“No one got anywhere being realistic,”stated Australian artist Cj Hendry at her studio in Tribeca on an unseasonably warm February morning. “I am so uncomfortable when people say ‘be realistic.’” Yet, Hendry has been accumulating devoted fans at an astonishing rate for doing just that. Her arresting, hand-drawn artworks of household objects and luxury goods are painstakingly detailed, causing viewers to stop in their tracks for a double, or triple take of her photorealistic drawings. Luckily for us, Christian Louboutin shoes happen to be one of the many iconic fashion items in her oeuvre. Hendry’s professed love of Louboutin is illustrated in astonishing accuracy; if anyone knows our shoes as well as us, it’s probably her. Enormous renderings of our iconic So Kate and beloved men’s high top sneaker Louis have occupied gallery walls and collectors homes. Last November, the So Kate took a prominent place in her highly anticipated exhibition The Trophy Room; a body of work which immortalized iconic, culturally relevant items by dipping them in bronze before they became the focus of her sketches.
It should come as no surprise that Cj Hendry would be at the top of our list to collaborate with for this years’s Hong Kong Art Basel. Embracing Christian Louboutin’s ethos of “a culture of colour,”Cj decided get out of her comfort zone and do something she has never done before, eschewing black and white in favour of a full spectrum of colour. The exhibition, premiering March 21st at the Anita Chan Lai-ling Gallery, Fringe Club in Hong Kong, features a departure in style with conceptual renderings of thick oil paint in a spectrum of complimentary colours. “I can’t believe I haven’t done colour sooner!” exclaimed Hendry as she stood by a fresh batch of finished pieces in her studio. The 50 piece series will highlight the color red, with obvious synergy and homage to the iconic Christian Louboutin soles.
During the three day exhibition, guests will be invited to work in tandem with Cj to create their own colourful works of art on the gallery’s white walls. An especially whimsical tool conceived by Christian and Cj, to be revealed at the opening, will serve as the medium in which the visitors inject colour onto the blank walls.
With just a few days left until Art Basel, we thought it fitting to get a glimpse of what makes the Australian artist tick. With the help of another famous French personality, Marcel Proust, Hendry graciously accepted our bid for a Proust Questionnaire with a little Louboutin flair!
What inanimate object best describes you?
Cj: A Rubik’s Cube, because I’ve got a colourful personality and I am also quite hard to manage. However, once you’ve figured it out, it’s actually an easy system.
What is your current state of mind?
Cj: Clocked out. I’m just very ‘whatever goes,’ which is so not like me, but I’m just going with the grain right now.
On what occasion do you lie?
Cj: White lies when I have to catch-up with people. I just want to be here on my own and draw. I’m generally pretty honest, but I really am an introvert to the core, which surprises people because I play an extrovert very well.
What is your greatest fear?
Cj: To not do anything. Not achieving anything great or even trying to achieve anything and just coasting on by is a fear of mine.
What is the quality you most like in a man?
Cj: The ability to encourage and prop-up a woman with drive, instead of competing with her. I think it shows more strength in a man to be able to accept and encourage a woman and her goals.
What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Cj: I appreciate directness, which is something you don’t always get. What I don’t like are false smiles. Smile when you mean it.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Cj: Oh god, here we go! Number one is probably ‘sass’ as in sassy. Two is, ‘Yachts and jets.’ It’s an analogy for different levels of wealth. Like Beyoncé is ‘yachts and jets.’ I always say, ‘you reckon’ - that’s an Aussie thing. ‘Dead,’ instead of just saying ‘yes!’ Like when you are really excited about something, you don’t even need to finish the word just ‘dddddd—ead.’
Item of clothing you buy the most?
Cj: White tees! I will occasionally put one through the wash, but usually they are box fresh. Maybe that is my biggest extravagance? They are never expensive; I’ll just get heaps on sale at Uniqlo. My favorite is taking the tees out of the wrapper and seeing the lines. Just box fresh!
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Cj: Without a doubt there’s two, my sister and my boyfriend. They are my best mates, I would die without them.
When and where were you happiest?
Cj: I’m happiest (points to drawing table) right there, drawing. I love just being there, knowing I’m doing great things.
Which talent would you most like to have?
Cj: I would love the ability to connect and manage people better. I don’t think I’m very good at it, but I want to be much better.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Cj: There are so many wonderful things that have happened all along, but I think my greatest achievement was the day I dropped out of university. It sounds a bit backwards but when you have no other option or safety net, you have to make something work. It wasn’t easy at the time- now it’s easier to talk about. My parents were not supportive, which makes sense of course - who wants their kid dropping out of a fine arts degree! And I only had two subjects to go.
What is your most treasured possession?
Cj: My dad gave me a pair of Bose noise canceling headphones when I was 21 and it really makes sense now. I can just put them on when I’m drawing and clock out. I listen to audiobooks and podcasts or even just use the noise canceling feature.
What is your most marked characteristic?
Cj: I think I’m colorful and very intense. The intensity can be a positive and a negative. I’m not as compassionate as some people, I’m never trying to hurt anyone; I am just so intense about what needs to be done. I don’t think I could do this without being that way, so with the good comes the bad.
What do you most value in your friends?
Cj: I don’t have a lot of friends; it’s never been a dream of mine to have ‘ladies who lunch’ or anything. What I value is to be able to pick up where we left off and not have to chat every other day. I’m not someone who needs updates all the time. Time apart shouldn’t change a thing.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
Cj: I’m never late; if I’m late, I’m in tears on the subway. In general, if something is stressing me out too much, I just let it go. I don’t want to be involved in any drama.
Paris or New York?
Cj: New York. I think the opportunity is here.
What is your motto?
Cj: Just two words, “all in.” To do anything, you have to be ‘all in.’ You’ll never truly know what your potential is and what you could achieve unless you put your heart and soul into something.
Complimentary Colours will open on March 21st at the Anita Chan Lai-ling Gallery, Fringe Club in Hong Kong. Visit the exhibition open 3/21 - 3/22 from 10am – 9pm and on 3/23 from 10am -7pm. Follow @LouboutinWorld and @Cj_Hendry on Instagram for more exclusive updates from Art Basel, Hong Kong.
Photography by Matthew Kelly