We take a look inside the 1950s home of French artist CHAUSSETTE B and her husband, tucked away on a quiet hillside in Cheung Chau.
Where are you from originally? What do you miss about it?
I’m from Brittany in France. The first few years, I missed crusty bread, Brillat-Savarin cheese, butter croissants, and Pouilly-Fuissé and Gevrey-Chambertin wines; I have weaned myself off French food, and now I just miss my family!
What brought you to Hong Kong?
I visited 15 years ago to see friends and I loved this city so much, with its hundreds of islands and country parks contrasting so strongly with the busy heart of the town, that I decided to see if my company, which was located in Paris but had an office in HK, might transfer me.
Give us an introduction to your art.
I would say that my work is intimate and cryptic, and its multi-disciplinary aesthetical aspects emerge from my joy in transforming objects. I find an unlimited playground to tell my stories by adding and combining elements taken from life and the material world.
I try to only use elements that surround me without having to buy things; so I will use coffee for painting, for example, or create sculptures from all kinds of waste.
Above all else, my work is a way to heal myself and find solutions to problems I would have never been able to solve otherwise. It has a therapeutic power for me, and if it can open a space for people to connect with their own feelings and struggles to find their own way to deal with those, that is a collateral effect I’m extremely happy with.
How can our readers see your artworks?
They can visit my studio in Cheung Chau, if they want! My studio is also where I live, so it’s not open to the public, but I’m always pleased to do a tour on request. People can send me an email or contact me via Instagram. Or, if they want to have a look at my work while sitting on their sofa, they can check my website, chaussetteb.com, my Instagram @chaussetteb and also my YouTube channel.
You live in Cheung Chau – is it a good place to find inspiration for your work?
I think I get inspired wherever I live – the environment that surrounds me infuses my work as tea infuses water. When I moved into this old house from the 1950s, my work started to have a more vintage style; let’s see what will happen if I move into a caravan in the middle of a desert!
Tell us a bit about the home: how long have you lived in this house in Cheung Chau, and where were you previously?
It has high ceilings with green beams and old tiles, and is located on a very cute and peaceful hill on the north side of Cheung Chau.
Before that, I was living in Sea Ranch, a private housing estate tucked away in the southern corner of Lantau. Initially, it was a resort club with luxurious apartments, swimming pool and so on, but it collapsed and has been since then transformed into housing; but most of the residents moved away so it’s a bit like a ghost city! I loved living there.
What attracted you to this particular home?
Its authenticity, the high ceiling, the light, the soft pink and blue tiles, the view of the port, the cute wooden stairs leading to the first floor, the little guest room mezzanine … I immediately saw the potential of the house after some coats of paint, and some cleaning and renovation.
Is there anything noteworthy about the location? What’s nearby?
It’s close to Yuk Hui Temple (also known as Pak Tai Temple), a beautiful temple with a little garden at the back.
What are some of the key features of the home?
The main room where I put my studio has plenty of sunlight, an old fan hanging from the high ceiling that makes the room breathe, and a peaceful view of a tree.
Is there a spot in the home that you enjoy the most?
The room I call the “back vestibule”, where I hang my floating sculpture installation, Neuroplasticity (inspired by The Brain’s Way of Healing by Norman Doidge). I like sitting there and watching as my neurones are making new connections; it rests my soul and clears my mind.
My husband enjoys spending time in his music studio composing new songs for his solo act Corinne Chon, or recording album parts for his four-piece band, Shumking Mansion, and practicing his many instruments – piano, synth, “keytar”, drums, trumpet and others.
When night comes, we like to turn the room into a home cinema space, or an exhibition space where I can showcase my short movies.
Run us through the details of any renovations or changes you’ve made.
A less fancy but quite fundamental change was to put in hot water and air-conditioning! After that, the replacement of the windows for bigger ones was a game changer in terms of natural light. And since my husband and I both enjoy wood-working, we made a cute white solid ladder to climb up to the secret mezzanine, and also some mahjong benches to match the vintage mood of the house.
I shouldn’t forget the garden that was just a dark concrete space when we arrived; we turned it into a flower and vegetable garden with roses, bougainvillea, mangos, tomato, figs, lemons and more.
In addition to your own, what kind of artworks can be found in your home?
To be totally honest, I’ve never been an art collector, nor really an art lover, and I have a very poor art culture! But very recently I started to be moved when I saw certain pieces of art; I can feel that I am opening up to a new world, and it’s fascinating. A few months ago, during the Cheung Chau Wave art festival, I watched a short movie about someone walking inside a water reservoir in Hong Kong. It was dark and humid, with sound echoes, and I felt that I was entering the bowels of the earth. The person who was walking let her hand slide on the rocky wall, and it was like I could feel the rock under my own fingers. It was a very physical and emotional feeling.
To answer more properly, I do have some artworks; I have two mini paintings on wood that I bought in Cuba 20 years ago; one is a copy of a Modigliani portrait and the other a copy of a Klimt painting – I had no clue they were copies of great artists when I bought them, and I like them very much.
What are a few things you like to do in Hong Kong when you’re not working?
Swimming, walking in nature, reading on a rock!
- Cheung Chau Sourdough and Sunny Alley Bakery (“two nice bakeries run by young HK people”)
- The Pink Pig Music Bar and Restaurant (“you can sit on a tricycle in front of the port while drinking an excellent craft ginger beer, and eating chilli fries or fresh salad”)
- No.11 (“excellent burgers!”)
- HAIKA Coffee
- La Ruche (“a new restaurant with very fresh Mediterranean French simple dishes but with a twist of originality”)
- Robert O’Brien’s studio (“Robert is a British painter who has lived in Cheung Chau for many years and he always has plenty of stories to tell; stepping into his studio, you can see his massive number of artworks – and you might get the chance to see what he’s working on at the moment”)
- Islander (“run by a lovely couple, Debbie and Thomas, who have lots of different kinds of kombuchas and craft beers”)
- Waterfront restaurants (“there are some excellent seafood restaurants on the waterfront but I can’t recall any specific names!”)
- “I also like the tiny new décor shop selling old European-style tableware that looks a lot like what I had in my childhood”
This article first appeared in the Summer 2022 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.