Kristy M Chan: Shifting Memories

Walking into Kristy M Chan’s studio, you are immersed in a colourful world of fluid shapes and layered encounters. Figures and objects from her surroundings densely populate the canvas. Through semi-abstract forms and surreal colours she depicts everyday experiences that are expanded through the layers of her paintings.

Kristy began painting when she moved from Hong Kong to London at sixteen. There she was introduced to old masters paintings and encouraged to make studies of them. These studies soon became infused with elements of her own life. She added friends, personal spaces, and objects that reflected her background. These forms of composition and the fusion of personal memories still inform her work today.

Kristy explores notions of memory, change and the everyday.

Her surroundings and personal experiences are crucial to her practice. By taking a specific memory she expands and highlights various elements from that moment; seeing them shift through the process of remembering. Whilst personal, these depictions speak to shared experiences. Many pieces instigate a feeling of familiarity.

Narrative is not an important structure for her practice. Instead, each piece acts as a documentation and glimpse into specific encounters. The idea that people impose narratives, especially onto figurative work, frustrated her. This stimulated a move away from her predominantly figurative paintings based on pre-existing images, to the more ambiguous, semi-abstract paintings that can be seen in her studio today. She began making work about her feelings towards places, experiences, people and dreams. All of these fused, finding a home in one place.

Shifting memories.

The way she wants to depict an incident changes across time. As Kristy develops a piece the subject evolves and shifts. Different characters or feelings from the specific encounter replace or overlap each other, becoming layers of the paintings’ history.

This can be seen in the piece she is currently working on. It’s about someone trying to steal her bike from outside a bar in Leipzig. The painting has gone through a series of focus changes. Initially, it was about the bar and location. Then it shifted to the frustration and feelings surrounding the incident. Now it is more about the act and action of the bike being damaged. By the time you see it, it could have gone through several more stages. In this way she explores how the more you think about a moment, the more it expands in your memory and how this might also expand through a painting.


Food infused situations and mundane objects like bathtubs (The Bathtub I’ve Always Wanted No. 15, 2019) are woven into her paintings.  Sometimes this is used as a way to address broader social issues within an encounter. Applying a slight touch of sarcasm, she creates an easier entry point for this. In her pieces Grocery Shopping Outfit No. 1 & No. 2, 2020 she references people dressing up to go shopping during the Covid19 lockdown. Here she is using items of clothing to talk about her frustration with people complaining about boredom during a global pandemic.

An evolving focus stimulates Kristy’s fluid approach to painting.

She is not overly precious about her work. Instead she likes to ‘slap everything together’ and embraces possibilities for alterations. Everything is very immediate, reacting directly to her emotions and the previously painted layers. If she doesn’t like something, she paints right over it. Through this process she discovered how spending a sustained amount of time with each painting, becomes a documentation of her encounter with the work itself. 

She is interested in the relationship of the artist to the work and questions – ‘to what extent does your work reflect you as a person, or is it just a facade all the time?’ She describes this relationship and process of making as ‘coexisting’ with her work.

Kristy’s paintings become a visual archive.

The paintings simultaneously act as a documentation of the moments themselves, the following shifts in memories and her encounter with each work.  The accompanying titles encapsulate these moments. She likens this to the idea of putting a memory in a box.

The ongoing work she is developing during the residency draws directly from her surroundings and encounters in Leipzig. Her work for the two upcoming shows will provide beautifully painted glimpses into these experiences.

To see more of Kristy’s work visit her website or Instagram.

Big Soft Illusion

Sat 14 Nov, 7PM-10PM


Sun 15 Nov, Thurs 19 – Sun 22 Nov
12 noon – 4PM

Alte Handelsschule
Geisserstr 75

Flat Time Experience

Fri 18 Dec, 7PM-10PM


Sat 19 Dec – Mon 21 Dec
12 noon – 4PM

PILOTENKUECHE International Art Program
Franz-Flemming-Str 9