A Matter of Style: Exploring the Diversity of Artist Techniques

A Matter of Style: Exploring the Diversity of Artist Techniques

The techniques of contemporary artists are as fascinating and heterogeneous as their inspirations. Here we take a look at six that caught our eye.
The techniques of contemporary artists are as fascinating and heterogeneous as their inspirations. Here we take a look at six that caught our eye.

T he breadth of artistic talent in Contemporary Discoveries is matched by the sheer diversity of artistic technique. Great artists will do anything to create that perfect painting, sculpture or video. Below, we have selected six artists, celebrating the unique nature of each of those journeys, a smorgasbord of these individual techniques.

Josh Sperling

Josh Sperling, Summertime A . estimate: 500,000-900,000 hkd

Melding painting and sculpture in his art, Josh Sperling’s canvases poke out from the wall, vibrantly coloured squiggles which are simultaneously mathematical and gestural, 2D and 3D. The creation of his sculptural canvases involves the CNC cutting of plywood shapes, over which canvas is stretched and then painted. His day begins with chopping wood outside his barn in Ithaca, New York, for heating his studio and his outdoor bathtub. Working with the natural light flooding in from outside, he creates maquettes of the final product, on which he applies paint, so as to see a miniaturised version of the eventual artwork. Colour is a continual field of exploration, and his studio is said to have more than 1,200 proprietary blends of paint. As he said in an interview for Perrotin in 2022, “Colour is surprising. Every time I think I understand it, I try something new, and find that I learn something new”. Although his art works reference man-made phenomena, Sperling immerses himself in the countryside. His process is lovingly earthy and artisanal, but anchored in contemporary innovations in CNC cutting and computer simulation. As the artist, who was born in 1984 and was a former mentee of KAWS, remarks: “You want your artwork to look like it’s from the time period in which you are living”. 

Ayako Rokkaku

Ayako Rokkaku, Untitled . estimate: 400,000-600,000 hkd

Aligning subject matter with technique, Ayako Rokkaku’s paintings of young girls exude joyous sun-infused youth, and how better to capture carefree naïveté than by finger painting? Rokkaku applies paint direct to cardboard with her fingers, usually seated on the floor.

“I don’t feel I’m really painting unless my hands are in direct contact with the paint. It’s more fun that way—using your hands, painting with your whole body."
Ayako Rokkaku, in an interview with Nippon.com, 2011

And why cardboard? “It’s the perfect medium for my kind of painting. I love everything about it: the warm feel, the rough cross-section you get when you tear it, the way the paint sticks to the surface. That’s why I’m still using cardboard today.” Her paintings are bathed in infectious warmth and wide-eyed innocence, injecting dream-like energy and vigour into the most jaded and tiresome day. Born in Chiba, Japan, in 1982, her popularity with diverse strata of society and age groups makes her one of Japan’s most in-demand artists. Recent solo exhibitions have taken place at the Chiba Prefectural Museum of Art, Japan (2020); Museum Jan van der Togt, Amstelveen, The Netherlands (2019).



Stickymonger, Still Bad At Chopsticks . estimate: 300,000-600,000 hkd

Joohee Park, known as Stickymonger, exhibits anime-inspired wide-eyed girls with a touch of kawaii, not so dissimilar to Rokkaku. However, the Brooklyn-based artist – whose studio takes up the entire 50th floor of 3 World Trade Center in New York City – wields an aerosol rather than painting empty-handed. As a child in South Korea whose paeans ran a petrol station, Park played with the garage tools that were available. Moving to New York City, she worked in the Mad Men world of Ogilvy & Mather, eventually giving it up to focus entirely on art. She began her practice with vinyl stickers (hence her soubriquet), wrapping entire buildings, including the World Trade Center, in her signature style, which oscillates from surreal, bright bubble-gum to stark black and white. The vinyl was never one piece, but hundreds of individual components, painstakingly assembled. A sculptor and a painter, she then moved on to acrylic and now water-based spray paint. Enjoying the creative flexibility of spray painting, she presents recurrent imagery of strawberries and black holes; the black holes in the faces of her subjects representing how impervious they are to psychological analysis by others.

“I prefer effortless and clumsy lines over fine lines. There’s a Japanese term called Heta-Uma. Heta means bad, but Uma means good. So my clumsy lines may look really bad, but somehow it’s actually good.”
Stickymonger, interview with Hypebeast, 2018

Recent exhibitions include: “Thank You Plastic” at ART021 Shanghai (2021) “Still Smiling” at Allouche Gallery, New York (2021) and “Lonesome Planet” at Four You Gallery, Dubai (2020).


Kwon Young-woo

Kwon Young-woo, untitled . estimate: 120,000-220,000 hkd

Korean artist Kwon Young-woo (1926–2013) struck a balance between east and west, between tradition and radical innovation, ploughing a self-driven path which took him from Korea to Europe and back again. His 1966 solo exhibition at Seoul’s Sinsegagae Gallery was a statement of intent and purpose. White rice paper glued onto brown panels in a grid formation: this was abstraction in pared-down monochrome. In terms of material, his dedication was to paper, to which over-reliance on colour would have been a distraction from paper’s form, and its ability to soak up liquid. In 1975, Kwon’s work was included in “Korea: Five Artists, Five Hinsek ‘White’”, a group exhibition of all-white artworks at Tokyo Gallery in Japan. It was the first exhibition dedicated to the works of contemporary Korean artists. A year later, and having relocated to France, he mounted a solo exhibition at Jacques Massol Gallery in Paris of resplendent white paper, which was scraped and ripped to examine its material properties of resistance. Never losing his impetus for innovation, Kwon latterly began to bury everyday objects in his work, harnessing disposable spoons, plastic bottles, nails or other items, encasing them in paper on a flat surface. An artist whose creations of tearing and gluing were all done by hand, his technique is manual, eternal, and his acclaim is global. His works are in the collection of the British Museum, Samsung Museum of Art, and M+, among others.


Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst, Untitled (Saturn Spin Painting) . estimate: 50,000-70,000 hkd

A Young British Artist (YBA) who emerged in the 1990s, Damien Hirst is an artist who is resists categorisation. What are the common techniques of The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991) and For the Love of God (2007)? The former is a shark, preserved in formaldehyde; the latter a diamond-encrusted skull, whose title is inspired by an art teacher’s habitual response to his mischievous, artistically precocious creations at school. For the Love of God (2007) is said to have sold to private investors for US$100m in 2007. So how to find the common threads? Broadly, two styles have emerged. One is the combination of colour spots with titles alluding to pharmaceuticals, known as Spot paintings. The second are the Spin paintings: formed by centrifugal force, with Hirst aligning canvases on a spinner, tipping paint on them as they whirl around.

damien hirst, Untitled (Heart Spin Painting) . estimate: 100,000-200,000 hkd

Spot paintings began in 1988, and have been created across a variety of surfaces. Rejecting the rigid order of the spots, the Spin paintings force the artist to take a back seat to the unpredictability of the circular motion, and the direction of the paint it sprays around it. Hirst has revealed that it was John Noakes’ demonstration of spin painting in a 1975 episode of the popular BBC children’s programme Blue Peter that provided some of his inspiration. The series began in 1993 when Hirst and fellow artist Angus Fairhurst dressed up as clowns and ran a spin art stall at a market, inviting the public to participate for £1 a time. Born in 1965, in Bristol, UK, Hirst is one of the world’s most celebrated artists, and one of the most famous of the YBAs still active today.


Florentijn Hoffman

Florentijn Hofman, Flip Flop Monkey . estimate: 180,000-300,000 hkd

Florentijn Hoffman is adored for his larger than life sculptures which have graced some of the world’s major cities. The Dutch artist is perhaps most known for Rubber Duck, built of pontoons and PVC, which first appeared in 2007 in Saint-Nazaire, France, and has been seen in Hong Kong and other locations. His works are recreated locally in each instance, which enhances the individuality of the experience, and prevents them from forming part of an art collection. It also means that local involvement and artistic creation is stimulated. In Hong Kong, Rubber Duck was made by a local ship-building company, whilst Hong Kong creative studio AllRightsReserved, handled the production and logistics of the project, including securing government approval for using the harbour. In the words of Lam Shu-Kam, creative director of AllRightsReserved: “When we commissioned a boat company to do the project, they were very reluctant in the beginning, because compared to building a ship, this is a very small project. But after the project was finished and we asked them to take group pictures, the team, the labourers, were very proud of it.” His works are often large scale – Rubber Duck is 26 metres high – but carry messages of acceptance, tolerance and global harmony. His 16-metre-long Bospolder Fox in Rotterdam emphasises the need for balance between urban planning and nature.

Contemporary Art

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