Christian Hook interview

in Features

The last time we spoke to Christian Hook for Insight Magazine he had already taken the art world by storm and he was ready to move on to something else – such was his need to take on new challenges and break down barriers all the time. Life is not fast and challenging enough in his eyes and it gets in his way but he always seeks to break the mould and think outside the box. That makes him the great artist that he is today.

“There are two things that I hate a lot – routine and repetition. I am dyslexic and when I took the test for it, done by a professional earlier this year, I found that I was dyslexic. I don’t have it for reading and writing but for the rest yes. One of the things that I have a strong reaction to is repetition. I can’t stand repetition, so if I have a highly organised list of things that I must do in a day, like fifty things, I can’t stand that. Having to be somewhere or having to do something at a specific time gets to me in a negative way. Nowadays even my meetings are not regimented like that so that flexibility in timings keeps everything new for me.” 

That is an exclusive insight into the man who has shaken the art world and is also the mark of evolution of the artist who is extremely talented and extremely restless in equal measure. He has an inquiring mind and gets bored quickly once he has executed his ideas, which are always the most challenging ways to do things, to discover new ways to marry art and science, his favourite subjects and consuming passions.   

“I have already been included in most national galleries although I think there was one still missing. I have already done all the arts festivals in New York. I did an around the world trip with presidents kings and queens. I also travelled in India and many other places and in truth once you have your work in national galleries, apart from the Turner Prize and being included in contemporary history books, which I am, there is little left to conquer.”

 I sense immediately that Christian Hook has moved on and we are going to see less of his art on canvas as he strives to conquer other mediums. His goals are always set quite high and he will not shy away from the impossible. Now influential enough to be heard and followed, he is determined to discover new ways of understanding reality through science and art. 

“In terms of achievement you can only expand financially. For example if the number of art galleries increases so does your exposure. I have always wanted to try other things, like I wanted to extract my art from painting and include it in other mediums. The same process that I would use in my painting I wanted to use for other mediums. Since I started to focus on new things I now have seven businesses apart from art and I always try to get from A to B in every way that doesn’t yet exist. I have to invent a creative way to get there.” 

At this point I remind Christian that this is what he did when he studied Calligraphy – he was trying to measure the energy in his brushstrokes so that he could discover what made them unique and spontaneous. Although my hopeful interruption was in English he continued in Spanish (Yanito) and I followed on too, not wanting to slow down his thought process by having him think and translate. His restlessness and inquiring mind only allows him to share his ideas quickly and I remind myself that he hates repetition so I listen.

“Up to now I had done nothing with Gibraltarians involved so when I came back here before the lockdown the first thing I thought of as a project was music involving local talent. Before I tell you about that I have to take you back to what made me decide on music in the first place. It goes back to Jay Z (Beyonce’s husband) and to a long flight where I wrote down ideas for a film. I told my team in London to get me in touch with him and he liked the idea. I went with his people to see a high profile and sold out Rap concert by ‘Drake’ in the NY City’s biggest stadium.”

 “Although I’m a great fan of ‘Drake’ I was amazed at the high standard of music which I had not thought possible in Rap music until then. When I heard what was happening musically in that concert, I thought that it was really good and totally something else, another dimension which I had not been exposed to and which I had yet to explore.” 

Rap is quirky, angry and challenging musical convention and lyrical content all the time and Hook has been touched by a spark which turned into a fire as he searched for a way to harness what he saw and felt and tried to translate it into music which, he insists, should be done in a different way – by deconstructing it and doing it wrong just to challenge the medium. It’s exactly what he does in his painting all the time. 

“I always wanted to work with top scientists to see whether a new door could be opened through art and science working together. Many breakthroughs in artistic development throughout history prove that artistic enlightenment came after scientific concepts were broken down for artists to understand and interpret in their unique way. I already had this script which I had written for a film where the plot is that I wanted to paint ‘something impossible’ and top scientists would help me achieve it. In reality top scientists like Nobel Prize winners would not want to help me and jeopardise their status and reputation collaborating in my experiment, that is, unless one influential figure among them came fully on board with my idea”.

A year earlier Christian had met one such high profile scientist an Italian physicist Carlo Rovelli whose book ‘The order of time’ and other books are huge best sellers. He is being hailed as the new Stephen Hawkins. Hook was impressed by the latest book too and he had told Rovelli in a meeting that he wanted to work with him on a project. A year passed and they didn’t get together until a Sky Arts team was asked to contact him and revive the collaboration initiative. To Christian’s amazement Carlo Rovelli said yes immediately and unconditionally…and there was not even a project on the table yet!

 For the last few years Christian Hook leads a committed group of high profile ‘enablers’ (my description) whose diverse skills are channelled in order to facilitate the plethora of ideas and projects that flow from the artist. “At the very least they prepare a first draft which captures the idea and spirit of discussions before ‘they are lost in translation’ so to speak.”  Hook’s current fascination with Carlo Rovelli stems from a theory that the physicist holds which is that ‘we only live in a five percent of reality because we cannot see the other ninety five percent’. “I wanted top scientists including NASA scientists to try and measure what the balance of our reality might look like. I wanted to ‘open a new door’ which could be followed in a film documentary which I was embarked on.”

“As I developed a common theme which might unite science, art and hopefully a ‘greater reality’ I hit upon the idea that ‘the sentiment between two people’ could perhaps be measured scientifically. Is love measurable between two people?  Is love a tangible unit of connectivity? When two people are separated by physical distance is their connection severed or does it stay intact? When two people are heartbroken what is happening to their connection? Can these emotions be measured scientifically?”

All those questions and more provided the flesh and bones for his film so Hook selected a long time couple who had split and each formed new relationships, then reunited again later on in life and now they both run spiritual centres because they believe that they have a spiritual connection. Christian remembered that he would need input from Carlo Rovelli who could explain in a scientific way how a connection is made in space- space being here and all around us – so while he was still trying to ‘paint the invisible’ Rovelli’s theories could perhaps be measured and they could break new scientific ground in art.

Christian took a whole year off to make that documentary film which features Nobel Prize scientists. It’s still untitled and yet to be scheduled for TV. They went to the Imperial College with the world’s top neurologist, they used NASA’s equipment and in the course of making the programme they discovered new material which can be called groundbreaking in science and all the while Hook was painting these ‘invisible’ concepts trying to create a new way of seeing hidden reality artistically. In short this film could possibly start a new ‘ism’ in art (as in Cubism etc).

I gradually steered Christian’s attention back to what I wanted to know, which is what he was doing now while still in (February) lockdown in Gibraltar and I was pleasantly surprised that it had nothing to do with painting at all…so he has moved on…his consuming passion is now his new music but composed under his strict parameters of trying to make it work in new ways. The same as in his art, approaching song writing and song producing as paint on his canvass. “Create something beautiful- try to destroy it and then salvage the best parts without losing the essence of the idea (or tune in music) and always trying to find a new way of telling the story.”

“Of course you can’t destroy everything to create new music. You need to hang on to parts that make it familiar to understand and in a sense likeable to its creator. Once I started writing the new music I built a recording studio here at home with great help from Danni Fa and then I wrote some more songs. The first one we worked on was called ‘Safari’ and when we recorded it Dylan Ferro begged me not to destroy it because it was too good to spoil. I went ahead and did the complete opposite and rebuilt the song from scratch without losing the best bits and using my new focus and latest technology.

“I like ‘Cold play’ but I  remember that when I first heard ‘Cold Play’ I didn’t like them as a band but on subsequent listening they grew on me and that is what you need to achieve in music in order to break new ground.  Something that holds your attention beyond first listening until you relate to the new substance and style of it. 

 “In painting you can choose what to like – for some it’s texture, for others the content, or others even the story behind the image. In my new music I rewrite the songs after all the production experimenting has been refined and I then concentrate on my lyrics which provide the story to carry the music. Then I add the textures which are the local talent in my team here… Dylan Ferro, Danni Fa, James P Ablitt, Aouatif Ghabraoui and Tiffany Ferrary and then the songs take on new life.  They have trusted my unconventional ways of making music and we have worked hard to produce something fresh and real. This is a 100 per cent local project and there is a lot of talent here.  It’s been challenging to get here but we are all very proud and excited with the results.

“I have influential UK friends in the music industry who have heard what we are doing and they are excited because it’s new and compelling. I set parameters that this music must be local and all produced here. So far we have a bunch of finished songs with lyric videos” (which I have seen and listened to and can vouch for their impact on me and their likeability factor. Impressive! JA).

“The way I see things progressing is that once we have twelve songs ready (we already have nine), we will release them via a record company for them to promote the music. I have already placed one song in the new documentary that we made for Sky Arts. It’s not yet scheduled for release but that will be a significant window of opportunity for this new music. The songs will also be sent to various other entities and my hope is that our team of local musicians will be able to perform and promote this music in ways that are current and trendsetting. It’s the only way that we can put ourselves out there in the music scene.”

Christian will not be performing his new music. He will be more interested in exploring new concepts and deeper lyrics along with ways of making them work musically. He assures me that the nine songs that I have heard so far are a marriage of ideas which shouldn’t work but through experimentation have been made to work successfully in sound and vision. The excellent lyric videos which accompany the recordings have been painstakingly put together by Hook who is a master of visual art and also a great musician so you do get a sense of his artistic touches coming through all the songs. 

There are various significant projects which he told me about that can’t be publicised yet and at least two of those excite me enough to predict that they might be winners. His lockdown time has been used to create some really beautiful work and I didn’t see a brush or a canvas anywhere during our meeting at his home (I saw his recording studio though).  I came away knowing that I had been in the presence of a creative force that is still at the zenith of art in more than one way. Who knows how the rest of this year might play out for the Hook projects?

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