Photographer David LaChapelle in Hong Kong: Asian art scene buzzing while New York’s stagnates

HONG KONG ART EXHIBITIONS CONTEMPORARY PHOTOGRAPHY

Renowned American photographer David LaChapelle has made his Hong Kong debut, which was aimed to coincide with ART HK 11. deSarthe Fine Art, the exclusive representative of the artist in Asia, opened their doors to the public to present “The Raft”, the first solo exhibition of the artist’s work in the city.

In a press conference held on 25 May 2011 to mark the unveiling of “The Raft, American photographer David LaChapelle revealed what inspired this exhibition, his artistic practices and his impressions of Asia. Art Radar was at the conference, so read on to find out what makes the artist tick.

Click here to read more about David LaChapelle’s first Hong Kong solo exhibition, “The Raft”, on the artist’s website.

David LaChapelle, 'Big Boss', 2010, chromogenic print. © David LaChapelle. Image courtesy de Sarthe Fine Art.

David LaChapelle, 'Big Boss', 2010, chromogenic print. © David LaChapelle. Image courtesy de Sarthe Fine Art.

David LaChapelle on… inspiration for Bruce Lee series

Religion, philosophy and The Dao

I started reading The Dao, which then lead me to think about… doing pictures for China.


All religions to me have rivers that lead to the same ocean, in essence,… [and] they are fine as guides to living. You look at these guides because I think that it’s sometimes hard to navigate the world without heroes or without a guide, and that [guide] can come in many forms.

Bruce Lee, a global icon

The first Chinese hero or icon I met through television and art was Bruce Lee. I found it interesting that [although] he pre-dated globalisation,… he was [from] Hong Kong and [in] Hollywood. He was … this paradox.

To me, he became this hero figure and a figure that not only personified the East or the West but the whole world and thus, a treasure of the world.  He is someone who transcends their art form or their field to become pretty heroic.

The creative process

After I took the photographs [in China], the only thing that was retouched was  [Bruce Lee’s] face and the colour. There’s a grainy texture to give you that printed feel of a movie poster. I took the pixels and basically painted Bruce’s face by moving pixels [around], which is a painstaking, difficult process to do; you have to have a lot of patience, keep looking [at] and walking away from it … to try and get a likeness of Bruce Lee….

Photoshoot for 'The Game of Death'. Image courtesy de Sarthe Fine Art.

Photoshoot for 'The Game of Death'. Image courtesy de Sarthe Fine Art.

David LaChapelle with 'The Raft', exhibition opening, 24 May 2011, de Sarthe Fine Art. Image courtesy de Sarthe Fine Art.

David LaChapelle with 'The Raft', exhibition opening, 24 May 2011, de Sarthe Fine Art. Image courtesy de Sarthe Fine Art.

David LaChapelle on… ‘The Raft’ (title piece)

This piece is the second chapter, we started with ‘The Deluge’ and now it’s ‘The Raft’,… which is the rest of a vision verging towards the truth, in the sense we all go through storms in our life, and I’m just giving you my personal interpretation. Sometimes it creates turmoil, sometimes it’s [due to] circumstance, things that happen to us, dark times where storms through which we either drown and die or … rise above and make it to the shore and gain empathy or … enlightenment.

Medium

Here there is a more traditional idea of collage. I love collaging and I have since I was a child. With this collage I was able to use just my photographs and not appropriated images or images from magazines.

I will always do the more traditional photography of people, but I really love the handiwork and craftsmanship that goes into making collage and making installation pieces.

David LaChapelle, 'The Raft of Illusion, Raging Toward Truth II', 2010, mixed media collage on canvas. © David LaChapelle. Image courtesy de Sarthe Fine Art.

David LaChapelle, 'The Raft of Illusion, Raging Toward Truth II', 2010, mixed media collage on canvas. © David LaChapelle. Image courtesy de Sarthe Fine Art.

Staging the scene

This scene was actually staged on a raft and not in the water. We were going to [stage it in the water] but then [decided] it was just too risky.

There are so many people that I worked with: artists, scenics, set builders, make-up artists, stylists. It’s like a small film set and to hear that credited to a machine [the digital manipulation of an image] is not right, because people are the collaboration and without those people, I wouldn’t have the photos that I have. It is very important to me to have it run well. All these people were actually on the raft and we shot for two days in the sun on the rocks in Hawaii. It was an epic event with people in very uncomfortable positions. I can be really pushy to get the energy and drama [that is] necessary, so it was like making a film in a sense, [in] part … artifice, but also [with] this authenticity within an artifice.

David LaChapelle, 'The Deluge', 2006, chromogenic print. © David LaChapelle. Image courtesy de Sarthe Fine Art.

David LaChapelle, 'The Deluge', 2006, chromogenic print. © David LaChapelle. Image courtesy de Sarthe Fine Art.

David LaChapelle on… communicating with an audience

I’m always interested in broadening [my] audience…. I gain [an audience] through editorial work in magazines, which is a great way to reach lots of people, and bring them with me.

I think as an artist, no matter what you do with [your talent], [whether] you’re a writer or a singer or whatever art you might be making, I think that the audience is important.  If you have a voice, you don’t want to just sing in the shower, you want to share it with people.

For me, communication and clarity have always been important. I find that a lot of contemporary art leaves the majority of people out of the conversation and I always wanted to be more inclusive. I admire muralists: Keith Haring and Diego Rivera were muralists.  Murals were part of a narrative, a story, and I look to them for how I would like my work to be taken in [by an audience].

David LaChapelle, 'Studies and Sketches 3', 2008-2011, ink, watercolor and paper on cardboard. © David LaChapelle. Image courtesy de Sarthe Fine Art.

David LaChapelle, 'Studies and Sketches 3', 2008-2011, ink, watercolor and paper on cardboard. © David LaChapelle. Image courtesy de Sarthe Fine Art.

David LaChapelle on… ART HK 11

I find a lot of receptivity and interest and interesting art and all things [here in Hong Kong], with popular culture, with fashion.  It’s an exciting place in an exciting time to be exhibiting, so I feel really lucky to be represented well here.

David LaChapelle at Art Splash, ART HK 11. Image courtesy ART HK.

David LaChapelle at Art Splash, ART HK 11. Image courtesy ART HK.

Coming back from Asia, going to America, going to Europe, it feels almost sleepy when you get back. I don’t want to say ‘simple’, but there’s a certain enthusiasm [in Asia] that’s no longer in New York…. I find that spirit more in Bejing and more in places like Hong Kong than you would in New York City, where it seems like a dullness of, ‘Oh, I’ve seen it all, done it all.’

David LaChapelle on… art investment

[Buying art] is different from buying anything else if you buy art for the right reasons. If you love it, or if you have a personal attachment to it, there’s something beautiful about owning something that someone created and that you feel really speaks to you and [is] not just [bought] for investment.

David LaChapelle, "The Raft" exhibition at deSarthe Fine Art, 25 May to 1 July 2011. Image courtesy de Sarthe Fine Art.

David LaChapelle, "The Raft" exhibition at deSarthe Fine Art, 25 May to 1 July 2011. Image courtesy de Sarthe Fine Art.

David LaChapelle’s “The Raft” will be on show at deSarthe Fine Art in Hong Kong until 2 July.

CL/KN/HH

Art Radar was at ART HK 11, reporting from the ground. Click here to read our coverage of ART HK 11.

Related Topics: Hong Kong galleries, contemporary photography, American artists

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