“I took a trip to the moon. I met all the stars in the sky.” Hanh Chau (b. 1969) has inscribed this along the top edge of a moonscape. The stars themselves, some with ten points some with as few as five, sink into the surface, left as an angular emptiness carved from the wash that built the sky. These watercolor nightscapes are only one facet of Chau’s practice; but that simple inscription testifies to the delight and sensitivity that her artworks embody.
Using roughly cut pieces of painted lines, shapes, and splatters, Chau makes gorgeous, sparsely arranged collages. But portraiture is the cornerstone of her art making. With oil pastels her work is distinctly Picasso-influenced—bold, angular and distorted; yet, switching to colored pencil, another kind of figure emerges. Staring straight out from a background of flat, offsetting swathes of color, are Chau’s enigmatic characters. The bodies have the narrowing geometry of a high-rise building. The faces are rounded oblongs filled with vertical hatching. Their features are miniscule: tiny white or black eyes; small, or nearly non-existent noses; and tightly pursed Clara Bow lips with a splash of pink or red. Their expressions lend her portraits a sincere, contemplative, maybe slightly surprised appearance, similar to the experience of meeting a star, a real one, like the sun, or like Hanh Chau herself.Print Bio