Cara To is a street art artist, painter and creative from Belgium currently living in Hong Kong. Her work is moody and delicate, filled with mysterious girls, detailed tattoos and geometric shapes. She uses monochromatic color schemes, pastel washes and recurring neon elements. Most of Cara’s recent pieces are paintings done on upcycled wood found in abandoned places. These pieces were shown in her solo exhibition at Above Second this past August called Drowning in Dreams.
To me, Cara’s style is a perfect blend of creepy dark magic with fantasy elements. Though the subject matter might be a girl with pigtails, pupil-less eyes and a half-eaten raven in her mouth, Cara’s technique compels you to study it closer. The concept of beautiful women painted on wood sounds a little like work by Audrey Kawasaki, but Cara’s characters lurk in a dimly-lit, melancholy world that has more in similarity to James Jean’s ethereal paintings.
Since starting out as a biochemistry student, Cara has explored many different passions and learned a range of new skills. She’s been an illustrator, animator, game designer, 3D artist and previously worked at Wieden Kennedy. In a PechaKucha presentation she gave earlier this year, Cara explained some of the ideas she lives by: throw yourself into what you’re scared of failing at, immerse yourself in what you don’t understand and fight being comfortable.
“Everything you want, you have to go for it and it will happen in some way. And that’s when I started to do everything I always wanted to do when I was a kid, because I thought, ‘Hey, of course I can do it.’ So that’s when I started long boarding and doing street art as well. And I think the thing with long boarding is that it ties to this idea that I understand. When you want to learn a trick, you have to go for it and have no doubts at all. You’ll fall, you’ll get scarred, but at the end you’ll get it. With street art, I wanted to change the environment a little bit. If I change the daily routine of someone, they might do something they don’t expect to or do something totally different.”
Cara moved to Hong Kong to find her roots and discover what she’s capable of doing on her own when isolated from the things she’s accustomed to. I think she’s aced recent exciting opportunities. She has a few murals up around the city, created a large, rotating head for the music festival Clockenflap, and renovated a rundown tram for Detour HK Design week. Give her website and blog a look!