words | Elena Scialtiel photos | Stelios Kyriakides
Spending time, buying time, wasting time: funny how the English language shares the same verbs to talk about time and money. Perhaps because time is money for many, and for others it is even more precious, because money cannot always buy time. If you have time and talent, and money is no object, you can paint everlasting masterpieces whose prime subject matter is the passing of time, like a time-lapse segment, and eventually sell them for a handsome sum of money.
Indeed, money is no object for superstar artiste Christian Hook, who continues his lifelong quest for artistic excellence and excitement with no greed for status symbols other than access to the top cultural venues where to meet and mingle with the finest creative minds. Self-confessed free spirit, he says: “I am not in pursuit of materialistic luxury but the perfection of light and form on canvas, as I paint in layers, practically and metaphorically. I paint through time. My work is not just about movement, but I try to depict a period in the life of that object or that person. Preparing an exhibition is hard work, about one year flat out for my recent one, but long hours doing what I enjoy aren’t a burden, and I can allow myself to paint what I fall in love with.”
So, how does it feel when collectors sign five-figure cheques in a heartbeat for the privilege to own a Hoook original? “Of course I like it when someone buys my work because it means to me they somehow agree to accepting and acknowledging how valuable it is. It sets a tangible value. When I sell out of a collection, it means I can move on and take a step further from my previous volume of work.”
His latest Clarendon exhibition was sold out within minutes from opening, with what he describes as ‘queues outside like the gallery owners had never seen before’ and collectors flying from all over the world to catch a glimpse of the Gibraltarian maestro and snatch a piece of him.
Although nice to bask in, fame and fortune are not the fuel of Christian’s research and creativity: excitement is, pure love is. “I choose a subject matter that positively affects me and I try to transmit my excitement to the onlooker. This way, the creative process is purely enjoyable, and the result is pure art, as long as I work with myself and for myself and don’t have to compromise on my integrity.”
If art can be solipsistic, great work speaks directly to the soul, from the soul to the soul, without needing any further explanation, such as captions, historical data or time-framing within the author’s biography. “If you hear the perfect music, you don’t need to know
who plays it or when it was composed: it just stirs memories you didn’t remember to have stored, and emotions you didn’t know you had in you.” Similarly, figurative art is more immediate than speech or literature because it can universally communicate, whereas there aren’t enough words to express concepts or emotions, as art is distanced from verbalism and is transmitted directly, almost telepathically through the medium of shape and colour. “If you need to explain any artwork placing it in historical or geographical context then it means it is not good enough art or music, as those are meant to be universal and speak a language beyond space and time.”
Exciting times ahead for Hoook, selected with other up-and-coming artists from many disciplines, revelations in their field during the past year, to attend a polo tournament week-long event in India. He has already attended the first do in Henley, in the UK, with ‘helicopters hovering from all directions’, and the tour will continue with a stop in St. Tropez and other glamorous venues that he hasn’t yet committed to.
“World Polo gets together the brightest creative minds and the finest things in life for
these exclusive events, packed with jet-setters and celebrities: the fact they’ve chosen me makes me hope that I am being endorsed as one of the best minds on offer at the moment.” Not so impatient to rub elbows with the aristocrats as much as with his fellow creatives, Christian is seeking to mingle in the buzzing environment and looking forward to working on new paintings live while there, as well as watching other like-minded artists produce their own work. “This is a big opportunity for artists to network and work together.”
Despite having shunned the obvious inspiration of his hometown’s quaint views, Christian recognises its influence: “We are here at the crossroads between Europe and Africa and yes, Moroccan architecture features in my early work, as well as my interest in painting Andalusian horses. And my ‘Bathers’ series is based on the Mediterranean light. Both horses and bathers are themes dear to traditional painting, but I am taking it a step further with my contemporary approach. I like to reprise classical subject matters and develop the legacy adding my voice to it. Bath time was a common theme in the past, perhaps because it wasn’t readily available to all and therefore seen as a momentous intimate ritual to cherish and a manner to include nudes in a graceful setting.”
He denies favouring portraiture, as his broad fanship would be misled to believe by his stunning string of high-profile portraits both locally and in the UK when he won the Sky Arts show ‘Portraitist of the Year’. His inclusion in the catalogue of the best one hundred artists of all time consecrated him to his current status, and having pieces permanently exhibited at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and Liverpool Museum even more so, and he is becoming an habitué to British museums, with a fifth exhibit in the pipeline. After his painting of boxer Amir Khan made the permanent exhibition at the Bolton Museum in Manchester, he is now commissioned with a documentary about his work on the joint portrait of cyclists and Olympic medallists Jason Kenny and Laura Trott, who were recently married.
On his shooting to stardom, Christian comments: “It is a shocking experience, yet for me, it hasn’t been a case of overnight sensation, because I’ve worked hard and constantly all my life to attain this level. Obviously, the television broadcast has raised my profile, but it may also work against me in exposing me as just another commercial artist.”
He is now dividing his time between London, where he gets stopped in the street for autographs, and Gibraltar, where he paints in his Horse Barracks Lane studio and hasn’t let fame taint his boy-next-door affability.
His journey so far is documented in his autobiography ‘La Busqueda’, an elegant coffee-table book featuring full-colour illustrations of his most memorable works and their genesis, with references to those who walked along on his personal yellow-brick road contributing to his arty mission. It was presented at last Literary Festival and immediately sold out, but it will be soon available from UK bookstores and online, alongside limited-edition signed prints.