Chinese-American artist Zhang Chun Hong showcases clean, yet haunting, trompe l'oeil artworks at her latest show Currents: Flow, Fall, Calm, Curl at Galerie Steph. She talks hair and art with us.

Tell us about the exhibition.
I created three fine ink paintings and three large charcoal drawings that look like ocean waves, river currents and waterfalls from a distance. However, upon closer inspection, you can see that each image is made up of strands of hair that represent my identity.

What was the inspiration?
I’m inspired by the natural environment of the Pacific Ocean (as experienced in California, where I lived for seven years) and the Yellow River in my homeland, China.

What’s the process like?
It’s very time consuming, especially for the large scale charcoal drawings. I always begin with a small study first and work on a larger size second. I also take pictures of my own hair as reference to get detailed information. For large works, I start with a light composition and then work on sections with details and darkness.

How does your current exhibition relate to your past works?
I have been working with hair imagery since 2000. In my early work, I used the disembodied image of long, straight, black hair to represent my own identity through a series of large scale charcoal family portraits. Then I combined my hair with everyday objects to create a second series of small graphite drawings and oil paintings that evoke different emotions through a surrealistic approach.

What aspects of your art are you most proud of?
My work is a mix of traditional skills with contemporary ideas. It’s a combination of craftsmanship—I’ve trained in Chinese ink medium and use charcoal on a monumental scale—and a modern hair/water concept that explores identity.