LAUREN HANA CHAI: @laurenhanachai





Today we are exploring the work of Honolulu born artist, Lauren Hannah Chai! 


She describes her work as “Trippy, colourful, sexy “ - they are certainly all three. The viewer is met immediately with vibrating, lurid and striking colours. These colours ‘roam free’ during the painting process, taking inspiration from Korean Folk Art, Traditional Fabrics and Temples. 


“Demanding an emotional response from the viewer is always my goal and most important to me. If it doesn't stir something, it goes in my failed painting pile.”


The figures in her work are occasionally self portraits, though often she seeks reference from wrestlers, friends, porn stars and images from Burning Man! We spoke about Photoshop, Korean traditions, early artistic memories and more!




    HANNAH - Where are you answering these questions from?

    Honolulu, Hawaii 

    Lauren, how would you describe your work in three words?

    Trippy, colorful, sexy 

    PERFECT - AND Tell me about your artist career so far? How did you get to where you are now?

    In 2015, I graduated from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Since then I've shown in the bay area, Texas, Hawaii and Los Angeles. In my senior year of art school I started a series called Last Known Locations which are 6 paintings of 6 cities of my mom's actual last known locations. She went missing when I was 11 and through these paintings I was finally able to process the loss. After this series was over the rest of my paintings suddenly became the bright and colorful paintings I do today, as it opened myself internally and spiritually. 



    I was born and raised in Honolulu and have been drawing ever since I could hold a pencil. Took all 4 years of art classes in high school and then left the island to study, at first, illustration at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. After 3 years of struggling with it, I decided to learn more foundations to better my illustrations so I took my elective classes in fine arts. When I took my first oil painting class, I fell in love and switched majors to fine art painting and drawing.

    I HAVE TO ASK, Your use of media is so interesting, and the works almost look like collages! Tell me about your artistic process, and how each work comes to be? How do you know when a work is complete?

    Working a lot with Photoshop, I digitally collage different images together to form my compositions first. Most of these images are from Google and reference a lot of Korean folk art. The painting never is exactly the same as the reference but it is used as a rough sketch. Some paintings are easy to tell when it's done, others, not so much. But it's something I have to trust my gut with, or if there's a deadline the date will decide for me!

  • I am obsessed with your use of colour. Tell me a bit about your palette. Do you plan? Is it intuitive?


    I tend to focus more on value patterns while putting together my composition and then colors kind of roam free during the painting process. They do take a lot of inspiration from the colors of Korean folk art, temples and traditional fabrics. The paintings tend to always be much brighter than my digital collages. Especially now that I've recently discovered neon oil paint, its a total game changer. 

    If you had to describe yourself as a colour, which colour would you be?


    What would you say is the most significant aspect of your art? And how did this come about?

    Demanding an emotional response from the viewer is always my goal and most important to me. If it doesn't stir something, it goes in my failed painting pile. When I look back on my art created as a kid, there was a lot of emotion behind the artwork that I can see now. Art was therapy for me and a reflection of whatever I was dealing with or the essence of myself at that time. Expression is universal and so the more other people, even if they can't explain it in words, but can feel my paintings, they are feeling what's inside of me, connecting with what's inside of them. It is something special and unique.


    I entered my first art competition as a little kid. The rule was to go out and paint/draw something from life.. I chose a large tree and drew it with all its branches twisting and turning and filling the paper. I was so proud of it. When all the contestants had their art up and I saw that my piece didn't make it, I felt so sad to feel my first loss. But then a mother and son walked by viewing all the entries and they stopped in front of mine saying how much they liked this one and that always made me feel like I won anyway. I was lucky to have supportive family around me when I said I wanted to pursue art. I always knew I was going to be an artist. It was the only thing I could do. I dont think my family realized all that it would entail (and how broke I was going to be) but they are better understanding it now. 

    Who are the figures in your work LAUREN?

    The images are mostly referenced from Burning Man photos, porn stars, wrestlers, friends and occasionally myself.