Emma Hack draws on a model during a live performance that recreates a painting by the 18th-century genre painter Kim Hongdo at Savina Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo/Savina Museum of Contemporary Art
By Lee Wooyoung
Body painter Emma Hack covers her models in wallpaper art
Australian artist Emma Hack paints on a model’s body until it perfectly aligns with the intricate, colourful patterns of the wallpaper behind the model.
In other work, she perfectly adjusts the contours of her models to match the detailed patterns of flowers and animals.
The artist’s work – captured in photographs –has been exhibited in major cities around the world, including New York, Hong Kong and Singapore. She is holding her first solo exhibition |in Korea at Savina Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul until |Oct. 30.
Hack rose to international fame in 2011, when she collaborated with Belgian musician Gotye on his music video “Somebody That I Used to Know.” The music video, which has amassed more than 803 million views, features Gotye body-painted by Hack to match the colour block patterns of the background wall.
For the opening of her Seoul show, Hack spent seven hours demonstrating her art and recreated a lotus painting by the 18th century Korean painter Kim Hong-do with a Korean contemporary dancer.
“It was an honour to recreate Kim Hong-do’s work. The result was beautiful and my model was perfect as the lotus,” the artist said later.
A former makeup artist, Hack took her makeup skills to a new level when she won a body painting championship in 2001. Inspired by a German model and artist called Veruschka, who depicted herself body-painted against a series of rustic wall settings, Hack began painting on bodies based on wallpaper designs by the late Australian interior designer Florence Broadhurst.
“I love Broadhurst’s oriental and Australian designs,” she explains. “I feel connected to this style of painting and find oriental mythology very interesting. I have travelled throughout Asia and love the motifs and designs.”
The Savina exhibition features a total of 49 photographs by Hack that represent major series by the artist from 2005 to 2010. In the “Wallpaper” series from 2005, Hack made her models stand out visually by leaving a few parts of their bodies unpainted, which gave off a fashion photo vibe. In the following series, she began to hide her models by completely blending them into the wallpaper backdrops.
In her “Birds of a Feather” series, the contours of her models are difficult to make out against the strong, bright flower-patterned backdrops. Upon closer inspection, the models can be seen holding exotic birds such as peacocks, cockatoos and crows.
Hack frequently features birds in her series as an environmental statement that emphasises harmony between life and nature. In her 2009 “Native Mandala” series, she featured Australia’s best-known animals –kangaroos, lizards and cockatoos – held by her models who are perfectly blended into the wallpaper.
Looking at the final images, it’s hard to estimate how many hours have been put into the body camouflage painting they depict. But the work process is very labour-intensive, and requires the artist and the models to stand from eight to 15 hours. It takes a lot of patience for a model to stand still for many hours while the artist applies paint with brushes and checks to see that each brushstroke matches the wallpaper through the camera lens.
“Fatigue and working with animals and birds always offers a challenge. I do enjoy challenging myself though, it’s important for growth as an artist,” she says.
Hack prefers to work with the same models, pointing out that they know what to expect from the long creative process. She has a few models in Australia she works with regularly.
“The first few hours pass then we break and chat. It helps to know the girls well. It’s a good catch-up and they are keen to do a great job for me, so it’s never a boring time!” she says.