CJ Hendry gives very few fucks. She finds most art openings boring; hopes artists are the first people to die in the apocalypse; and has two hundred dollars to her name. Yet…Hendry is killing it these days. Created with a dizzying level of photorealistic detail, Hendry’s pen-and-ink drawings of chrome painted objects are on display at The Trophy Room in Soho. CONVICTS caught up with the iconoclastic artist before, during, and after the opening night of her first NYC gallery show.
Hey CJ. To start, can you tell us who you are and what we’re doing here?
My name is CJ, I’m an artist and you’re here because — you’re here for lols, really — lols with the crew! I fluff around on a bit of paper, scribble on some paper. I’m pretty good at it, it’s not a big deal. I’ve got a show happening in three days time. That’s what’s happening.
You’re a successful fine artist — how did you get to this point?
So I went to school for architecture, because that’s what I thought I was going to do with my life, and it turns out that I sucked! Then, I went to university and studied finance and I sucked even more! Then my life was up the shitter. Drawing was the one thing I was really good at, but I couldn’t figure out how to make it…a thing, you know? So, through a series of unfortunate events, drawing kind of happened. I didn’t really have any career prospects. I was probably going to get kicked out of university because I was a very, very bad student. It got to the point where I was paying people to sit in and take my exams, I paid people to do my assignments, I was only days away from being called out by the dean. I was working in retail, there was not much that was going right. I was in debt…everything was going wrong. When things go wrong and you’re kind of at the very bottom, at a low point, you have a wonderful sense of clarity because literally nothing matters, you literally have nothing to lose. So I had literally nothing to lose. I just went all-in with the drawing thing. And I’ve come out the other side! I deal with other bits of shit now, but I get to do what I love everyday!
When you were at that low point, were you still this upbeat?
Not really! Like I’m doing an interview now, and you got to be upbeat, you can’t be a fucking downer, can ya? No! Fuck it, hey? So, we’ve got enough money…my boyfriend and I looked at the bank account, we’ve got enough money to pay for rent and staff this month. We’ve probably got $200 left at the end of it! It’s the most funny thing — my artwork sells for tens of thousands, we live in New York, we’ve got this glamorous event — and I’ve got $200 in the bank account. Go fucking figure.
How did you decide how to price your art?
That was kind of crazy because I kind of threw out a number — like it’s ten thousand dollars — we’re like ‘Yes!’ and I was like ‘Really?! Wowwwwww.’
How do you get into the vibe while you’re drawing?
So I don’t listen to music because then you start to think too much. When I’m sitting down drawing I watch netflix. Not like watch it, it’s just kind of there. I’m drawing and you can kind of see what’s going on. I’ll listen to audiobooks — I’d recommend Stephen Fry and Harry Potter. Podcasts are great.
What kind of pens do you use?
It’s a Japanese pen. They don’t sponsor me because I actually use too many pens. I buy about $5,000 worth of pens every month. I go through so many pens. Like it’s kind of outrageous. I’m an expert at pens and paper.
How do you make your art stand out?
There’s a reason we’re right in the middle of SoHo, on Greene St. It’s a product show. Soho is a retail district and everything I’m drawing is product, it’s retail, it’s stuff you buy, it’s tangible goods. I want to make my art shows more elaborate than what you would expect. I love to over deliver as best I can. A lot of art shows you walk in and there’s white walls, they do that to let the artwork speak for themselves, and I think that’s great but that’s not enough for me. Like, why can’t art be fucking fun again!? It’s sooooo fucking boring! You know what I mean? I haven’t been to one gallery opening because I’m like ‘Bored. Bored.com!’ Let’s make it cool, let’s make it fun, a thing! Make it more than just a blank white wall. As an artist, I’m making things that people don’t need. If there was an apocalypse, I would hope that artists would be the first people to die. Because we are really not needed in the world.
How was moving to New York City to run your business different than Australia?
Australia is a very institutionalized art world. If you look at all the biggest artists in the world, none of them are Australian. If I’m going to have any opportunities to play with the big boys I had to get out of Australia. Australia allowed me to get noticed very quickly-which I’m thankful for-but if I’m going to continue to grow the brand I need to be in a place where the industry is really happening. The connections, that’s why you’re here. I’m not making any profits from being in New York. It’s all back in, you know? Which is fine, that’s part of running a business. But it’s 24/7 — more than I ever expected. If someone told me it would be this hard, I don’t think I would’ve come.
Are you worried about how the art critics will review the show?
I don’t give zero fucks. Sorry, I mean I give zero fucks. Honestly, I’m not trying to impress a fucking soul, obviously it’s this big show but if people don’t like it, go suck my dick because I don’t care! Go drink yourself silly and vomit in the gutter, ‘cuz I don’t care.