Portrait artist Brendan Fitzpatrick has returned to Hong Kong to rediscover his roots, re-identify with the city and open his new studio in Wong Chuk Hang.
Known for his classic yet contemporary portraiture, Fitzpatrick left Hong Kong as a child but the city has always resonated with him and its influential arts scene has now drawn him back.
Working primarily in oil and charcoal, Fitzpatrick creates all of his portrait work from live observation to truly capture the essence of his subject. Alumni of both Central Saint Martins and The Royal Drawing School in London, and classically trained at the renowned Charles H. Cecil studios in Florence, Italy, Fitzpatrick’s more recent work depicts figures in contemporary poses and settings that imbue more modern sensibilities, married with the technicality and intensity of the Old Masters’ fine art traditions.
The artist’s return has been inspired by a desire to contribute to the local art scene while exploring what it means to be a Hong Konger and connecting with his Cantonese heritage, a connection that became especially poignant with the death of his mother at a young age.
The tumultuous climate since his arrival last summer, from protests to Covid-19, has impacted Fitzpatrick’s latest works, originally titled Everything is Fine, which documents his subjects mulling over their anxieties while mirroring his own anxiousness surrounding his journey during this period.
The result is an inherently personal series that is eminently relatable and wide-reaching, as portraits capture the pulse of ordinary people who feel the weight of turbulent times. From the Everything is Fine series, Fitzpatrick’s work Self Portrait in Sharp Relief was selected to be exhibited and featured in the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition at the Mall Galleries in London.
The annual exhibition is a celebration of the best in international contemporary portraiture and was shown online this year due to the pandemic. Fitzpatrick’s Self Portrait in Sharp Relief was the first
painting of the show to sell after being showcased on the exhibit’s Instagram account and going viral.
“When I am painting my sitters, the whole interaction becomes a part of the
finished product,” says Fitzpatrick. “The insights gleaned from our conversations during the painting process are equally as important as observing their physical form, and together these inform each brushstroke I lay. This is the depth that comes from painting from life.”
Outside of painting, Fitzpatrick seeks to rekindle his connection to the city and his Cantonese roots in other ways – this includes Fitzpatrick designing his favoured 1920s-style linen suits with his uncle, a collaborative process which takes place at his uncle’s classic Hong Kong tailoring shop in Tsim Sha Tsui.
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