Creating An Interspecies Utopia with Angela Ho May 01 2019

Angela Ho is an Australian artist and illustrator from North Fitzroy, Melbourne and has been residing in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong since 2008. Her artwork is predominantly digital. She has an interest in street art and new technologies, and has been exploring the use of augmented reality and animation with her artwork.

We recently spoke to Angela about her move to Hong Kong, pushing her creative boundaries, experimenting with digital art, and anthropomorphic landscapes.

Interview by Viet-My Bui. Photos provided by Angela Ho.

Can you draw upon any childhood memories that indicated your early interest in making art?

There are a few memories which immediately float to the front of my mind: my brother, sister and I used to hold our own little drawing competitions, also our parents got us toys which were about making things whether it be those paint-by-numbers landscapes, making plaster figurines from moulds of Disney characters or Spirograph. Also, I remember being very proud to get third place in a local drawing competition when I was 9 years old, hah!

You have lived in Hong Kong for about ten years. What cemented your decision to move abroad and further your creative practice there? How does it inspire you today?

I ummed and ahhed over the decision about moving here for ages, I'd been offered a short term job for overseeing the graphics of the Beijing Olympics for the South China Morning Post. Then I visited and saw how beautiful and green Hong Kong was with loads of hiking trails and islands and the people I would end up working with were amazing and showed me the best time. There's an energy/spirit to Hong Kong that you can do anything you want, it makes me feel that way creatively and there's a tremendously supportive creative community here, everyone helps each other out.

How has your Melbourne background enmeshed with your Hong Kong influences? How do these two worlds inform your image-making?

Melbourne has given me a bedrock of discipline and care, Hong Kong and age has taught me to let go and be more free. I think my use of colour has gotten much brighter since being in Hong Kong but this may also just my being influenced by Instagram trends but I hope it's the former!

Pixels are your primary metric. From your beginnings in digital art, to creating mesmeric animations, you bring life to your works on the screen. In recent times, you've also began working with augmented reality to create a new level of interaction. How has your journey in the digital art realm evolved over time – and where do you hope to go next?

I'm really interested in new technologies within creative fields so I think playing with animation and AR evolved naturally and the spark I get out of making my characters move helps. At the moment I think AR can be a little decorative and gimmicky but I'd like to explore how it can really further the meaning of an artwork or the experience of it. I'm curious about generative art and randomness where you let the tech take over but have not yet thought about it in terms of my work.

Your characters are vibrant, humourous, cheeky and whimsical – all with a retro vibe. How do you come up with these personalities?

They are based on aspects of my friends and myself, characters from mid-century advertising, vintage toys and children's books.

You went on a 9-month sabbatical a few years ago to create personal artwork. What revelations did you have during this time, and how has it influenced your work today?

My main revelation was that if I was ever in solitary confinement I think I would fare okay! :) I spent a lot of time on my own at that time, I wanted what I was making to come from the inside out and I was exploring with artwork and reading a lot, it gave rise to the work I am making now so was definitely worth it and the many internal struggles I had.

Spirits and otherworldly entities make an appearance in some of your hiking photos. Do you consider yourself a spiritual person? Does hiking create a sense of peace and clarity for you?

Hiking definitely gives me peace and clarity and I need to do it regularly; Hong Kong can be chaotic and frenetic. In terms of spirituality, I wouldn't describe myself as spiritual, I think the spirit characters I make are more my anthropomorphising the landscapes around me and a projection of the feelings nature gives me whilst hiking. I love the idea of huge beings overlooking us all though just in the sense that there's a common experience, I think this is a little bit of the fascination with fireworks too – that many people all at once over a large distance can share in the delight of them.

Last year saw you creating mural artwork, as well as competing in live digital art battle. How have these activities stretched your creative muscles?

These two experiences took me way out of my comfort zone, there was an aspect of performance with both – being infront of an audience with cameras and painting in a busy public space – something I am definitely not comfortable with but I found it can be fun. Creatively, these taught me to let go a bit and not be so perfectionist with the detail due to time constraints and the medium.

You have a show coming up with Outré Gallery! What is the story behind the body of work you are creating for the show?

The show is titled Interspecies Utopia. It's an imaginary working society of various creatures that's all about joy, contributing to the society and is harmonious and welcoming. The augmented reality which will be very simple will only be viewable at the show when all the artworks are together, when all the parts of the society make up the whole.

One of your recent artworks depicts your Internal Engine of Perpetual Optimism. What helps maintain your optimism as an artist in the face of art blocks, rejection, social media metrics and self-doubt, amongst life's other quirks?

I think that in the scheme of things that me and my life are just a teeny tiny blip in time and space helps me not to expend energy on things which are out of my control and to conserve it for the things which matter most when possible.

What is on the horizon for you?

A holiday with friends I hope! Many holidays! Back to back for a year ... I know this won't happen though ... although I have a few friends flying into Melbourne for the Outré Show so I already get part of my wish.

Thank you so much Angela! We look forward to meeting you in Melbourne for your show!

Interspecies Utopia by Angela Ho
10 – 19 May
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