Coffee painting craftsman, Maria Filatova-Chan (she doesn’t fancy the term, ‘artist’) doesn’t even enjoy a cup of Joe. Yet she paints with it, creating mono-colour but tone-rich watercolour portraits. Gallery & Studio had a chat with her during CREATORY on how coffee painting is different back home in Estonia, and her penchant for seeing things in black and white.
Words: Fiona Goh
I’m from Estonia and we have a theory that coffee keeps insects away from the kitchen. So we paint coffee in a simple square shape onto paper and keep them in the kitchen. This doesn’t work in Singapore because there are a lot of ants!
I only started painting with coffee in Singapore, and have been doing it for two years now. I was a teacher and had to teach it to my students. I knew nothing about it but I learnt. When I saw how it works, I got curious so I started experimenting. Whenever I see something curious to me, I check it out. If I like it, I continue to explore with it. I like introducing them to others too. You never know, maybe someone will be curious enough to want to develop them to the next stage. Back home we only do a square of coffee painting. Now we use it to paint pictures, so who knows what’s going to be next.
Renewing the old
Coffee painting is not new. In the past, we used it to give paper a sepia vintage effect. I’m not sure how it even became an art, but I think a lot of people are starting to experiment with it. There’s a Chinese girl (Red Hong Yi) who does coffee painting, but she uses a cup as a brush. So today, there are different ways of utilising coffee as paint. For me, I use it like watercolour.
The one in charge
The thing about painting with coffee is you believe you’re in charge but actually you’re not. Coffee is different from watercolour—it’s sticky and doesn’t get absorbed into paper as quickly. It stays on the surface, so it travels. It might move left or right, or mix with another tone. So I may not get the colour I want. At the end of the day, the coffee is in charge. I’m just helping it to interact.
Single colour, thousand tones
I’m a black-and-white person, so monochrome pictures are more my cup of tea. My theory is that we see objects not because of their colours but because of their contrast and tone. If you take the colours away, you still see the same thing. So even though coffee painting is a single shade, I play with different tones to create a picture.
I’m a craftsman, not an artist. I don’t do things for other people; I do things for myself and if the results are interesting and people like it, I’m happy. If it’s not acceptable, then sorry. I think artists believe what they do is beautiful, and they need others to think so too. I don’t because whatever I do, I do it for myself.
Nestled in an almost forlorn looking corner at MacTaggart Road is Tasty Plaza, a newly repurposed industrial building dedicated to Singapore’s F&B and lifestyle entrepreneurs. Guests headed for CREATORY, held here from August 23-24, had to look to their right and left to ascertain they were in the right place. But when greetings of live band music and whiffs of delectable food hit, all doubts were dispelled.
The Ate Group, a communications agency in Singapore celebrated its 8th birthday with an artful weekend paying tribute to some of the most creative brands and talents in today’s lifestyle arena with CREATORY – a two-day festival that showcased more than 40 of Singapore’s top minds in food, art, design, architecture, entertainment and retail, through live art installations, pop-up workshops, F&B experiences and retail corners.
Guests swarmed eight different floors in Tasty Plaza, each curated by various home grown agencies such as ONG&ONG Experience Design and Tofu, interacting and experiencing all that Singapore’s local talents have to offer on one integrated platform.
This story was first published in Vol 3 of Gallery & Studio.