Elaine Chiu - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale Hong Kong Friday, October 6, 2023 | Phillips
  • Marking her debut at international auction, A Wonderful World is a brilliantly vibrant painting by Hong Kong’s ‘it’i artist, Elaine Chiu. At just 27 years old, she has already cemented an impressive reputation as one of the city’s most exciting young talents, with her impactful work earning her a coveted spot on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Asia list for 2023 in the arts category. Celebrated for her captivating and intricately composed cityscapes, Chiu delves into the collective memories and cultural identities of urban environments through the lens of architectural forms. In particular, her artistic mission centers on capturing the essence of a city in constant flux, as she is drawn to portraying street scenes that are vanishing amidst urban redevelopment. Chiu’s passion for the dynamic essence of Hong Kong’s rich heritage and identity resonates in her artistry, as she meticulously weaves together layers of detail that beckon the viewer to immerse themselves within the intricacies of her compositions.

    Amongst others, some of Chiu’s recent notable achievements include having her work join into the permanent collections of The University Museum and Art Gallery at HKU and K11 Art Foundation; her recent solo shows at JPS Gallery in Hong Kong (2021); as well as representing Hong Kong at Vivid Sydney Light Festival in 2018. Chiu, who has a bachelor's degree in art history from University of Hong Kong, was also recently named a winner of Societe Generale's Hong Kong Call for Artists Programme 2022.


    Elaine Chiu with the present painting in her studio, 2023
    Image Courtesy of Elaine Chiu

    Elaine Chiu in Conversation

    Phillips recently spoke with Elaine Chiu about her inspirations, artistic process and how A Wonderful World came into its conception

    Phillips: As an artist born and raised in Hong Kong, how has the cultural diversity of the city influenced your work?

    Elaine Chiu: As an artist born and raised in Hong Kong, the city has nurtured my art in many ways, especially its diverse architectural landscape situated between the East and the West. From different organic, bottom-up local architectural elements such as wet markets, hand-written signboards, and Chinese and British historic buildings, to international, modern, contemporary architectures, I am grateful to be exposed to a broad and diverse cityscape and cultures in Hong Kong.
    My early sketching experiences in different local districts in Hong Kong built up my understanding of the local communities in Hong Kong and its unique cityscape. Visually, painting the dense signboards and tenement houses in Sham Shui Po has inspired me to approach my painting in square patterns and geometric shapes. HK landscape became my DNA in my paintings, giving me a special standing point to merge the Eastern and Western cultures in a unique perspective.

    Phillips: The present work displays a wonderful and harmonious balance between primary and secondary colours. Would you say that colours play a significant role within your paintings?

    Elaine Chiu: Colour is a major component that I want to explore in this painting, [A Wonderful World]. The saturated palette, composed of five primary and secondary colours, red, cobalt blue, yellow, green and vat orange, symbolises the five Chinese elements that I try to balance in this work. Each of the colours represents a personality to me. When painting the colours, I try to let them speak and shine in their own ways. I think it is a finished work when the palette and composition look balanced and the message and potential are fully expressed.

    Phillips: Can you please walk us through your creative process?

    Elaine Chiu: My creative process is organic and connected to my daily life and the people, and communities around me. I always carry two notebooks with me, one checked, and the other blank. The checked one is to record my rational learning and thinking process, from podcasts and quotes to my mother's guidance and some lecture notes from different disciplines; and the blank pages are for me to trace my creative and romantic thoughts, my dreams and my primitive sketches.
    Then, I will regularly check back on my train of thoughts/rhythm, looking for some recurring, interesting or neglected points that could be linked up and further developed. When I feel like it is ready, I will start painting onto a canvas.

    Phillips: Your cityscapes hover between reality and the imagined – how much importance would you say memories hold in your oeuvre?

    Elaine Chiu: Memories build up one's identity and to me, the visual memories of tangible life experiences and even intangible ones (visuals I’ve encountered in video games, advertisements, dreams, and imagined stories, painted or written, together with my siblings), they mix together and they become a visual database in my brain.
    When I paint, I don't look at specific photos. I enjoy letting these accumulated images and memories in my mind come out and form their shapes as my hand moves. I think as a result, it appears between reality and the imagined because it is a combination of my consciousness and the unconsciousness.
    Memories are crucial to my practice as they tell me about my past and who I was. As an artist, every painting I make is an active selection of the past, of what to bring forward to the future, in the present moment of making.

    Phillips: How would you describe your journey as an artist and has your artistic style shifted over the years?

    Elaine Chiu: It's a magical journey - under my mother's influence, who was an artist, I started painting and doodling when I was 2 or 3. Since then, I have never stopped painting and wishing that I could be an artist someday. Making art was my first way of understanding and comprehending the world. It gives me peace and energy.
    In high school, an international sketching competition that I joined gave my art a focus. I started sketching in the streets and realised the undiscovered social impact it could bring. My art style became more specified in the cityscape with watercolour. Step by step, I developed as a full-time artist after graduating from Hong Kong University. From watercolour to acrylic, from realistic to more abstract... painting has more layers of meaning to me now, and as my art style shifts, it records my personal growth and the ongoing journey of searching and building.


    Elaine Chiu with the present painting in her studio, 2023
    Image Courtesy of Elaine Chiu


    i Lynn Farah, ‘Meet Elaine Chiu, Hong Kong’s millennial ‘It’ artist: the 26-year-old celebrates her hometown’s heritage and history, capturing the city’s disappearing cultural memories amid rapid urban development’, South China Morning Post, 24 May 2023, online 

    • Provenance

      From the personal collection of the artist


A Wonderful World

signed and dated 'Elaine Chiu. 2023' on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
115 x 145 cm. (45 1/4 x 57 1/8 in.)
Painted in 2023.

Full Cataloguing

HK$40,000 - 60,000 

Sold for HK$88,900

Contact Specialist

Anastasia Salnikoff
Head of Day Sale, Associate Specialist
+852 2318 2014

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

Hong Kong Auction 7 October 2023