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    Gallery in the skies: in conversation with media artist Carla Chan
    With the help of technology, the creator explores the connection between humans and the natural world
    Gallery in the skies. Portrait of Carla Chan
    Credit: Mike Pickles

    Media artist Carla Chan has just flown back to Hong Kong two days ago. She walks into our photography studio in Chai Wan wheeling a large metal case. Setting it down, she unveils its contents: a white-framed digital monitor and a portable keyboard. Chan positions herself in front of the monitor, her fingers poised above the keys. As she begins to type, a glowing landscape of blue hues appears on the screen. Ripples of colour begin to swirl slowly across it, bringing the display to life.

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    “It’s about doing artwork that lives longer than my life,” says Chan of Space Beyond , her series of ever-evolving NFT artworks. The series consists of 365 unique editions representing each day of the year, with an additional special edition for leap years. The appearance of each piece changes based on live weather and demographics data from the world’s 31 most-populated cities. As the data changes, so do the artworks. 

    Two of Chan’s pieces – including a still of May 1 Beijing from Space Beyond  – have been selected for our Gallery in the skies, a series of artworks that will be displayed in the new Business cabins of Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. The other piece, Blue Pink, is a natural pigment landscape from Chan’s Clouded White series. “I’m very glad to be part of this project and have my art on a plane” she says. “It completely makes sense, with all of my travel between Europe and Asia.”

    Carla Chan's art on board cathay aircraft
    Carla Chan's art on board cathay aircraft

    Chan is constantly on the go. Born in Shenzhen and raised in Hong Kong, she moved to Germany for an artist residency eight years ago. Since then, she’s worked and exhibited around the world, and recently relocated her studio from Berlin to Paris. "I'm a person that is always drawn to the in-between moments: from not digital to digital, from Asia to Europe,” says Chan. “I think that's a pretty accurate portrait of who I am.”

    Her move to Europe sparked a fascination with nature, and how people interact with the space around them. “I think a lot of my art is really about finding connection,” says Chan. “For example, Space Beyond is about the connection between nature and people.” It’s a relationship that’s constantly in flux – and this unpredictability is reflected in her work.

    Space Beyond by Carla Chan

    Credit: Fluxus Productions

    Space Beyond by Carla Chan

    Credit: Mike Pickles

    Inspiration for Space Beyond struck during her artist residency in Switzerland, where Chan came face-to-face with a melting glacier. "I still remember that moment when I was in front of a glacier, one of the most spectacular images that you can think of, and being told it will no longer be there in less than five years,” she says. Harnessing the power of blockchain technology, Chan set about creating artwork that would capture the fading beauty of nature and would, ultimately, live beyond a moment in time. “A lot of art is always about fixing a moment,” she says. “But this is about expanding or continuing a moment”. 

    While a large chunk of her work lies in the digital realm, Chan finds balance by working with her hands. “Sometimes when I do an artwork that is too highly technology-focused, I miss that kind of human touch,” she says. Clouded White came at a moment of frustration, when Chan felt like the practical, sober process of working at a computer disconnected her from her emotions. “I wanted to do a series that looked organic, or with pigment that you can touch and smell.”

    Artist Carla Chan's clouded white

    Clouded white - blue pink by Carla Chan

    Credit: Mike Pickles

    Though, inevitably, technology still influenced the creation of Clouded White. On a trip to Iceland, Chan used her camera to capture the hidden structures of the landscape. "Most of the time it was dark, you could not see with your human eyes – you could only see through technology’s gaze,” says Chan. Using the images, she screen-printed glue on paper before scattering natural pigments across the sheet. She then quickly flicked the paper upright, causing the powder to fly across the sheet – and a new world to appear. “Blue Pink”, one of the artworks in Cathay’s collection, is an alien landscape of blue, pink and black. 

    Close up of artist Carla Chan working

    Credit: Fluxus Productions

    Artist Carla Chan

    Credit: Mike Pickles

    While Chan’s work explores the complex relationship between humans and the natural world, she wants to allow viewers to find their own interpretation. “A lot of my work is really about a space or a moment I offer that you can contemplate,” says Chan. 

    “I think it's a very similar experience to when I was in the aeroplane: when you look out the window, you zoom out and think about a lot of things. I think that is a very inner moment, between you and yourself,” she says. “A lot of my art is also finding this moment. It's not necessarily telling you what I actually want you to get, but giving you a space that you can try not to think in the same perspective you think every day.”

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