Paintings for the people

Weekend Glitz | Cara Chen 18 Oct 2019

If you feel the need for a break from esoteric artworks laden with meaning and desire something more soothing, Chinese contemporary artist Alice Chan is the artist for you.

Chan was a teenager when she sold her first work. Since then, the business school graduate has used her training in marketing to sell herself.

During her solo exhibition at her alma mater, St Paul's Co-education College, which ran from last November to this February, she gave art tutorials and found the students very receptive despite not having much access to art, as it is unpopular among academic-driven schools.

This gave her a sense of purpose for her artworks. "My art is not always about me, but about what people want to get out of it," she said. In her Floral Peonies series, a perfectly manicured hand holds a peony in almost Instagram-like style. To her, the paintings convey "the essence of Chinese culture with a modern twist" along with her wishes of good fortune for buyers.

Having lived in Seattle for five years, its natural wilderness inspired much of Chan's art. Her Landscape Art series features its mountains and sunset over the sea, as she believes Seattle's peacefulness is an antidote to hectic Hong Kong.

"Even though I sell my works online, all my works aren't market-driven. They could be inspired by a flower given to me or a motivational trip. I have a story behind every work."

She also opts for higher sales rather than increasing prices - a result of meeting an 80-year-old painter who sold more greeting cards than original works.

In addition to her paintings, Chan also produces cellphone cases, wall clocks, tote bags, and canvas printed with her artwork, allowing her to sell at different price ranges and attract a broader range of fans. "Some people might not want to spend US$2,000 (HK$15,600) on a piece of art, but they will buy aesthetically pleasing daily items," she said. "My works should be accessible, and I like them being included in people's everyday lives."

This marketing-oriented approach will stand her in good stead when she exhibits at the Art Next Expo from November 1 to 4, fresh from a 15-month gallery representation at Avenue West Gallery in Washington where she presented her artworks every first Friday to at least 15 buyers at a time. "I just stood there for hours and kept pitching myself and selling, selling, selling."

Chan will be showing her triptych The Orchestra of Life (from US$59,785) at the expo. Painted using Chinese ink, acrylic paint and Japanese watercolors on rice paper, the abstract pieces are meant to connect to life's experiences, representing its ups and downs, as well as its transience. "People say that when you die, you see many spots of lights," said Chan. "My works are about holding an open attitude about daily life and making peace with yourself."

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