Can you tell me a little bit about you?
I was born and raised in Taipei, Taiwan. I had a pretty normal childhood when I was expected to get good grades and go to a good school. I never had a proper art education, yet I was signed up for a drawing class in kindergarten when I was five, by the person who had once said ‘Artists are all poor’, that was my mother. It was probably one of the very few ‘official art classes’ I had ever done.
I have dedicated myself in fashion since University, which I thought was the most rebellious decision I had made as I didn’t choose accounting. Then I moved to London in 2014 after working as a designer assistant in Taipei, to obtain an MA degree in Menswear design in University of Arts London. I had to leave the country after completing the degree, however since my mind of staying in Europe has made, I relocated myself to Antwerp without knowing anyone there and stayed for a year before moving back to London. It is a love-hate emotion that I have to Antwerp, where I felt I hit the bottom of my life but where I started to paint and met many inspiring people (and where I worked as a chef in a cafe, where I developed my passion on cooking)
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
Thanks to my grandmother who introduced me to drawing. I lived with her, my mum and great grandma when I was little. My grandmother took care of me while my mum was out for work. I remember it was an afternoon, presumably I was bored and she ran out of ideas to keep me entertained so she showed me how to draw. She took down this massive (to a 4 year-old) painting from our living room’s wall and taught me how to read the lines and colours to make an imitation. I enjoyed the afternoon drawing/painting session a lot and kept doing it with her or by myself.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
I use art to document my memories/made up memories of the intimate moments with myself or with other individuals. My art is very emotional driven. I am in love with senses, I believe they are the proof of being alive; the existence and I am afraid to loose it. I am also fascinated by human affection in general. I use abstract strokes and colour blocks to express the mood. Recently I am adding figurative elements into my work.
When I started painting and drawing two years ago, my work was mostly minimal. I was reserved while using colours or simply making lines with marker. I was afraid, to be honest. I felt the worry to be expressing myself too much so my mind would be read easily. Therefore I created symbols and used them to tell stories. While now I am more comfortable to express freely, if people can understand, then understand me!
What is your process like?
I can categorise my process into two ways:
I have a habit to write poems or note down key words when ’emotion wave’ hits. Then I use them to start a painting. They take me back to the moment and I let the feeling lead me to decide which colour to use and to create what shapes. Or sometimes I find photos or sculptures and assume what they were thinking or analyse the message from their pose as inspiration. I try not to make draft in order to keep the rawness and authenticity as much as possible.
I work on smaller scales mostly so it doesn’t take me long to complete a piece; or if i should say I tend to avoid spending too much time on one as I would feel I am over editing otherwise.
What is your favorite material to work with, and why?
I am working with oil pastel and acrylic.
I like acrylic paint which allows me to create both aggressive and tender texture and oil pastel gives a touch of rawness.
Recently I am experimenting using only oil pastels and rub it with my fingers, I like how it gives the painting this blurry, dream-like visual.
What is the last thing you read?
I usually read 2-3 books at once since I like to change a bit of mood every now and then. I am re-reading Devotions by Patti Smith and I just finished a poetry novel called John the Valiant by a Hungarian poet, Sándor Petöfi.
What are you passionate about?
Painting, psychology, yoga, and inventing recipes.
Is there any subject or theme you’ve been particularly interested in lately?
Carmen Winant is the amazing contemporary artist I am very into lately. I am watching her talks and reading her words. The way she interprets women’s power and a beautiful creature as how they are is very inspiring. For me feminism is about completely embrace our strengths and fragilities, I find the message been said by her work and I would like to deliver the idea from my work too.
How do you spend your time when you’re not making work?
I have a full-time job in fashion, in my spare time, I do yoga, I write, read, I take strolls to watch people.
I also enjoy cooking, to have drinks or go to gigs and galleries with friends (before lockdown of course.)
I’ve been missing a lot the contemporary dance class I used to go weekly.
What do you do when you’re find yourself in a creative rut, or feeling unsure about what direction to go?
Normally when I find myself in that state it means I am being overthinking or not being conscious about what I do, how I feel.
For me, making art is to shout my feeling out loud and I find being mindful is helpful, trusting my instinct is also the key.
I would take a break or write something down, it helps me to see my feelings in an exaggerated way.
What is your studio like?
I have a very humble studio – my bedroom.
If I am working on a bigger piece I would move myself to the living room but normally I avoid doing that because I live in a shared flat, I don’t want to occupy the whole space. I have a blanket that I place on the carpet in my room and that is my “working area”.
How significant has attending art school been on your practice?
Since I have never attended one so it is hard for me to say. However I could imagine it would be a way to meet your mentor and to be in a supportive community. I can imagine it is very nice to have that!
What is the most exciting thing you’ve done or accomplished so far, related to your work?
I met a guy in January this year, he is a tattoo artist. He taught me how to tattoo the first time I visited him in Italy, and actually he let me do a free hand tattoo on his leg. He told me I am really good and should carry on. Honestly I never thought I would be able to tattoo someone but – here I am! Have got some reservations booked for post-lockdown. I am really happy and excited to show my art in a different form. Really can’t wait to do more!
What are you working on right now?
Abstract figurative paintings, some line works to add into my tattoo flash book, I am also working on some small plaster sculptures.
Find more at chiayunhu.com and on Instagram @chiayun_hu!
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