#culture / #art & design
Artist spotlight: Claudia Chanhoi aka. @brainxeyes
By: Erica Fong
January 20, 2021
It’s not every day that you see a limp dick on your Instagram feed – oh wait, that was just a wilting cactus plant. No wonder Hong Kong illustrator Claudia Chanhoi’s Instagram account is called @brainxeyes, as your brain will definitely be processing the colourful pop art images that your eyes are seeing. Scroll further along and you’ll see juicy peaches, hairy avocado pits, tins of booby and booty spam, and even more provocative images that are sure to spike your curiosity (and perhaps your heart rate, too).
Claudia’s fun and cheeky pop art is an expression of female sexuality that has seen her exhibit in Beijing, Tokyo, London, Chicago and Miami, with her latest Hong Kong exhibition held last November at Minh Gallery. We caught up with Claudia to learn more about her background, unique style of artwork and what’s in the pipeline for 2021.
Where you are from?
I was born in Hong Kong, and returned to my hometown in 2014 after completing my bachelor’s degree in London.
When did you first start creating art?
I can’t quite remember as I’ve been drawing and painting since a very young age. I took some drawing lessons when I was five and went to art school at the age of 17. I guess I’m lucky that I never needed to figure out what I love doing. Even when I was young, I always knew that I’d do something artsy even though I didn’t know what it would be back then.
How would you describe your artwork?
Cheeky, playful, a bit humorous and lighthearted. I talk about female sexuality, dating relationships and how I feel as a woman in our modern society. I always incorporate either a simple message or a little joke into my art because I want my art to have some meaning to it.
How did you develop your own unique style?
I’m that kind of person who goes with her gut most of the time. To be honest, I don’t know how I came up with this style. Back in the day, I was working on my university final project and happened to use illustrations to present my concepts on “Sexual Objectification of Women”. The illustration pieces were black outlines and colourful simple shapes which I got to complete the final pieces pretty quickly…
I’m always attracted to colours and I’m also colour sensitive as well (I did the test) which explains why I do enjoy pop art a lot. I’m also not very detail-oriented and tend to have a direct approach to my creative thinking. That being said, I think it makes sense to say that my style is strongly influenced by my taste and personality.
What are you trying to express with your artwork?
I just want to be honest with myself and make it relatable to people who might feel the same way or experience similar issues… Sometimes when I touch on some taboo topics such as media censorship or expressing sexual desires as a woman, I present it in a lighthearted and nonaggressive way so that it allows people to think about the social issues with an open heart. Women’s bodies or anything that is related to sex can create so much hatred in our society unfortunately.
Your bio says your work is “based on personal experience as a heterosexual woman in modern world dating.” Can you share some of those experiences with us?
I’m just a normal woman who dates and meets guys like most women in the city. Somehow I think modern relationships can be disposable and those online dating apps have conditioned our “throwaway culture”. I have created a lot of pieces about modern dating culture which most of the time, I get my ideas from my feelings and experiences.
What are your thoughts about female sexuality?
Female sexuality is such a broad topic, and sexuality is shaped by culture and history. I’m sure female sexuality is continuously evolving just like everything else. Everyone should have their own sexual journey and need not to compare nor feel pressured to display or disclose in a certain way.
How about female sexuality in Asia?
I find it more compressed in Asia. People tend to judge women more by her sexual experience a lot more here. Slut-shaming is so common and I think this is one of the reasons why women can’t liberate their sexuality freely here and there’s a lot of “morning after guilt.” Women are expected to have no desires for sex but also pressured to be desirable to men…
What’s been the funniest or most memorable reaction to your artwork?
I created a gif where a vulva was “sticking its tongue out” (aka. a clit) on my Instagram and Love Watts reposted it. There was one comment saying that I was promoting white beauty standards and child pornography because in my gif, the skin colour was sort of pale with no public hair. It grew into quite a long and intensive debate on a lot of irrelevant topics… Honestly, I wasn’t offended or upset by that comment because it wasn’t my intention. It’s interesting to see how women’s bodies can create some much drama on the internet.
Besides your artwork, do you have any other creative outlets, hobbies or passions?
I actually like oil painting a lot, especially portraits. It probably would surprise a lot of people as I never illustrate faces.
Who have you worked with so far?
Commission-wise, I have worked with JAJA Tequila, Lush, Womanish, Behind Bars, NBC News, AMV BBDO, HarperCollins Publishers, CoppaFeel!, ACSVAW (RainLily Cares), Jump From Paper, etc… For exhibitions, I have worked with different galleries in several places.
What’s in the pipeline for 2021?
I’ve been working on my online shop as I didn’t put much time into launching new products last year. One of the reasons was because of COVID-19 and I was taking a bit of time off to create new work for my solo exhibition in Hong Kong. I’ll be launching some new products soon, so stay tuned!
Follow Claudia Chanhoi on Instagram @brainxeyes and learn more at claudiachanhoi.com