This week we will be talking to artist Theresa Hon, exploring her range of monochrome oil paintings that focus on light and shadows as a way to visually realise themes of isolation and introversion.
Image description: a black and white landscape image depicting two details of artwork split down the centre. The centre reads Theresa Hon in a bold white font, repeated and overlapped 3 times. Beneath reads at Theresa Hon in a smaller white font.
Can you briefly describe yourself and the art you make?
My practice shows my introverted personality articulating light and shadow. I am a Malaysian artist currently living in the UK. The international background that I have has influenced my practice heavily. Being physically alone overseas has changed my personality and allowed me to appreciated solitude and turn my eyes onto the perceptual experience. My painting initially acted as a lullaby to comfort my anxiety and depression. Later, I was fascinated by the beauty of light and shadows and started to embrace my loneliness within my practice.
You have described that your work centres on concepts of solitude. How do you present this within your artwork?
As the isolation has affected my personality greatly, my aesthetic changed accordingly. The use of colour, the representation of the subject and the ways of expression fits the concepts. The sentimentality within myself tends to draw attention to the solitude which later affects the way I paint. Ambiguity is also a vital element in my practice. It builds up the mood and environment within the work itself.
Theresa Hon, Winter sun in dusk, Oil on canvas, 2021
Image description: a dark oil painting in deep shades of dark grey, with gestural areas of lighter grey appearing like the sky at dusk.
Your paintings use a very minimal palette, how does your style demonstrate your themes and ideas?
I always find black and white photographs speak out more than coloured photographs. In my opinion, they propose calmness, history and somehow sadness. Hence, they became my go-to palette when I paint. The almost-monochrome palette aims to banish any distraction of the subject and articulate more about the mood.
My previous art practice focused on painting memory. The vagueness and blurriness in style are both applied throughout my practice. The softness of the subject developed from previous work enhance the portrayal of uncertainty.
Theresa Hon, Clarendon Road, Oil on canvas, 2021
Image description: a a black and white minimal oil painting on a square canvas depicting a hazy shape in dark grey appearing like a skyline, a subtle play between light and shadow.
Much of your work focuses on the interplay between light and shadow. Is this an intentional decision?
Yes, I was fascinated by the beauty of shadows. I was amazed how mere lights and shades can both comfort anxiety and articulate loneliness at the same time. My work explores a wide range of subjects surrounding light and shadow, for instance, nature, interior object and abstract forms all surrounding light and shadow. Though the transformation of the emotion within my work is important, the mood of the paintings tends to change according to the direction and the way of application of light.
What is your process for creating your artwork?
I put a lot of effort into preparing the surface. My art colleagues always praise me for my craftsmanship. The smoothness of the surface is very important in my practice. It directly affects the application of the paint which can alter the viewing experience due to the texture of the canvas.
Are there any artists or research that underpins your practice?
My practice is heavily influenced by Giorgio Morandi. Morandi's subject matter surrounds everyday objects that can be easily found and overlooked. The sense of anonymity and universality within the object strengthened my practice. His work draws my attention to the imprecision within my practice. My practice is also influenced by Philip Barlow. Barlow's painting depicts the out focus of the images of cityscapes. While his paintings depict the out focus of lenses my work draws attention to the out focus of human eyes.
Theresa Hon, Listen to the leaves, Oil on canvas, 2020
Image description: a square oil painting displaying two white square blocks set on angles in the right hand corner. On these are piles of leaves loosely painted.
With the sudden impact of COVID-19 has your practice had to adapt or change to the new circumstances?
I would say COVID-19 has changed both my practice and my characteristic completely, in a good way. In isolation, I struggled to hold onto my fragile mental state alone. Later, the acceptance of loneliness has sculpted an introverted personality in me where I started to take good care of myself physically and mentally. The fascination with shadow then formed a connection between my inner self and art practice.
What projects have you recently been working on?
I am involved in the Small Work Exhibition run by Artizan Gallery at Torquay, in which my paintings will be presented in the gallery from 13 April onwards. Other than that, I mostly spent time developing my paintings in my studio.
Theresa Hon, Wheel, Oil on canvas, 2021
Image description: a square oil painting in shades of grey depicting the spindles of a bicycle wheel.
Your work involves a quiet investigation into objects and space, what attracts you to these quiet compositions?
My subject surrounds silently humble objects and those which are easily accessible. My paintings exhibit the subjects in a fairly close up distance and isolate the subject within the paintings. I have been interested in taking pictures and learning how to isolate the subject from crowded backgrounds. This practice is then applied to my paintings. Such quiet composition allows viewers to observe beyond the subject of the paintings and to look into the presentation, expression and texture itself.
If you would like to see more of Theresa's artwork you can view her work on Instagram @_theresahon_.
If you are interested in being featured as an Artist of the Week you can fill out a short application form here.