Harn Kae Chao works and lives in Hong Kong. The contemporary Malaysian artist specializes in figurative clay sculpture. However, these are not creatures you have encountered before, however recognizable the breathing surface might be….This is the land of the mythical …..
The smooth contoured line of these seemingly sentient creatures bear the mark of making, of the artist’s hand, the striations in flesh, brushwork in strange blues make for a series of work that has a tactile sensibility, one is tempted to reach out and touch the surface of each piece, and yet something holds you back, the pieces seem totemic.
Harn Kae Chao hand builds the ceramic works, and for the most part the process is intuitive, the figures emerging from his imagination. Materials include stoneware, earthenware, and terracotta with underglaze.
As an exploration of self, the animal world, and humanity in general, the artist strives to express a tension between the real world and an imagined realm. Through gesture, and movement a sense of emotion is revealed. The artist includes non-human attributes and animal hybridity to introduce the notion of reading animal emotions. The artist notes of this particular sensitivity:
“I had the fascinating realization that one can read the moods of animals by observing their ears. As a child in a family of five, I lived in the northern periphery of Peninsular Malaysia. My father moved us from a busy town to a remote plantation to run a pig farm and a papaya estate. Dogs, pigs, rabbits, and the other animals we raised became my childhood playmates.”
That the work is rooted in childhood experience, particularly that unique bond children have with the animal world is apparent, there is a play between a respect for the animal world, an adoration for it, in fact, and a sort of unquestioning sense equity, how many of us know children who would think it odd that adults consider animals lesser beings?
Nevertheless the artist’s work has a complexity to it and this comes in part from the way the surface is treated. Harn Kae Chao has an artful way with using the smooth with layered built texture, moving back and forth between minimalist detail and dark rich color.
There is a patterned abstraction in throughout each pieces, groves laid into the wet clay by tools, painted and carved skin, sensitively laid out in freckles, lines and expressive movement. From the delineation of pores, to the carefully glazed hair or fur patterns, the anatomically impossible hand-built extensions, Harn Kae Chao’s compelling practice entrances and mystifies.
All artwork is the copyright of the artist Harn Kae Chao.