Installation view of KITTY CHOU’s “Countervision” at Ben Brown Fine Arts, Hong Kong, 2017. Courtesy Ben Brown Fine Arts.


Kitty Chou

Ben Brown Fine Arts
Hong Kong

The word “accident” best describes the life and the works of Kitty Chou. Born and raised in Hong Kong, Chou had initially never envisioned a career as an artist. She instead earned her first degree in business administration from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in the United States.

The artist was first exposed to the world of photography in her student years. During a visit to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Chou was drawn to an exhibition of the works of Henri Cartier-Bresson. Inspired by his ability to capture life’s ephemeral qualities, a skill that Cartier-Bresson described as harnessing “the decisive moment,” Chou embarked on a photographic journey soon after by buying her first camera—a Minolta analog model. Her goal was simple: to create images that were visually as well as emotionally evocative. Although equipped with neither prior artistic training nor education, Chou was determined in her path in photography, and began to take shots on the streets and of her friends.

KITTY CHOU, White, Red, Blue & Green #1, from the series “Reflections,” 2016, inkjet on hahnemühle photo rag paper, 114 × 153 cm. Courtesy the artist and Ben Brown Fine Arts, Hong Kong.

Left to right: KITTY CHOU’s Red, Green & Blue #1, Blue, Green & Beige #1 and Yellow, Green & Pink #1, all from the series “Reflections.” Courtesy the artist and Ben Brown Fine Arts, Hong Kong.

“Kitty Chou: Countervision” was the third solo exhibition of Chou to be held with Ben Brown Fine Arts, and was the second time the artist worked with the gallery’s Hong Kong space. “Countervision” presented two series of works: “Reflections” (2013–17)—first shown in the 2013 exhibition “It’s Just Water”—and “Color & Space” (2016), a new body of work that had previously never been shown in its entirety. The works were situated on opposite ends of the gallery, acting as counterparts, a curatorial decision from which the name “Countervision” was derived.

At first glance, the “Reflections” (2013–17) series baffled viewers with its surreal imagery, from which it was difficult to discern any subjects. The underlying motive of this series is to capture spontaneous interactions of different objects with elements such as water and metal, and the shots were taken in accordance with Chou’s subjective judgement of whether or not  she “like[s] how it looks” and her feelings of affinity with the image. During a brief talk with the artist at the opening of the exhibition, Chou told me that her fondness for 19th-century impressionist paintings was an inspiration for these works, which was reflected in the aesthetics of these images. The vibrant, abstract and kaleidoscopic surfaces could easily be mistaken as prototypical impressionist paintings when viewed from afar. For example, Blue, Aqua & Brown #1 (2016) has the watery feel of gliding waves that simulates quickly applied brush strokesan impressionist painting technique that accentuates the illusion of movement and spontaneity. This almost indistinguishable resemblance was acknowledged by Chou herself, suggesting that she wished to portray the natural, carefree and abstract creative process often present in painting. The novelty of these works, however, quickly wore off, and the images began to feel repetitive. Individually, they had little to say, and came across as mere photographic reproductions of masterpieces from a bygone era.

KITTY CHOU, White on White #1, from the series “Color & Space,” 2016, inkjet on hahnemühle photo rag paper, 65 × 86.5 cm. Courtesy the artist and Ben Brown Fine Arts, Hong Kong.

Turning to the other side of the gallery by the entrance, one saw Chou’s latest series of works, “Color & Space” (2016). Influenced by Modern art—most notably the geometric abstraction works of Ellsworth Kelly, these photographs feature mundane objects and interior structures which had been transformed by the effects of light and shadow into rigid and geometric forms, and splashed with subtle colorsThis is evident in White on White #1 (2016), which features a simple staircase covered in gentle gray with a stitch of white.  In this series, three-dimensional objects and structures are compressed to two-dimensional color patterns, suffusing the work with an abstract character. The blurriness of the photographs, according to Chou, conveys a picturesque quality akin to painting.

“Countervision” lived up to its title by displaying two bodies of work that share certain characteristics as well as notable differences. Photographs resembling paintings and unadulterated images remained a common theme throughout, interconnecting the two series that effectively complement each other. For Chou, her works are products of what she feels and sees, and the camera is a tool to capture fleeting moments and emotions. In this exhibition, the two mediums of photography and painting merge, drawn together by the artist’s instinct—perhaps not by accident, after all.

Installation view of KITTY CHOU’s “Countervision” at Ben Brown Fine Arts, Hong Kong, 2017. Courtesy Ben Brown Fine Arts.

Kitty Chou’s “Countervision” is on view at Ben Brown Fine Arts, Hong Kong, until July 27, 2017.

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