In anticipation of Art Basel in Hong Kong, J-Plus Hotel by YOO debuts the exhibition Phantasmagoria by Chloe Bennett, also known as Yeah Yeah Chloe, running until July. Bennett is an Australian artist of Korean extraction who works with both digital and painting mediums. She grew up on the North Coast of New South Wales in the small seaside town of Lennox Head, before moving to Darwin to start her Visual Arts degree.
Phantasmagoria showcases a collection of pop-art visual artefacts, exploring the gratification of the mundane, pedestrian objects. #legend went along to meet the flamboyant artist and here’s what we discovered.
What’s the biggest misconception about you?
That I’m only interested in pink. I mean, I do use pink a lot, I feel like pink makes all other colours look a little bit better. I used to hate the colour when I was young, but I grew up, and I’ve learned to take it on and yes, it’s a colour of femininity.
What about drawing people. The intimacy of a relationship?
To be completely honest, people scare me, but I play with the idea of representing them. But I absolutely cannot draw a face.
The leaf on the peach. Is that Donald Trump’s hair?
Now I’m looking at it, that’s what I see. But that’s what I love. I can have one impression, you can have another viewpoint, or imaginative reading of it. I love that about art. Sometimes I have the feeling that even what I want them to mean can be almost irrelevant because people will always make up their own mind. And that’s the way it should be.
What’s dynamite girl?
The legs, that one was just me playing with my chopsticks and it reminded me of legs. It’s a weird connection.
Maybe you’re the first artist in history whose motif is legs.
I feel like I’d never be the first artist in anything to think anything. Everything’s been done. I feel like the chances of being original in our day and age are really slim. One always searches for uniqueness with one’s own spin. That’s all you can do.
Best and worst part of Australian culture.
It’s multi-cultured, people can be laid back. The worst thing is Pauline Hanson.
How do you do these works?
It’s done by spray paint. And lots of masking tape. I layer and layer everything.
How long does each one take?
Depends on how much I procrastinate. Whether it’s a new series on Netflix, or something ridiculous. Usually about two to three weeks per piece, depending on how productive I’m feeling.
What is your favourite series on Netflix?
I’m waiting for the next series of House of Cards. Orange is the New Black is a big favourite of mine.
Can I ask: the picture of the microwave with the legs sprouting out the top of it … tell me about that.
[Laughter] It’s a TV! It’s not a microwave it’s a television [laughter] but I like your interpretation, everyone’s allowed their own interpretation. You just have to run with it.
Okay. So the television and the legs, what’s the genesis of that?
It comes from an early memory I have of my grandparents’ house, they have one of those big chunky TVs and it was huge, and I remember being a kid and playing with the antennas, and I remember thinking they are like legs. But I always remember that sensation. Because of technology now nobody would get that reference probably.
It reminds me of Guy Bourdin, or David LaChapelle. Did you ever see that work of theirs?
The more you create images, the more you start to realise that ideas in your brain are suddenly floating around somewhere else. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Sometimes I do come up with what I think is a really cool idea, and then realise somebody else has already done it and then I think, ‘oh, I’m not as original or special as I thought’. But I do like playing with legs.
I notice that. Why legs. Why that motif?
It kind of stems from this image of the peach, which was created after Donald Trump basically said all he needed in life was a nice piece of arse. He was running for the presidency and I was still trying to get my mind around that. I was angry, I was so pissed off, that a man who would say that was running to be President of the United States— such a hugely influential figure. It kind of played on this idea of looking at women as an object, so it grew from there. And I ended up doing this series. What is strange is that for something so negative, this series has become a very positive statement, a celebration almost of women’s body shapes.
Why did you choose a peach for Trump and not, say, a banana?
When you look at emojis on a smartphone, the peach is the bum. But you won’t know as you’re still using a Nokia phone.
Thank you, so why skateboards?
I felt skateboards were just a very nice artefact of our pop culture. It brings it into modern times, it’s very now. And allowed for nice variation in the pieces.
Do you have a favourite work here at J-Plus?
I think the legs and television. It’s one of my earlier artworks as well, and I really enjoyed doing it.
How much do you want to commodify your work. Warhol it? How much does that pollute the purity.
I think it’s interesting that I’ve emerged in a digital platform, where everything is a double click, and I’m grateful for that platform, but I really want to bring it back into the art world. It think it’s all too easy to become obsessed with that sort of, 'is it going to be popular, is it going to be right, how many likes did I get, how many shares did I get’ mentality- I really hate that.
Do you listen to music when you make artwork?
Of course I do! It depends on my mood. At the moment there’s been a lot of Frank Ocean.
Any particular song?
The one that’s been on repeat and driving my husband crazy is Godspeed. I feel like I can sing it, but the melody must be horrible for everyone.
Hans-Ulrich Obrist is listening to Frank Ocean too. He said Novocaine.
There you go! He makes you melt it’s so beautiful.
And what’s your favourite pop song of all time?
This is a really hard question. In fact, this is the hardest question so far. Erm. I just feel like this is more pressure than putting the entire exhibition together.
Let me help. Could the answer involve Big Bang?
I actually do really love Big Bang. But I have to say … I don’t know! I’d have to say a Beyonce.
What’s your favourite work of art? Sorry, more pressure.
I feel like people will say ‘oh it’s just such a cliché’, but I do think my all-time favourite artwork without a doubt, is Andy Warhol’s Soup Can. It’s just – out of this world. And such an ordinary item. How iconic. I just love that.
Fashion. Your taste is more Alexander McQueen or Rei Kawakubo.
This pink coat I’m wearing is Alexander McQueen, so there’s your answer. I’m also a huge fan of Virgil Abloh’s Off-white. I love what he’s doing. That very minimalistic back-to-basics style. I love emerging brands too. Nitty gritty stuff.
How much does Korean thinking, culture still pervade your every waking day?
I grew up in Australia, so I’m far from it, but I do have a fascination with Asian cultures, but I haven’t been back [to Korea]. I went to Japan, and the design, culture and art, it’s minimalism, I love that play within culture.
Do you do art on Snapchat, or who is the world’s leading SnapChat artist?
My Snapchat is incredibly sad. It’s mostly just pictures of my dog, or me in my pyjamas, looking very boring and old. I actually don’t know how SnapChat and artists have been getting on. I haven’t really paid all that much attention to it.
Your dog’s name?
I have two, Mable and Frank.
Why Mable and Frank?
Because they look like two little old people! They are mini dashunds.
What’s your strike rate. How many works do you abandon halfway through? Three out of five?
No. [Laughter] Hundreds! Millions! I’d say about it’s a bloody miracle if I ever get anything done.
"Phantasmagoria" is on view until July 8 at J Plus Hotel by Yoo, 1-5 Irving Street, Causeway Bay