of the background. Only the outline of the face, the hair and a few shadows are added. This style mimics the look of stenciled graffiti and also gives the portrait a transient, ghostly feel as if the image of the face is just a faint memory.
JM Robert; Sans Artifices (2018: Spray, ink & acrylic); Affordable Art Fair (Gallery: Art Supermarket)

Mini-bio: French artist JM Robert was born in Macon, Burgundy in 1987. He was interested in painting at a very young age and studied art and decoration at the Beaux-Arts School in Paris and graphic design and décor at the Métiers d’Art in Paris.

4. Gian Piero Gasparini

Gian Piero Gasparini; Guen (cotton on wood); Affordable Art Fair Central (Palma Arte)

Italian artist Gian Piero Gasparini frequently works with mosaics of painted cloth. Gasparini is fascinated with the relationship between personality and outward appearance and the way the two react to form one’s identify. His use of mosaic reflects this preoccupation. Our identity is composed of different personality traits and of different physical characteristics (e.g., skin color, hair color, facial structure, etc.). Like pieces in a mosaic, these traits and characteristics bear no meaning when viewed in isolation, but when stitched together they combine to form the fabric of one’s identity.

Gian Piero Gasparini; Anna (cotton on wood); Affordable Art Fair Central (Palma Arte)
Anna (detail view)

Mini-bio: Italian artist Gian Piero Gasparini was born in Milan in 1969. He studied Illustration Techniques at the Istituto Marangoni in Milan. Early in his career, his style was mainly hyperrealist and he worked with architectural and design firms to produce large-scale air-brush murals. He started working as an independent artist in 2004.

5. Douglas Coupland

Supersonic Mustang Pizza Pop Head (2010, acrylic and epoxy on pigment print); Exhibition: everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything (2014) at the Vancouver Art Gallery

Canadian author and artist Douglas Coupland often works with mixed media installations, but has also created this Pop Head series. The photo prints are done in the style of high school year book photos, but the subject’s faces have been covered by brightly colored paint. The paint serves two purposes:

  • It masks the subject’s face, making him/her anonymous, thus allowing the subjects to represent any and every teenager.
  • It reflects the messiness and dynamism of each subject’s still-evolving developing identity.
Douglas Coupland; Brilliant Information Overload Pop Head & Electric Laser Goo Pop Head (2010, acrylic and epoxy on pigment print); Exhibition: everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything (2014) at the Vancouver Art Gallery
Liquid Video Game Pop Head & Supersonic Mustang Pizza Pop Head (2010, acrylic and epoxy on pigment print); Exhibition: everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything (2014) at the Vancouver Art Gallery
Douglas Coupland; Liquid Video Game Pop Head (2010, acrylic and epoxy on pigment print); Exhibition: everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything (2014) at the Vancouver Art Gallery

Mini-bio: Canadian writer and artist Douglas Coupland was born at Royal Canadian Air Force Base Baden-Söllingen, West Germany in 1961. He grew up in West Vancouver and briefly studied Physics at McGill University in Montreal before returning to Vancouver to study art. He studied at Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver, the European Design Institute in Milan and the Hokkaido College of Art & Design in Sapporo. He began his career as a designer in Japan, but after returning to North America, he wrote the book which launched his literary career: Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. During the 1990s, he focused on his writing career, but started working on visual arts projects again in 2000.

6. Iqi Qoror

Iqi Qoror; Study of Focus (2017: Charcoal, acrylic & wool on canvas); Affordable Art Fair (ArtFront Collective)

The above self-portrait by Indonesian artist Iqi Qoror is similar to the Douglas Coupland’s Pop Head series paintings in that the face of the subject has been completely masked with a brightly-colored abstract pattern. The are several differences, however. In Iqi Qoror’s painting:

  • The subject in the painting is the artist himself.
  • The abstract pattern is created from wool (rather than the the dripping paint of Coupland’s portraits).
  • The background is not as plain and contains shadows and props.
  • There is a much starker contrast between the rest of the painting (with its dull and dark blues and grays) and the vividly-colored mask.

The last difference seems important. Besides hiding the artist’s identity, the wool ‘mask’ can represent the role of art and the imagination in adding color to a mundane existence.

Mini-bio: Indonesian artist Iqi Qoror was born in in 1984 Yogyakarta). He studied November Industrial Design at the Institute Of Technology (ITS) in Surabaya After graduating he began his professional career as a visual artist. To further develop his skills, he studies Fine Art at the Indonesia Institute of The Arts in Yogyakarta.


Go Further

This section includes discussion questions, an art challenge and links to online photo galleries and websites.

Artist Websites

  1. Lita Cabellut (artist’s website): www.litacabellut.com
  2. Hopare (artist’s website): www.hopare.com
  3. JM Robert (artist’s website): jm-robert.com
  4. Gian Piero Gasparini (artist’s website): gianpierogasparini.com
  5. Douglas Coupland (artist’s website): www.coupland.com
  6. Iqi Qoror (artist’s page at the Art Front Gallery site): artfront.com.sg/iqi-qoror-page/

Galleries

Higher resolution images (e.g. 2048 x 1365) can be viewed online at:

Six Questions

Each of the artists added something extra to the model—a coral hairdo, geometric lines, translucent circles, so the three questions this time are related to the effect that this has in each painting.

  1. How would you interpret the huge coral hairdo in Lita Cabellut’s painting?
  2. How would you interpret the black geometric markings in Hopare’s painting?
  3. How would you interpret the vivid, abstract splashes of color in JM Robert’s portraits?
  4. How would you interpret the translucent circles in Gian Piero Gasparini’s painting?
  5. In Douglas Coupland’s Pop Head series, how would you interpret the ‘dripping’ appearance of the paint?
  6. In Iqi Qoror’s painting, how would you interpret the colorful wool ‘mask’? Why do you think the artist used wool instead of paint?

Art Challenge

Draw or paint a protrait and add something colorful to the model’s hair or face. Explain what you added and why.


~ text and photos by longzijun

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Beauty: Portraits by Yu Kawashima, Nugroho Wijayatmo, Zhang Xiangming, Li Guijun, Phuong Quoc Tri & Kwok Wan-hei

Fantasise (2016, detail view) by Nugroho Wijayatmo
Nugroho Wijayatmo; Fantasise – detail view (2016, acrylic on canvas); Affordable Art Fair 2016 (Affinity for Art)

The paintings on this page, created by artists from Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Hong Kong, exemplify different ways of expressing female beauty. Many of the paintings tie tradition—whether it is in the use of traditional materials and techniques, depictions of traditional hair styles and clothing or references to traditional ways of representing women in art—to more modern sensibilities.

Yu Kawashima (川島優展), Japan

Déjà Vu by Yu Kawashima
Yu Kawashima; Déjà Vu (mixed media on paper); Art Central 2016 (Whitestone Gallery)

With their large eyes, light irises, pale complexion, delicate features, thin eyebrows, wavy hair and long bangs, the twins in Yu Kawashima’s Deja Vu present an ethereal, modern and highly stylized version of beauty. Their dainty beauty is well-suited to the artist’s ‘soft’ painting style. Yu Kawashima’s artwork extends from Nihonga—Japanese painting using traditional conventions, techniques and materials (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nihonga)—but embraces the more modern style of his subjects. He uses ink and traditional pigments on Japanese paper (View the artist’s page at Whitestone Gallery: whitestone.hk/artists/d/?id=23).

Déjà Vu (detail view) by Yu Kawashima
Déjà Vu (detail view)
Yu Kawashima; Fragment Box 120-A (mixed media on paper); Art Central 2017 (Whitestone Gallery)
Fragment Box 120-A (detail view)
Shout, painting by Yu Kawashima (ink, mineral pignment and silver foil on hemp paper), 2019, Whitestone Gallery (Art Central 2019)
Shout (detail view)

Nugroho Wijayatmo, Indonesia

Oriental No. 8 (2015) by Nugroho Wijayatmo
Nugroho Wijayatmo; Oriental No. 8 (2016, acrylic on canvas); Affordable Art Fair 2016 (Affinity for Art)

The women in these two portraits by Nugroho Wijayama have a contemporary high-fashion look, as if they had just stepped out of the pages of a glossy magazine. Overlaid over the portraits are gold outlines of women as they were depicted in Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints—full faces, tiny features and elaborate hairstyles full of pins and combs (You can read the article The Representation of Women in Edo Period Nikuhitsu Ukiyo-e Paintings for more information and examples). The modern women in Nugroho Wijayama’s acrylic on canvas paintings— with their casual hairstyles and bare shoulders—certainly appear less constrained than their Edo-era counterparts, but women nowadays still face subtle pressure to meet what can be very selective standards of beauty (See the artist’s page at the Affinity for Art website: www.affinityforart.com/wijayatmo-nugroho).

Fantasise (2016) by Nugroho Wijayatmo
Nugroho Wijayatmo; Fantasise (2016, acrylic on canvas); Affordable Art Fair 2016 (Affinity for Art)

Li Guijin (李貴君), China

Li Gui Jun; Like This (2017, oil on canvas); Art Central 2017 (Line Art)

Beijing-based artist Li Guijin specializes in painting adolescent girls, idealistically focusing on the purity and simplicity of this transitional period between childhood and adulthood. The girls in his painting are relaxed and elegantly posed and and appear to living in a kind of self-contained dreamlike world, untroubled by the harsh realities of the world. In his paintings, Li focuses on composition and technique and pays a great deal of attention to skin tones, using “a finely rendered mix of brown, red, blue, green, turquoise blue and white tones inspired by the artist Rembrandt” (See the artist’s page at Schoeni Art Gallery www.schoeniartgallery.com/artists/65-li-guijun/overview).

Li Gui Jun; Rain Alley (2017, oil on canvas); Art Central 2017 (Line Art)
Rain Alley (detail view)
Li Gui Jun; Perhaps Love (2018, 0il on canvas); Art Central 2018 (Line Art)

Zhang Xiangming (張向明), China

Beijing Girl 2016 No. 1 by Zhang Xiangming
Zhang Xiangming; Beijing Girl 2016 No. 1 (oil on canvas); Affordable Art Fair 2016 (Soemo Fine Arts)

The subjects in these two oil paintings have a very ambiguous kind of beauty. Are they girls, teens or young women? In the oil on canvas painting above, is the purplish area around one eye a hint of a bruise or simply the result of inexpertly applied makeup? There is a kind of strength and resolve in the subjects’ expressions, but also a kind of vulnerability and innocence (See the artist’s page at the Soemo Fine Arts website: www.soemo-fine-arts.com/artist?id=866).

Beijing Girl 2015-09-02 by Zhang Xiangming
Zhang Xiangming; Beijing Girl 2015-09-02 (oil on canvas); Affordable Art Fair 2016 (Soemo Fine Arts)

Phuong Quoc Tri, Vietnam

Portrait by Phuong Quoc Tri
Phuong Quoc Tri; Portrait (oil on canvas); Affordable Art Fair 2016 (ArtBlue Studio)

Self-taught Vietnamese artist Phoung Quoc Tri focuses on figurative painting with women being a favorite subject. His portraits tend to have a soft and warm feel and the women in his paintings often appear to be in a wistful, reflective mood (See the artist’s page at ArtBlue Studio: artbluestudio.com/phuong-quoc-tri).

Portrait by Phuong Quoc Tri
Phuong Quoc Tri; Portrait (oil on canvas); Affordable Art Fair 2016 (ArtBlue Studio)

Kwok Wan-hei, Hong Hong

Insularity by Kwok Wan-hei, Klio
Kwok Wan-hei, Klio; Insularity (2015, acrylic on canvas); CUHK Wi1 Wang4 Wang4 exhibition, Hong Kong 2015)

Kwok Wan-hei’s painting, Insularity, was shown at an exhibition of Bachelor of Fine Arts graduates from the Chinese University of Hong Kong (Featured in the article Where do the New Batch of CUHK Fine Arts Graduates from here?). A main theme of the work is the coexistence of loneliness and sociability.

Insularity (detail view) by Kwok Wan-hei, Klio
Insularity (detail view)

Interestingly, she portrays the young women using a style that seems to be a cross between her subjects’ modern sensibilities and the Edo-era Japanese way of depicting women that was also referenced in Nugroho Wijayatmo’s paintings—with full white faces (but not quite so full, not quite so white), tiny red lips (but not quite so tiny, not quite so red), calm expressions, and small (but not quite so small) eyes.


Conclusion

In the portraits by these five artists, there is a sense of tradition and an emphasis on femininity, but the subjects in the paintings also embody elements of modernity. The portraits present a form of beauty that is delicate yet strong, a beauty that looks gently back to the past yet confidently embraces the present.


Go Further

This section includes discussion questions, an art challenge and links to online photo galleries.

Galleries

Higher resolution images (e.g. 2048 x 1365) can be viewed online at:

Three Questions

  1. Which of the paintings on the page do you like best? Why?
  2. To what extent do the paintings on this page reinforce gender stereotypes? To what extent to they challenge stereotypes?
  3. Is female beauty emphasized in art to the same degree it is in the mass media?

Art Challenge

Draw or paint a portrait that captures what your idea of beauty is.


~ text and photos by longzijun

artjouer

Return to Artjouer’s Gallery of Artists

The Other Side of Innocence: Paintings by Chisato Tanaka, Mayuka Yamamoto & Duan Jianwei

What Remains at the End of the World (detail view) by Chisato Tanaka
Artist: Chisato Tanaka; Title: What Remains at the End of the World (detail view); Oil and acrylic on canvas; Art Central (Kobayashi Gallery)

Looking back, adults tend to view childhood as a time of joy and innocence, and we can forget that it can also be a time of uncertainty, doubt, fear and vulnerability. The artwork on this page captures this ambivalent nature of childhood.

Mayuka Yamamoto (山本麻友香)

Monster Hand (2013) by Mayuka Yamamoto;
Mayuka Yamamoto; Monster Hand 2013; Oil on canvas; Affordable Art Fair HK 2016 (Art Projects Gallery)

Japanese artist Mayuka Yamamoto often paints portraits of young boys with calm, serious and emotionally ambiguous expressions. In many of her paintings, the boys wear animal costumes or sport animal features such as antlers or rabbit ears. In Monster Hand, a small and thin boy, dressed in red shorts and a pale blue flowery tank top, sports a reptilian arm. It is not clear whether this monster arm is a costume or his actual arm. Is he merely playing make-believe, pretending to have a power that belies his tender appearance, or is the danger and wildness represented by the monster arm an inherent and irremovable part of him? You can see more of Mayuka Yamamoto’s work at the website Widewalls.
 

Chisato Tanaka (田中千智, たなかちさと)

Lying Child (2015) by Chisato Tanaka
Chisato Tanaka; Lying Child (2015); Oil and acrylic on canvas; Art Central 2016 (Kobayashi Gallery)
Lying Child (2015) by Chisato Tanaka
Lying Child (detail view)

Chisato Tanaka’s paintings also feature children with serious and emotionally ambiguous expressions. In her painting Lying Child, a lone adolescent girl glances sideways as she trudges across a barren landscape of white snow and black sky. The child’s gender is ambiguous, but looks to be female. She wears, or is covered by, a grinning white wolf. With her red boots and colorful sweater and with the wolf atop her head, she looks like something out of a fairy tale. Her figure is slight and she slouches as she walks, perhaps burdened by the weight of the wolf. The wolf can represent the lie of the title—a kind of mask worn to trick others. A lie (even to oneself) can be a form of protection, but at the same time it can be a burden.

The dark sky and white ground are characteristic of Chisato Tanaka’s work. In her artist’s statement (now offline) she writes:

Earth is shrouded by space, night is shrouded in darkness. My works are always shrouded in blackness, yet they are not just expressions of the night, but express the state of mind and the circumstances of what is painted. I weave my tales with the kinds of images you find in storybooks, of landscapes, places and other people that we all share memories with, and whom every one of us has memories of…. I reclaim the images, approaching those objects from memory, and draw near to them that way. I am always conscious of the presence of people in whatever landscape I am in. The white earth, the black sky, and the horizon that is the boundary between earth and sky going on and on and on. You can find light in the darkness that you wouldn’t see during the brightness of the day. Ideas and stories keep on being born while people go on to die. Darkness and light are symbols of death and life, endings and beginnings, the various backdrops against which people live their lives, and the thereon after.

What Remains at the End of the World by Chisato Tanaka
Chisato Tanaka; What Remains at the End of the World (2016); Oil and acrylic on canvas; Art Central (Kobayashi Gallery)
What Remains at the End of the World (detail view) by Chisato Tanaka
What Remains at the End of the World (detail view)

Video
The following video shows Chisato Tanaka at work in her studio:

Artist’s Website
You can find out more about this artist at her website (mainly in Japanese): www.tanakachisato.com

More work by Chisato Tanak

More Artwork by Chisato Tanaka
I came across more of the artist’s work recently. The painting Journey of Memory is especially beautiful. You can see the photos on this page: artjouer.wordpress.com/artists/chisato-tanaka/
 

Duan Jianwei (段建伟)

Young Person (2014) by Duan Jianwei;
Duan Jianwei; Young Person (2014); Oil on canvas; Art Basel Hong Kong 2016 (Gallery: Hive Center for Contemporary Art)

In the painting Young Person, a young boy with a solemn expression holds his wrist while staring at something out of the frame. Like Chisato Tanako, Chinese artist Duan Jianwei tends to strip away any detail from the background, drawing the viewer’s attention the the central figure of the painting. It appears that the boy is nursing his wrist, perhaps because he has fallen or perhaps because he has been pulled. As no other visual information is given, it is not clear exactly what is happening. As in the other paintings shown on this page so far, the subjects in Duan Jianwei’s paintings have ambiguous facial expressions—leaving it up to the viewer to consider what emotions the subjects might be feeling.

The Kid by Duan Jianwei;
Duan Jianwei; The Kid (2012); Oil on canvas; Art Basel Hong Kong 2016 (Gallery: Platform China Contemporary Art Institute)

Let’s end the page with a slightly more upbeat painting. At least this girl holding a deep fried dough cake has a hint of a smile on her face.

Deep Fried Dough Cake (2014) by Duan Jianwei;
Duan Jianwei; Deep Fried Dough Cake (2014); Oil on canvas; Art Basel Hong Kong 2016 (Gallery: Hive Center for Contemporary Art)

Go Further

This section includes discussion questions, an art challenge and links to online photo galleries.

Galleries

Higher resolution images (e.g. 2048 x 1365) can be viewed online at:

Three Questions

  1. Which of the paintings on this page do you like best? Why?
  2. How would you interpret the painting entitled What Remains at the End of the World? What is going on in that scene? What is the overall effect of the painting?
  3. Most of the children on this page have very flat, almost emotionless expressions? What feeling does this give you.

Art Challenge

Draw, sketch or paint a picture representing the negative side of childhood innocence.


~ text and photos by longzijun

artjouer

Return to Artjouer’s Gallery of Artists