Claudia Chanhoi's Unique Art Normalises The Idea Of Women Expressing Sexual Desire. See It Here

By Kate Appleton

Women should be able to express their sexual desire without being labelled a "slut", says Claudia Chanhoi. The artist uses illustrations to normalise sexual conversations in Hong Kong

Tatler Asia
Cover  Claudia Chanhoi

Saucy illustrations of breasts, bums and genitals populate Claudia Chanhoi’s Instagram account @brainxeyes. It’s a feast for the eyes, sure, but stop scrolling long enough to read her often thought-provoking captions, and you’ll see where the brain part comes in.

“It feels quite liberating to send a message through my art,” says Chanhoi. “I never really like to be completely explicit; I tend to play subtly with body parts and use different objects to represent ideas.”

Art always came naturally to Chanhoi, who was raised in Hong Kong in a Catholic family where discussing sex was taboo. While studying at the London College of Communication, she experienced her first serious relationship as well as some harassment. She devoted her final project to the sexual objectification of women—and followed that theme when she launched her Instagram in 2016 as a creative outlet while working as a graphic designer.

“My early message was to be able to express your sexual desire as a woman, especially in Hong Kong, where women are asked to be desirable visually—we have to be beautiful and sexy—but we can’t desire sex because then you would be a slut,” she says.

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Her work caught the attention of Rain Lily, a sexual violence NGO that enlisted Chanhoi for a fundraising project. She created pieces blending female anatomy with botanical elements like flowers and bamboo. For a follow-up collaboration on periods, she illustrated a curvaceous waist and a glass of red wine placed discreetly below the belly button, with a little spillage on a neon pink table. “Shame shame,” she posted to Instagram, “body is shameful, we have to hide!”

It feels quite liberating to send a message through my art
Claudia Chanhoi
Tatler Asia
Above  From right: Chanhoi wears a top by Safiyaa, available at Net-a-Porter, Ports 1961 rings; Griffiths wears a Bottega Veneta dress; Lam wears a Bottega Veneta top; Cotes-James wears a Ports 1961 dress

Food frequently pops up in Chanhoi’s work, with suggestive pickles, fruit and pudding-like desserts as common motifs. For her first NFT—a one-of-akind digital artwork—in July 2021, she created an animation of a spoon approaching a bowl as a melon’s vulva-like pit closes (the accompanying hashtag is #BadSexualChemistry). And for a commentary on the throwaway culture of online dating, she illustrated labels for Spam cans with cartoon bottoms and lines like “Bummo: fresh for 60 days”.

See also: Hong Kong Artist Samson Young On The Methods Behind His "Sound Drawings"

Tatler Asia
Above  Claudia Chanhoi

Alongside her personal art and charity campaigns, including a breast cancer line of accessories with Swedish retailer Madlady, Chanhoi works with commercial clients, such as cosmetics brand Lush and ad agency AMV BBDO. She has also held exhibitions in Asia, Europe and the US.

Her solo show last autumn at Hong Kong’s Mihn Gallery was themed around dating in relation to sex, age, money and alcohol, inspired as ever by her personal life. Her captions tend to pose questions, rather than give away her own answers or opinions.

“I think people in general are quite shy in Hong Kong, but I hope they will have an open heart to look into the issues I bring up and discuss them,” says Chanhoi of her shows. “It’d be a great idea to bring your partner along— you’d get to know the person a lot more than with the usual first-date questions.”

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