Nature’s Imagination: How Christian Hook Makes Love Visible

“Every time I look at science, what I see and what I find is stranger and more incredible than anything that I can imagine by myself. It’s nature’s imagination.”

Featured work: Innocence Part I & II

An embrace leaves a warm handprint on an arm, only visible through thermal imaging. As a couple dances, a neuroscience and AI professor observes their brain waves sync up. These are a few of the hidden markers of love that artist Christian Hook set out to capture in a group of works called “Painting the Invisible.”

Hook has long been fascinated with the ephemeral and cosmic wonders of our existence, including our experiences and perceptions of time, space, embodiment and emotional connection. Hook’s latest series is the culmination of his consultations and collaborations with scientists, as well as a person with synesthesia. The works aim to capture the intangible aspects of interpersonal relating and love, and they integrate input from multiple fields and modes of inquiry, including theoretical physics, the study of tears, thermal imaging and brain monitoring. This creative journey is documented in a film now available on Sky Arts — the movie is also coming to Netflix.

Hook is well established in the realm of fine portraiture, having painted the Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson, Sir Ian McKellen, Amir Khan, Kirsten Scott Thomas and many others. His portrayal of Alan Cumming is in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, and, in 2014, Sky Arts named Hook Portrait Artist of the Year. This Gibraltarian creator is also a practicing musician and film writer, and is soon launching a blockchain-based art marketplace called The New Medici’s. He took some time out from his multifaceted imaginative endeavors to share his thoughts on art making, and his future hopes.

More featured works (the first selection is from “Painting the Invisible,” and the second group below contains some of Hook’s previous works):

5 Questions for the Artist:

1. What is art to you?

I think art is trying to find a poetic expression to resolve a problem, issue or idea in a non-literal way.

2. What did you make or do in the past and why?

I try and do something related to science in each series because I find science extremely fascinating. The new findings in science go beyond the imagination. The images that we have in our imagination always come from something that we have already seen; it’s an amalgamation of different things we already know about.

Every time I look at science, what I see and what I find is stranger and more incredible than anything that I can imagine by myself. It’s nature’s imagination. Taking from there and then doing something with it, it feels more in tune with who we are and how humans are a part of nature. That’s why I have always been interested in mixing science with art.

I have done lots of documentaries, programs on Sky, I have won many awards, and I am in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, the museum of Manchester, the museum in Liverpool, and in permanent collections in many galleries. We have done stuff with the British Royal Family. I traveled around the world painting presidents, kings and queens with British Polo Day. Elon Musk’s representative was there, and other top thinkers came together to launch their ideas in that country. I would do a painting to give back in return for hosting these amazing events. Recently, I have worked with a portrait for Richard Branson, who invited me to do a space flight.

3. What are you doing and making and why?

This new series of work, “Painting the Invisible,” exhibited at Clarendon Fine Art Dover Street, is the best and biggest collaboration I have ever done. Having these scientists work with me is a really cool collaboration. They are always looking for newness and for new relevant things for humans.

4. What are your hopes for the future?

I would love to work with David Attenborough. I think that his work is incredible. He is really focusing and trying to work for us, humanity, and to make the world a clean, livable place. I would like to join him in whatever way I can to help. He is, in another way, a scientist; he works with scientists all the time, as well, and I am really fascinated by this.

5. What else would you like to say?

We will soon launch a crypto-system on the blockchain that I have developed with a team called the New Medici’s token to work with artists and art. We are already signing artists on it, and it will be a way to buy and sell art.

I have written a new film called The Resurrection. I told Alan Cumming about it, who said in his last podcast that he wanted to be in it. I am finishing it now, and I have a couple of directors interested in it.

I am working on a three-part music album; the first part has been released today, called “The Grand Bazaar.” The second song is “Souk,” and the third song is “Emporium.” I work in the same way as I do with my paintings; the process is very similar to my process of creating paintings.

One of the projects I have been thinking about for a long time is the sea because I live in Gibraltar, and we are surrounded by the sea. I wanted to have a team of people where the sea is seen as an entity that’s been here since the beginning of time. Even if we divide it into pieces, it’s still been here from the beginning of time. Everything that’s alive is a water vessel. I find the sea and water a very interesting thing. I think it’s a lot more than we give it credit for; we think of how to use it. It’s actually a really interesting creature, and I want to investigate it in an artistic way with marine biologists. That’s another project I would love to embark on.

Artist Bio (source: National Galleries Scotland):

Christian Hook was born in Gibraltar. He studied illustration at Middlesex University, London, leading to a successful career as an illustrator whilst also lecturing on the art of illustration at the Royal College of Art and other universities. In 2014, Hook was announced as the recipient of the Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year award — winning a major commission of actor Alan Cumming, for the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. The artist is interested in the depiction of the passing of time and moments between events, noting that: “We are always on the move, if not physically, mentally.”

Hook’s investigative partners for “Painting the Invisible” included theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli; physicist and oceanographer Helen Czerski; Maurice Mikkers, who studies tears; neurodiversity advocate Carolyn CC Hart; and professor of AI and Neuroscience Aldo Faisal.

Find Christian Hook’s work at Clarendon Fine Art Dover Street and on Instagram.

Learn more about the Ask Artists interview series and submissions, which features all forms of creative expression.

Julia Travers, Instagram

I’m a writer and artist who runs the Ask Artists interview series. Find interviews here along with other stories.

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Ask Artists with Julia Travers

Ask Artists with Julia Travers

I’m a writer and artist who runs the Ask Artists interview series. Find interviews here along with other stories.

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