An interview with artist Chenhung Chen: Duchamp, Cy Twombly and her outrageous family
How did your career as an artist begin?
A: I guess it began when I decided I needed to do this to complete my life. For me, I made this decision in 2010.
Would you recommend this career path to others?
A: No. It’s not an easy path to recommend to anyone. If one wants to be an artist it’s because they need to be one. The desire must come from within. It’s not something I believe can be recommended to someone.
What was the first work of art that you remember responding to?
A: I remember that it was Cy Twombly’s paintings.
When did you first have some awareness of the creative process?
A: Perhaps it was when I was in the third grade painting big posters in the back of the classroom. I realized that I enjoyed drawing and painting very much.
In your art, you work with various materials. How do you manage to merge contrasting materials into a cohesive whole? What kinds of connections do you make between the materials?
A: I choose the linear elements in various materials and merge them in my work to express the flow of power and strength reaching towards a cohesive whole. To me, when I group materials together, such as “wire and wood”, “electrical wire, plastic casing and components”, “paper, paper clips and staples”, they have to either make sense in terms of objects’ function or contrast in a mind boggling way. I think that goes in line with what Duchamp said: “art should grasp the mind the way the vagina grasps the penis.”
Do you have a preference for a particular material? Do you think your work lends itself to one material or another?
A: Electrical wire and components are my preference. Their function to harness electricity and power and transform it’s potential, bending to the will of man, fascinates me. I think my work is very diverse and I like to experiment with different materials.
What was the most challenging work you have made?
A: I was trained as a painter. So when I started to make 3D work it was very challenging to me. All of a sudden gravity exists and I have to deal with it.
How do you start a project? How do you plan it, where do you start from? Where do you find your inspiration?
A: This is going to sound mystical. But, I let it come to me and in the process I discover the art. That’s why it takes so long sometimes. I started the Entelechy series in 2010 and it is still going on. I find inspiration from meditation, Nature and life experience.
Do you ever suffer from Artists’ block?
A: Yes. Whenever there is a lot going on outside, it becomes difficult to settle on the inside. That’s the time that is hard for me to focus on my art.
What have you been working on recently?
A: I have been working on the “Entelechy” series.
You recently moved to the Brewery Arts Complex in Los Angeles. How will this change affect your work?
A: I guess I wouldn’t know until it happens. I feel that I am more of a “discoverer” rather than a “controller” regarding my life. Perhaps I am a bit passive about it, but I did choose to move here. It feels like a threshold has just been crossed.
What’s the coolest art tip you’ve ever received?
A: For a series of drawings made with paper and staples I was having a difficult time figuring out how to mount the pieces. A close artist friend recommended that I just staple them directly to the wall. I gained a new perspective about how not to limit my own artwork just from this casual advice.
What are your other interests besides art?
A: I enjoy spending quiet time with myself exploring the inner world. I also enjoy travelling, cooking, gardening and spending time with
my outrageous family.
Chenhung Chen is an artist living and working in Los Angeles. She was born in Beigang, Taiwan graduating from the Chinese Cultural University. She continued her post-graduate education at the School of Visual Arts in New York City where she graduated with a Master of Fine Arts degree. She has traveled the world spending time in India, Malaysia, Australia, Thailand, North Eastern China as well as Beijing, and Rome, as a volunteer for a non-profit organization working for global peace.