Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 December, 2007, 12:00am

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Charlie Langton is a human and equine portraitist whose favourite subjects are a great mix of character, elegance and power. And he is not referring to the humans, who can be downright difficult.

'People are really harder to please, aren't they?' the British painter and sculptor says. 'Horses are nice. They can't speak. You appreciate them for what they are. They don't ask me to make them thinner or taller ... they are very challenging.'

Langton was in Hong Kong recently for the unveiling of his oil portrait of a three-year-old horse named Dream Catcher at the Racing Club, the younger arm of the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

The 24-year-old landed the commission just as this city prepares for next year's Olympic equestrian events. He hopes the love Hong Kong has for horses (especially at the races) will bring him more work here in the future.

Coming from a family of horse breeders and growing up in Wiltshire, England, Langton has always loved the animal. That he loved drawing too meant he started sketching at an early age but only 'to entertain'.

What he enjoys most about painting horses is trying to capture their character, and to do that, he speaks to the owner, trainer and people who know the horse. 'I get them to describe the horse in five words or maybe to compare the horse to a person to get an idea what the character of the horse is. And then you watch them work and you see what sort of action it's got ... just generally what it's like when it is in its home environment. And you build up a picture.'

Langton spent a year at the Edinburgh College of Art in 2002 but didn't find the art course there helpful. 'I've always been a traditional painter/sculptor. The work that is being taught and produced at art colleges now is very modern and conceptual, and is not so much on academic drawing and painting and sculpture. I didn't find it taught me anything.'

So he left for Florence for 18 months to learn traditional painting at the Charles Cecil Studio. Today, he is focusing more on equine sculpture, which he started learning four years ago, because he finds the process more engaging. While with a painting the artist works mostly away from his subject, he stays with the animal while sculpting.

'Sculpture is what I feel more comfortable with,' says Langton, who is represented by Hong Kong-based agent Sara Jane Skinner. 'But what I'm striving for is to be able all-round in painting, drawing and sculpting. They all help each other.

'If you look back to the Renaissance, the artists then knew how to do all three and fresco, they knew how to do everything. I think that's a really important thing an artist should be able to do.'