Cover The artist couple with Number 31 on the background

Once again, this husband-and-wife team show us that balance is key

Artephiles were captivated at the Art Fair Philippines last month by thousands of masterful works from local and international galleries that were viewed using the annual event’s new virtual platform. One of the eye-catchers was Procession of the Slightly Mad, the two-man show at the Art Verité booth by the art couple Brian Uhing and S-Ann Ch’i.

“We both try not to take ourselves too seriously, which is essential when going about creating serious work!” quipped Uhing. “Sounds insane, thus the title.”

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Staying true to their distinctive styles and approaches, the couple fuse their best strengths as visual artists making the exhibition pop with black and red hues. Uhing’s refined surrealist paintings, influenced by Venetian and Flemish styles, are perfect partners to the frenetic dance movements of S-Ann Ch’i encapsulated by her gestural abstractions. Together, the dynamic duo have created arrestingly beautiful pieces that test art’s boundless freedom as well as the harmony and balance they have mastered as a husband-and-wife team.

“One underlying thread that weaves through our art is our awareness of letting the process lead us,” said Uhing.

He has been in the local and international art scene for some time now, with significant works like “The Plight of Lady Vanity” auctioned at Sotheby’s Hong Kong at record prices. His process is inspired by the old masters like Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo and Jacob van Ruisdael but modernised with a surrealist approach. “They [old masters] didn’t paint what was before them, but instead focused more on how to show everything at its most exaggerated, dramatic advantage,” the artist said.

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The whimsical nature of his works may be traced back to his early introduction to art at the age of three when he was entranced by the cover of a children’s book by Maurice Sendak, Where The Wild Things Are. “That was the first time I became aware of the power of the play of light, and how the two dimensional can be manipulated into creating the illusion of depth,” he shared.

Growing up in a home that loves art and music, it was easy for Uhing to be led to the creative path. “When a concept for a piece comes to me, I try using symbolism to create a narrative… It is always about the inner mental state that we grapple with or hold to our chest and what makes us human,” he continued. “By pouring yourself openly, you can create something that has a good chance of moving them to tears or awakening them,” Uhing explained.

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As for S-Ann Ch’i, her pseudonym speaks for her art. Influenced by the Chinese philosophy of life force or energy flow, the abstract artist approaches her medium like a dance, a flow, a series of sensations. Her attraction to the Japanese style of sumi-e (black ink) painting hails from her visits to various Buddhist temples in her teenage years. “The beauty I found in the graceful trails of incense smoke, set out to capture ‘the flow’ on paper,” she explained. As she progressed, the dimensions of her work grew and took on a more abstract tone to better capture her movement. And yet, her works have kept the sense of harmony and balance despite the shift.

“The act of creation demands that I literally work around and inside the painting,” S-Ann Ch’i said. Her process involves applying intuition, her personal expressions and improvisations, as well as working with the natural forces of gravity. “The raw aesthetics that are captured in the process, the excitement of painting an ‘event’ into the visual language” are what captivated her, she said, to the world of art. Inspired by Jackson Pollock’s calculated approach in making energetic masterpieces, and Norman Lewis’ mastery of colour and space, S-Ann Ch’i’s art takes one to a visual experience that gives a sense of equilibrium. “Art to me is a dance, to recognise the intrinsic flow that permeates everything and to surrender to the current,” she said.

S-Ann Ch’i is also a philanthropist and has been supporting local and international charitable institutions since 1998. With her “S-Ann Ch’i Toy Libraries” project, children from different barangays across the country can borrow books and toys for free. She also provides scholarship assistance to underprivileged children.

Just like in their art, Uhing likewise immerses himself in his wife’s humanitarian activities. She helps him when it comes to painting women’s fashion while he gives his opinion when asked if her piece is balanced or not. “Sharing a studio and a life together has made us both aware of how truly elegant and beautiful the significance of existence is,” Uhing said.

“When we hear the word ‘artist couple’ there is a certain archetype that comes to mind where one is standing in the limelight while the other is merely basking in his glory,” S-Ann Ch’i says. To avoid this, she adds, they made it a point to keep family first and not to take the theatrical goings-on outside their relationship too seriously. And describing an ideal partnership, she says, “We met each other in our early thirties, and both regret not having met sooner! But now that we have finally found each other, everything we experience is never taken for granted, all facets of life including creating art are done side by side!”

This story was originally published in the June 2021 issue of Tatler Philippines. Download it on your digital device via Zinio, Magzter or Pressreader.

  • ImagesGlobe Studios for Art Fair Philippines (Brian Uhing and S-Ann Ch'i)
  • ImagesArt Verité (Artworks)