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HK Magazine Archive

Wessel Huisman Paints Hong Kong in Lights

The Dutch artist talks about his works and how light can trigger memories.

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 March, 2016, 11:55am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2016, 5:02pm

We love your paintings of Hong Kong. How did you do them? I realized it is important to visit these places first, to get an impression of the atmosphere, the light circumstances and the spatial and urban expression. So I came to Hong Kong last year for a few weeks and explored the major quarters of the city. The painting gets its shape according to the language of paint, or my unique style I have developed throughout the years.

What’s Hong Kong in your eyes? There is an interesting paradox in a town like Hong Kong. The modern city seems to deny its unique past and circumstances. Talking to the people, I noticed there’s a desire to get away from these standard aesthetics.

How do you capture the city with your paintings? You could say I am an expert on light and “light atmosphere,” because I’ve been focusing on it for almost 30 years. My work and research fit into a Dutch tradition of light painting, with ancestors like Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Gogh and Mondrian. Every place, whether city or village, has its own atmosphere, its own expression caused by local conditions. According to the geographic location, the season and the time of day, the light changes. It is part of my sensibility to note the specific atmosphere on the spot.

What about colors? For years I only used all kinds of gray, black and white layers to build up my paintings. Since I was interested in light and light contrasts, I skipped outspoken colors like red or blue. Recently, however, I’ve noticed I can integrate color tones in my paintings to specify the atmosphere of the light.

You name your artworks with dates—why? During the last 25 years I realized that I have a kind of light archive in my head. Light triggers my memory like a smell can do. In many of the titles of my paintings I mention a date, month, year. This has nothing to do with the moment the original [work was made], but with the origin of the light memory.

What message do you want to tell through your paintings? I hope my paintings contribute to an open mind, to a peace of mind, caused by the direct visual impulses of the painting—like music can influence your state of mind in a direct, non-intellectual way.