HONG KONG – There are few brands so closely associated with color as Christian Louboutin, so it might come as a surprise that when it came to finding an artist to collaborate with, Louboutin selected one who only ever works in black and white.
The unlikely pairing of the designer brand and Australian artist CJ Hendry is the fifth time Louboutin has collaborated with an artist for an exhibition during Art Basel Hong Kong. But, breaking her signature style, it is the artist’s debut in the world of color.
The exhibition, “Complimentary Colors,” opens March 21 at the Fringe Club featuring Hendry’s hyper-realistic and vivid drawings of oil paint blobs. The series spans a rainbow-like spectrum of colors and, of course, recreates the zealously protected shade of Christian Louboutin red. It has an interactive element too — viewers will have an opportunity to create their own works of art on the gallery’s blank white walls using molds of the Louboutin “So Kate” heel made of crayon wax.
“There is something I love in her work that is very playful and you can feel the artisanship,” Louboutin said. “Some artists now are quite industrial in their approach but in her work you almost find a patina, a handcraftsmanship in the way she uses colors. But it’s more our complete differences, which make it interesting – to have a point of view that is not like yours is nice. It is engaging and enriching.”
But why draw paint instead of actually using paint? Hendry explains she has a strong aversion to it.
“People think, ‘Oh, you can draw. It means you can do anything.’ But I have a weird case of OCD with paint being messy. It being on me and my body and my clothes freaks me out. It just frustrates me,” Hendry said. “Paint weirds me out. The fact that I’m drawing paint is a bit kitsch and funny. I can’t paint and I hate paint. I find it semi-repulsive.”
Introducing a full spectrum of colors brought its own challenges. The pieces take anywhere between a day or two for the smaller artworks up to four weeks for something large. A red paint splotch may look like a single solid color from an arm’s length away but to create that hyper-realistic effect, Hendry used “12 different colors from black to brown to white. It’s way harder than I thought.”
The artist’s path to the global spotlight was not a traditional one. Instead of art school, she first studied architecture and then finance. She gained a large following when she began posting her work on Instagram. Although she says arriving via the social media platform “has its tacky elements, it is what it is.”
She is especially excited to visit Hong Kong to open the exhibition, as it will be her first time in the city, and to be in a market where there is the strongest demand for her art.
“Sightsee, satellite shows, everything! I’m only there for a week,” Hendry said. “We’re going to jam-pack our days. Eighty percent of my buyers and clientele are from Hong Kong.
“The Asian clientele do enjoy the finesse of hyper-realism very generally speaking. They don’t often go for the kind of quick art, the messy. They go for something more skill-based and my art is completely skill-based.”
As for her own approach to fashion, it tends to be quite minimal and tomboy-like, Hendry said. She credits a stint working as a shop assistant for Chanel for helping her gain an understanding of luxury products, but most often she’s found in white T-shirts and jeans paired with a statement shoe or bag.
“I wear a lot of high-top sneakers,” Hendry said. “The Louboutin men’s high-top sneakers, I love them to death. If I had to choose between the men’s and women’s sneakers, I’d choose the men’s. I also have five piercings in one ear and getting more.”