Apr 10, 2017
Colour, art and sole were on the agenda when French shoe designer Christian Louboutin spoke with Australian artist CJ Hendry. The hyper-realistic artist, best-known for her monochrome drawings in pen of luxuries and consumer products, has launched her first exhibition in Asia at The Fringe Club. The exhibition saw her use colour for the first time, most notably red, the shade on the sole’s of Louboutin’s shoes. #legend arranged for Hendry and Louboutin to discuss their work and then we listened in.
Christian: How do you choose a subject to draw?
CJ: I honestly don’t think too much about it. When I am in the conceptual phase, it is always quick. I don’t spend months feeling my way through a series or concept. It generally fits or it doesn’t. I have thought of drawing various objects or subject matter but after playing with compositions I can sometimes find it doesn’t look or feel right. It’s as much to do with layout and symmetry as it is with the object.
Christian: Do you have to like what you draw, meaning the subject of your drawing?
CJ: Absolutely. I am a harsh critic of my work. Often people will suggest certain matters for me to think about and rarely will I act on them. For example, portraits and landscapes do not interest me at this stage in my career. I am way more fascinated with the physicality of something. It can’t just be anything. It must have something special about it. Like I said before, it very much comes down to composition. If the subject can’t be manipulated in the way I want, then it’s not going to make the cut.
CJ: There is something intimate about drawing, maybe being so physically close to the work. Do you get the time to draw? Is there any place you do your best creating?
Christian: I get the time to draw. What I do is isolate myself but you don’t need to be in a full locking-yourself-in-an office kind of way. Being on a plane or train is definitely a place to draw. It’s everywhere you cannot have a telephone. To create, you need to be alone. It’s the only time you create your best work. When I’m designing the collection, I’m very careful that I am in an environment that I know because otherwise I want to explore that place. When I’m designing the summer collection, I like to be in a hot place, and for the winter collection a cold place, because it definitely influences my work. It’s more natural to create boots when you’re somewhere cold and it’s a more natural way in a hot place to design, let’s say, sandals. It comes straight into my head.
Christian: Do you think when you draw?
CJ: I need to think about that answer. Yes, I think that I think sometimes but generally I will listen to podcasts or audio books to pass the time. I guess my mind wanders from time to time, but I generally focus on whatever I am listening to. I spend so many hours sitting down each day to draw, so I need something for my mind to focus on.
Christian: Did you have a favourite colour before this work? Did it change after this experience, being so intimate with colour?
CJ: Honestly, I never considered colour at all. I never wear colour when I dress, and I am always using a monotone palette. After playing and mixing colours, I have found that I am drawn to the blue most of all, specifically cobalt or Yves Klein blue. There is something mesmerising about the intensity. I cannot explain it but without a doubt I feel something when I see those shades of blue.
CJ: Apart from red, is there any colour you are fascinated by?
Christian: Gold which is, literally, not a colour, but it’s the brightness of gold that fascinates me. Also, the colour of pyrite which has a shiny silver colour.
Christian: What was your moment of discovery of your talent?
CJ: It was ages ago. It was in art classes at school, as a young kid. I would just replicate whatever I saw in front of me. Honestly, my form of art is not that creative. There is 5 per cent conceptual time where I figure out the subject matter and then 95 per cent of my time spent rendering. So, I guess, though I could draw form a very young age, my skills have certainly refined over time. But the base skill set was there from the start.
Christian: What does childhood mean to you?
CJ: Childhood means colour and paint. This completely links back to this collaboration. I just remember as a child being given tubes of different-coloured paint and being told to create something. It’s such a free and informative period because the creations could come out looking like anything. Paint is also messy, so being able to play with coloured paint with no rules seems like the most fun thing in the world. Does this mean I am still a child? I love playing with paint.
CJ: When you were young, did you know you were different? Did you know you had the capacity to build something extraordinary?
Christian: I do not think I’m different. I think that everybody is different. That’s what makes the world really interesting.
Christian: The place where you create, why is it important to you?
CJ: The place I create isn’t what you would expect. I do my best thinking and fantasising when I am left alone in solitude. I often find my mind drifting when there is complete quiet and this is special for a lot of reasons. When I draw it’s weirdly meditative. It’s my happy place. The best place for me to create is my quiet, light-filled studio, tea in hand and dog by my side.
Christian: You channel your power from your right hand, Rodger. Is your left hand jealous of your right? What is the name of your left hand? Ginger?
CJ: This is the best question I’ve ever heard. Yes, my right hand I have nicknamed Rodger because, essentially, he is really good at what he does. Generally, when people meet me they think they are meeting this super-refined and well-spoken individual. But that couldn’t be more far from the truth. I am very colourful and, literally, have no filter on my loud mouth. It’s easier to have Rodger as the guy who makes this extraordinary art and then me as this regular gal who is just trying to figure out stuff like everyone else. Let’s totally call my left hand Ginger. Rodger and Ginger are totally going to be mates.
CJ: What else do you want to achieve? You are so accomplished. Is there anything yet to conquer?
Christian: I’ve never tried to conquer anything. I’ve always tried to do what I like and what I love, which is very exciting, and enough for me. There are some things I know I would love to do but would never be able to because it would take a lot of time, which I don’t have. One is actually to be a scriptwriter but it is definitely not in my possibilities. Sometimes things organically come to my mind, and I decide to go for it. But, I must say, I don’t have a specific target.
Christian: You call yourself obsessive-compulsive. Are there any areas of your life that are out of control?
CJ: Without a doubt, I am “OCD”. I am so particular with the work I make. Literally, nothing leaves the studio without it being perfect. I guess there are always things you can’t control. Nothing goes according to a plan, no matter how hard you try and control it. I feel as though I am getting better at letting things just be. Sometimes things go in a direction no one foresaw, so it’s a matter of just going with it. What parts of my life are out of control? It would be life itself. It’s not the worst thing to think in this way because I tend to stay more open to things and do not close myself off from opportunities. Life is a sum of your choices, so being able to have the freedom to make and take opportunities can enrich your life in more ways than you will ever know.
CJ: Aside from shoe design, how do you express yourself?
Christian: One-to-one conversation pieces. Listening and understanding people’s own thoughts and then speaking mine, or answering questions I would not normally ask myself. That interaction I find intimate and interesting. It’s a good way to be expressive.
CJ: What is your favourite medium?
Christian: For me, it’s greasy pencils like 2B, 3B, 4B pencils, and then marker pens. But my favourite medium, in terms of appreciation, is definitely clay and ceramics.
Christian: Name for me a few countries you are interested in and why?
CJ: Gosh, there are so many. That’s a tough one. I was born in Durban, South Africa and left when I was young, about nine years old. I was too young to fully appreciate or be aware of my surroundings. My family moved to Australia, where I have spent most of my life. I want to spend more time in Africa or South Africa. The landscape is extraordinary and there is so much to learn from being back in the place I was born. I want to see more of Australia, too. I’m not talking about Sydney and Melbourne, but the northern parts of Queensland and Western Australia as well as the Northern Territory.
Christian: What makes you the most happy to be a woman?
CJ: I love the fact that we can and will juggle so many things over our lifetime. I love running a business and being a girlfriend and, hopefully, one day a mother. It’s wild to know that we can accomplish so much. I love seeing and learning how other women have lived over the years, and the possibilities are endless.
Christian: Would you ever want to be a man?
CJ: Not at all. I am so proud to be a female. I feel as confident as most men, so there’s no difference. I don’t often see men as men and then me as something else. I talk to them as equals and treat them as equals. Never do I ever put myself down. I am as good as anyone else out there.
CJ: What do you love about Hong Kong?
Christian: The combination and contrast of nature and architecture is the thing I love most. Hong Kong reminds me of yin and yang, in a way, or like seeing two sides of the moon. There is
the very constructed part of Hong Kong and just behind is complete nature, with so many animals. This is what makes Hong Kong very special to me.
Christian: What comes after colour?
CJ: Who the hell knows? I don’t plan things too far in advance. It seems too strategic, and not natural. I always draw whatever is working for me at that particular point in time. I might continue to work with colour in interesting ways. I’m not too sure how yet but I will figure it out.