Hubert Burda Media

Ama Huen Talks Faith and Family

Artist Ama Huen talks us through an exhibition she created for K11 Art Foundation and explains why her son is her “saviour”.

The mercury is hitting 35 degrees when I step inside Ama Huen’s apartment, which is on the top floor of a village house in the New Territories. “So where’s the studio?” I gasp, standing gratefully beneath the aircon. “Upstairs,” Huen replies, smiling serenely, pointing up to her roof terrace. 

Ama Huen at her outdoor studio. Photo: Until Chan

And it’s here, completely exposed to the baking heat apart from a canvas awning and a standing fan, that Huen is making her soul-baring art for her exhibition, The Inferno, with K11 Art Foundation (KAF). “To me, this isn’t really an exhibition – it’s actually a deep sharing of my past life,” Huen explains. “For the show, I’ve designed a metaphorical dark forest, so when people go in they actually go into the forest to see my artwork in different stages. First is how I battled with my addiction, because I was an alcoholic for a long time – more than a decade – and that made me so crazy for part of my life. 

“Then [the next stage of the exhibition] is how having my son changed me, he was sort of like my pause, or saviour,” Huen continues. “And through the whole process I found God. So I walked out of the forest and saw the light – when you see the exhibition, you will hopefully feel it too.” 

As well being inspired by her rediscovery of Christianity, Huen’s show – held in June and July – was also influenced by, and named for, Dante’s Inferno. “I read the Inferno five years ago, when I was pregnant with my son,” she recalls. “And though it was written in the 14th century, everything that I read in there is so relevant to what I’ve experienced about going into darkness, descending into hell.” 

Works in progress at Ama Huen's studio. Photo: Until Chan

Works in progress at Ama Huen’s studio. Photo: Until Chan

Huen expresses these feelings in a variety of media, including paintings on wood, videos, photographs and – on the opening and closing nights of The Inferno – live performances. “I started singing when I was very young, and my mother was a singer as well, so music was everything,” Huen says. “I got a record deal to become a Hong Kong local stupid pop star, but I hated it. But music to me is still very freeing and the expression comes almost without having to think about it. But with art, it’s a labour of love, because I only paint on wood and I love to carve. I love it because all these pieces of wood, they’re seemingly dead, but if I put my heart into them and I communicate with them visually, then I can bring them to life.”