Rare peace in the city

Hong Kong has been a turbulent place for months due to the social unrest, but Anna Salenko’s vibrant oil paintings will remind you of the city’s beauty and vitality.

The Russian artist is exhibiting 16 paintings – mainly of Hong Kong’s urban landscape – at the Umami Restaurant & Bar in Le Meridien Cyberport until January 31. Through her work, she aims to convey positive emotions and bring a smile to audiences using only palette knives. “I never paint when I’m in a bad mood because I want to bring people bright and happy emotions,” said Salenko.

The most significant feature of her paintings is her extensive use of blue, yellow and red. As shadows are dark and depressing, she uses purple and brown instead of black. “You can always add a touch of purple or brown to show the dark. They are natural colors, but black is not, so you rarely see black in my work,” she said.

Her love of bright colors began when she moved to Italy for further studies after graduating from a classical art school in Vladivostok.

Compared to Europe, she felt her hometown lacked color and passion. While considering ways to pursue better color expression, she saw French artist Christian Jequel’s palette knife paintings. “There are very few artists who paint using palette knives because it’s too difficult, but it’s beautiful,” she said.

Inspired by his work, she too started using palette knives, which gave her the freedom to use more colors.

“I can take a big knife, put five colors in one and make one stroke that combines all the colors. It’s smooth, soft and has more layers,” she said.

As traditional art schools don’t teach students to paint with palette knives, she almost gave up during the first two years, when she was figuring things out on her own. But the unwavering support of her friends kept her going.

She decided to inspire others with what she had learned by opening a children’s painting school in Guangzhou in 2013 and providing online courses.

“I love to share because it is much easier when you have some tips – not like me, starting from scratch, not even knowing which knife to use,” Salenko said.

She fell in love with teaching as the process fulfilled her aim as an artist to convey positive moods. “I talked to and understood people more, and painting made both the children and I feel calm and peaceful.”

During the six years she lived in Guangzhou, Salenko traveled to Hong Kong every week because it reminded her of her hometown. The city’s urban scene – especially the colorful taxis, buses and festivals – called to her.

“Streets that I walk through, afternoons when the sun goes down, huge advertisements, street food … a lot of things make me feel that the city is alive,” she said.

She loved the city so much she closed her painting school in Guangzhou and moved here two months ago, and plans to further develop her online courses soon.

“I will find more things I haven’t drawn yet – cute things like lucky cats and goldfish.”

(This article was published at The Standard on November 22 2019: Weekend Glitz: Rare peace in the city )

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