Claire Lau insists on painting en plein air, completing all of her paintings on site from beginning to end. Claire finds plein air painting not only relevant but essential in today's digital age, when city dwellers are increasingly connected online but becoming detached from their surroundings. By setting up her easel outdoors, she invites today’s over-stimulated eyes to pause and ponder on their environment.
For the past few years, Claire has been living and painting in Hong Kong and San Francisco. Her recent work explores the unique spatial relationship between nature and metropolis through two series of paintings: cityscapes on a macro level; banyan trees and succulents on a micro level.
A commonality that draws Claire to both cities is their mountainous geography. From the hilltops, Claire investigates the system and the structure of the land, analyzing how everything fits together. The grandeur of the views humbles her, realizing that as individuals we are one small joint in a web of connections. Choosing locations around her everyday urban life, Claire contemplates the spaces that unfold above, below and around her, compressing multiple perspectives onto a single canvas.
Despite the similar geography, the two cities enjoy a drastically different weather. While banyan trees and mountain figs are the mammoth of Hong Kong’s subtropical climate, cacti and succulents define California, especially in face of its drought. To Claire, the banyan trees’s gestures are metaphoric for life’s cycles: roots spread aboveground, climb up, hang down as air roots, twist and merge with each other to form new trunks. On the other hand, the colossal prickly pear cacti and agave plants represent resilience and explosive life forces. While contemplating the different characters of these plants, Claire also explores how they interact with the human intervention, bursting from concrete sidewalks and metal fences.
About the Artist
Claire was born in Paris, moved to Hong Kong at the age of 7, and got her B.A. from Hampshire College, MA studying studio arts and music. In 2011 she went back to paint Hong Kong for several years, then briefly lived in Somerville MA before settling in San Francisco. Claire does not define herself by the citizenship of arbitrary borders, and sees man’s relationship with nature as one of the most important issues of the 21st Century, regardless of national boundary. Claire has exhibited her work in Hong Kong, Chicago IL, Amherst, Northampton, and Cambridge MA, as well as San Francisco, Oakland, and San Mateo CA.