I was fortunate enough to work with Chris Hii about a year ago. He's an amazing person with a passion for art. His recent series caught my eye. Not just because he used coffee ink as his medium; it's also the way he captures the bearded coffee hipster. The detail in the paintings is amazing, showcasing that coffee can really be art. I wanted to share Chris and his paintings with you, so I asked him if he could write a piece for my blog. Luckily he said yes!
I'll now pass you onto Chris....
Influence and Technique
I started painting with water colours and Chinese ink at the age of six, while living in Malaysia. Apart from the typical objects a six year old would paint, I remember being drawn to the ubiquitous images of Chinese calligraphy and water colour paintings that were typically found in a Chinese Malaysian family home.
Calligraphy is a discipline applied to writing Chinese characters and classical Chinese water colour paintings. Each stroke was meticulously repeated to create a Chinese character or an image, much like practicing tennis or piano. The control of the paint matters as much as the random spread of the ink on water to create an image that is never truly identical. Calligraphy provided me with the classical discipline to master brush strokes required to control ink.
Today, I work in the coffee industry and extract espressos and brew coffees almost daily. I would observe the quality and texture of the brew. Besides monitoring espressos from a barista’s perspective, there was and is always a curiosity of how it would work as ink from an artist’s perspective. I found myself admiring coffee stains on paper, and the nuanced coffee shades and patterns as I pour it down white ceramic basins.
Coffee Ink and Beard Series
Coffee browns due to Maillard reaction, which is the caramelisation of sugars and amino acids when roasted above 150 degree Celsius. Brewed coffee reminds me of sepia, a brown ink originally extracted from cuttlefish used in the past.
Curiosity led me to make coffee inks from espresso and filtered coffee of different intensities, leading me to paint my first series of sepia coffee paintings of the archetypal bearded hipsters. I have always enjoyed painting portraits, and the archetypal hipster painted in organic coffee seems appropriate as many baristas are currently inked with facial hair in inner Melbourne.
Some cuttlefish spray sepia ink in the ocean to duplicate an image of itself as decoy under attack. Like the cuttlefish, the barista produced organic coffee ink is used to capture images of archetypal hipsters who are often found behind and around coffee bars.
The images are developed from photographs, models and my imagination with a unifying theme of tattoos. The paintings are on cotton paper and sealed with a varnish for protection.
Thanks heaps Chris. If you would like to see more of Chris's art or want to contact Chris, his contact details are below.