When I first learnt of Australian-Born, New York-based artist CJ Hendry, a relative of mine was frantically trying to purchase one of her original works on the internet. Of course as an editor and victim to the hype, I immediately conducted my research to understand what all the fuss was about. From a scroll of the creative’s Instagram account I soon understood. Her meticulous and realistic larger-than-life hand drawings are spectacular. From layered florals, gold-dipped shoes and splatters of paint, Hendry now counts the likes of Kanye West, Beyoncé and Pharrell as clients.
Like many creatives nowadays, Hendry found her fame on Instagram as she continues to challenge the long-established rules of art. By ignoring the norms of the gallery system her exhibitions are unlike anything witnessed before best known as a “treasure hunt” format. After 10 months of development (all done under COVID-19 restrictions), Hendry has returned Down Under to release her latest art drop. Aptly dubbed, “STRAYA”.
From Perth to Broome and along the east coast of Australia, Hendry and her team have installed custom road signs across the country emblazoned with Australian slang. In a bid to highlight the beauty of Australia during a time when many Australian’s can’t return home (and encourage locals to travel where possible), the works have now culminated in Brisbane for an exhibition between May 21 and May 23rd. Think 1700 square-metres of sand, 28 small and two large drawings and even a card game.
With such talent making landfall in Australia, we tapped Hendry to answer our five burning questions.
GRAZIA: Welcome back to Australia! Your new exhibition is very different to the work we see on Instagram from you. What made you want to bring something like this to your home country?
CJ Hendry: “As an artist it’s my responsibility to constantly change and showcase new bodies of work that aren’t sunflowers and rainbows and I think it’s important to challenge people’s perspectives and get them to think differently. Through STRAYA, I wanted to highlight the beauty of Australia in a time when many Australians can’t return home, but also encourage the ones here to see our beautiful country.”
What has the response been like? Especially from people overseas?
CH: “Given the current state of the world, people are really excited to go out and explore and view art in the wild and witness art again at this scale.
I think it’s really exciting for the world to witness, particularly as a lot of my supporters are based overseas and aren’t able to come to the exhibition in person but I am doing my best to showcase the exhibition via social media so that everyone can experience it.”
You’ve worked with the likes of Kayne West, Beyoncé, Pharrell in the past. What does that process look like? Are you commissioned with a brief or do you create something from scratch from your own idea?
CH: “When it comes to commissions, it’s a collaboration between the client and myself. I’m pretty honest, if it’s not a direction I am willing to go down, I am upfront about it. Generally speaking, if a client is approaching me for a commission, they are aware of my body of work and they know my style and humour and they are informed collectors who have an understanding of my style, so usually, we align quite well.”
How has your practice as an artist changed with the geographical change from bustling NYC to outback Australia?
CH: “My practices has not changed in the slightest – I am based in New York and STRAYA was developed in New York, executed in Australia. I am so grateful to live in New York where people are given the opportunity speak their mind and have full creative direction when it comes to conceptual art.”
Your practices are considered quite rogue in the “traditional” art world. Had you always set out to defy the standard gallery system?
CH: “Not at all! I think as an artist it’s your job to provoke and inspire – I make my art for the concept. When it is out in the wild, that is where the viewer has full creative license to interpret the art for themselves. I’m proud that my art does inspire controversy. If I was looking for world-wide validation, I would become a ballerina but I am not a ballerina, I am an artist. It’s important to put out a concept where people can take away their own interpretation.”
CJ Hendry’s STRAYA exhibition will be on show in Brisbane from May 21 – May 23. For more information visit the official website, here.