Can you tell me a little bit about you?
I am a painter from Taiwan, spent my childhood in the states, now based in London but moving to Paris very soon (Literally this week!). I really see London as my hometown and a beloved city so I am a bit sentimental. After finishing my first MFA in National Taiwan Normal University and continued my practice for a few years, I decided to come to London 5 yrs ago and studied another MA fine art in Chelsea College of Arts. I realised it’s quite common in my community to have two MFA degrees. You get experiences from both systems which has given me the solid idea how to cross cultures between the east and west.
London is the place where nurtured so many incredible contemporary artists who I admire, so I told myself: I have to be there. I took the risk to restart in a new city at the age of 30, which is the best decision I have ever made in my life.
The experience of moving around has largely affected my perspective and ideas in my work. It pushes me out of the comfort zone and made me think from a more global perspective instead of my own understanding. It made me realised how Taiwanese I am as well as my tongue, so I also developed a deep passion in cooking Taiwanese dishes. My beef noodle and braised pork rice （Lu Rou Fan）seems to be quite popular among friends!
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
I first discovered my passion of drawing comic characters when I was 10, and just got hooked up with it. Imagine a crazy kid (and a bit geeky with heavy glasses on her face) spending her whole summer trying to research how to draw a comic book and filled the house with different materials. Then quickly I realised I need extra training to understand how to draw perspective, therefore I asked my mother to take me to sketching and painting class. That was the “Ah HA! ” moment that I know I’ve found my passion.
What do you like most about working where you do?
A studio space is very important to me. I am hugely attached to my current studio in Hackney because it’s bright, super friendly studio neighbours, in a convenient area and I get to walk though an incredible park every morning.
Having a studio in general is like a sanctuary for me that I can feel safe and secured. I am allowed to be messy, to experiment and to put the process everywhere. Also the studio allows me to respect my career as an artist – create an identity of ownership to a space. This kind of self-worth allows me to go through many difficulties when things don’t work the best..
I just found a new studio in Paris close to Pantin that is only 30mins away from my new home, it is important to be convenient. I hope my next sanctuary will be as good as my current one!
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
My work is surrounding around time, memory and displacement, with also the thought of how personal history links to a larger structure of history. These are all provoked since I moved to London – I had a chance to look back to my own roots. Changing a place inevitably affects one’s thinking. Since I’ve been moving around in the recent years, the change of time such as seasons and generations; the change of space such as travelling and cultural territories; displacement has become the subject of it’s own these days.
I also think it echoes to globalization, the vast changing of our society, makes me feel like we are standing in a historical wave that could be critical to human’s future, such as Brexit or the trade war between USA v.s. China. I am interested in those deja-vu moments in daily life that marks the uniqueness of contemporary times and I’d like to see my work reflecting this perspective.
I use fragments of images as reference and restructure them then construct a certain flow of shape and colour – it’s like waving through time and space on the flat surface. In my recent works, I used many old images from my mother’s youth activities as references, which make me, reflect and link to my own contemporary life.
What is your process like?
I always start with research for a themed archive. Whether it’s Google searching with some certain key words, family archive or references in books and literature. Something solid first, and then allows myself to move freely away from it with my own imagination and creativity. I think this kind of method helps me to create a bone structure then I allow myself to go wild with all the possibilities.
Specifically, I usually start with just one piece, and then start a new one when it’s about 60% finished, then the 3rd one, and finish them all together as a cycle. Usually each cycle lasts 3-6 months, and then I restart again. It’s like creating a dialogue between each work but also allows attention for one at a time.
Is there any subject or theme you’ve been particularly interested in lately?
Memory, life and death are what I am particularly interested in which in link to my personal experience. My mother passed away 3 years ago, it was obviously a huge change in my life. But the way she dealt with her own death fearlessly (the consciousness of an intellectual I suppose) inspired me and marked the growth of my own adulthood. I started to contemplate what can I create from her legacy and how to make her death meaningful? Her life and the extended family history, has been linked to a wider movement of Chinese diaspora. Ironically, my mother’s past is actually link to even myself – my contemporary life and the decisions I have made.
In order to understand more about my mother, her personal memories as well as collective memories, I started to dig out her own ‘’archive’’. I have so far discovered many inspirations from those notes and letters she wrote when she was younger, and photos she has organized – I got so inspired by a stack of her photos hiking with friends and playing around the lakeside. All of these lead to my recent series “Youth Activities”.
What is the strangest thing you’ve ever had to do for art?
I thought anything strange would be normal in the art?
Apart from that…I bought a lot of chicken meat in the meat market for studies in my painting. It was quite gross to be honest.
Do you have a day job or other work that you split your time between?
I work full-time as an artist. Making painting is a time consuming activity that requires full attention in order to achieve the best result. Doing art is my ultimate passion in life so I prefer to focus on it as much as I can. I’m also juggling between ceramics at the same time so my life is busy!
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
I have many people giving me great advise along the way. One that I remembered so well is that an artist told me that there’s 3 x10yrs in an artist career. The 1st 10 years, it’s only about being sure you are going to continue doing art. The 2nd 10 yrs. will be the hardest because you will face a lot of odds that forces you to quit such as family and kids and responsibility to the parents. Then the 3rd 10yrs, that’s the fruitful time when you know you will be able to carry on for a lifetime. Getting yourself prepared for this marathon is his advice, and all the great artists will eventually grow from these tests of time.
Being a female artist is still somehow harder than being a male artist even today. I didn’t understand this until I was told directly from a collector – he said he will not consider to collect my work because I am a woman and I might quit as soon as I am married with a family, not because of the merit of the work.
I am pleased that I never believe in that and I just carry on and embrace my practice. I am happily I am married and have a super supportive partner and has only been more passionate in my practice than ever.
Is there any piece of advice you would offer to others?
Never give up! Art can only evolve and be tested by time if the artist carries on. Just keep doing it; even it looks bad at that moment – everything leads you to something you are achieving.
What does it mean to you to have a “community?”
For me, community means a core group of friends that genuinely understands your practice – how is it like being an artist; you as a person and also willing to support you for high or low moments on the way.
I find it incredibly important as I was always told that being an artist is a lonely pathway, and you do need this kind of support to carry on. I am lucky enough that I have quite a few friends both artists and writers that I can always call on the phone anytime for opinions and advice, not to feel embarrassed at all.
What is your studio like?
My studio is my Sistine chapel. It’s on the 3rd floor of an industrial building in Hackney, London. I queued on the waiting list for over 2 years to get it! Due to its height, there is so much sunlight and with a built in hidden storage. It’s really a dream studio!
Do you have any routines or rituals in the studio that get you into the mode or mindset to make your work?
I would spend my morning either in the gym or learning French, and then step out of my flat to the studio. By the time I reach the studio it will be around 11 am, and I just focus on some admin such as replying the emails or arranging the studio. If no other arrangements during the week, I spend 4 days in the studio for painting, the other 2 days in the ceramic workshop, and then rest on Sundays. I usually leave the studio around 7 pm, so it’s about 7-8 hrs a day – like a normal employee!
How significant has attending art school been on your practice?
It’s really important to go to an art school for me. I have benefited a lot from attending art schools.
I don’t believe an artist would turn from no talent to a lot of talent in the arts school; and a year or two doesn’t change one’s personality. But the process of education would develop structure and confidence that is even more important for the challenges ahead in the career. I really enjoy being at school, having this environment that everyone has one task: to put on a good graduation show. This is like a summer camp that allows you to just focus and stop thinking of others things that might distract you. Also, I really enjoy meeting friends at school, it’s a great opportunity to know someone really well and go through difficulties together. Then you know one is a true friend.
What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
Being an artist is a career (if it is?) that your opportunities depends on other people’s hand almost every single time, and has to be selected by certain ways.
That could be frustrating because most of the time we don’t get selected for reasons totally random. It is important not to take it personal but understanding the selection process. So in a way, it is a career that one needs to have extra confidence and some resource to sustain; wither it’s culture capital, family support or just savings in general to get over the long tunnel. I find the toughest part is to keep the energy while things don’t work out the best as you wish to. It’s always good to prepare for the worst so one can still be positive in tough times.
How would you define “success” in art?
Since an art career or exhibition cannot be planned or forced, nor does one individual can decide trend. I think it’s best for an artist to turn into inner values regardless waiting to be credited or recognised.
1.Able to continue no matter what.
2. Still deeply in love with one’s work despite failed to be selected.
3.True to one’s heart.
What is the most exciting thing you’ve done or accomplished so far, related to your work?
I have been in the process of rediscovering myself, and seeing myself purely focus on creating works. I find myself enjoying more than ever in the works without needing people’s recognition. I think this is a great sign because it means less likely I would be pushed around when there’s a sudden demand or attention. This is the great feeling that you know good things will certainly come eventually that you don’t have to worry at all.
Are you involved in any collaborative or self-organized projects?
I normally work just on my own, but since last year I started to collaborate with a charity on some community projects and workshops that I don’t necessary put in my profile. It helps me to understand how to work with collaborate and understand the world and society I am in, especially when I am not from the UK which gives me a much better sense even reading the newspaper.
What are you working on right now?
I am focusing on the transit of moving to Paris, setting up my working routine and studio life there. It’s probably going to take a few months and I am going to allow myself to open up to new experiences!!
Anything else you would like to add?
Anyone in Paris, please give me a shout! Would love to meet new friends and the art community!