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Chris Chou paintings at Sherman Gallery

Lively and playful works on paper and canvas

A Drop, 24 x 24 oil on canvas, by Chris Chou

Chris Chou studied art in Taiwan, Hawaii, New York, and Boston, but her paintings are, she says, “aboriginal.” Viewers of her work would likely agree. The primal colors — reds, yellows, and blues — and primitive designs — lines and circles — suggest the work of the native peoples of Australia. But when Chou describes her work as aboriginal, she is talking about something else.

“None of my teachers ever really touched my work,” says Chou (CFA’01), whose paintings are on display at the Sherman Gallery through March 3. “They all just let me be myself. They let me have my own territory, and in that way I’m aboriginal.”

The 44-year-old artist was born in Taiwan and moved to the Hawaiian island of Oahu in 1991. When a teacher there encouraged her to pursue her painting in New York, she came to the mainland, studying for three and a half years at the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture. In 1999, Chou began studying at the College of Fine Arts, where she earned an MFA. She is now an artist in residence at CFA’s school of visual arts.

As such, Chou teaches two courses, one in painting and one in drawing. “I like to teach,” she says, “even though it takes away from my painting time. I have a great time with my students. I was surprised at how nice they are. They are always bringing in sweet things to eat.”

Chou says she greatly admires the work of Matisse and Philip Guston, who taught at CFA in the 1970s, but she believes that their influence on her style is minimal. What really influenced her work, she says, was a cancer scare several years ago. “I used to be a figurative painter,” she says, “but after my mother died of cancer, it looked like I might have it too. When I found out that I didn’t, I decided to be my own person and speak my own language. That’s when I became an abstract artist. Now I just use my own symbols to create a new way to approach painting. I feel great about it. That’s why I work 12 hours a day.”

Chou has been awarded residencies at several artist colonies, including the Vermont Studio Center, the Chautauqua Institute, and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Her work has been shown in Boston at Gallery 16 and the Alpha Gallery and in New York at Lafayette Gallery and 3636 Studio.

On Wednesday, February 15, Chou will give an artist talk about her work, from 1 to 2 p.m. at the Sherman Gallery. The gallery is located at 775 Commonwealth Avenue. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m.