a taiwan fashion boutique, TUAN TUAN, used my drawings (‘new heartbeat’ and ‘my precious egg’) for their national ad campaign, announcing the opening of their new shop in taipei. they ran full-page ads in the apple daily newspaper, the biggest newspaper in taipei, as well as in a fashion magazine, ‘madame figaro taiwan’.
at the same time, i was interviewed by madame figaro via email. i was answering their questions at 3 in the morning to meet the deadline. i was in a deeply sleepy mode, so some of the answers may not make sense to you at all. that’s okay, because i don’t make sense even when i am wide awake
here’s the interview (published in chinese translation):
Madame Figaro Taiwan.
Interviewed by May Hua: editor in chief
*You have said that you’re self-taught, but your skill of drawing is so far from a so-called self-taught artist, do you mind sharing your story of becoming an artist with our readers? And I’m curious if you have any master in mind while you were learning drawing.
When I was a kid, my favorite thing to do was to look up at clouds and imagine what they might be. This hobby soon expanded to everything I see: I look at a person and think he looks like a teapot, household objects look like different animals, that kind of thing. During conversations, I tend to drift away thinking like this. I often lose track of what the other person is saying – I completely switch off my ears when I’m lost in thought. I think these habits are the root of my imagination.
i spent a few years teaching myself how to look at things before i started drawing seriously three years ago. i remember my brother came home very excited and told me to colour in a circular motion when we were in elementary school. that’s basically what i do. my technique has changed a lot, but the idea is the same. i still have a lot to learn.
i don’t have any art masters that i follow. i just follow what i have in mind honestly.
*Have you ever learned human body’s anatomy? If not, why and how do your paintings have a lot to do with human body and organs?
I’ve never studied human anatomy, but I’m interested in the body organs because I own them under my skin. The internal organs are underrated. Skin always gets the spotlight – now it’s time for organs to become stars. I’ve always liked the brain, and I’m a big fan of the intestines.
Human beings are less sensitive because they’re covered with skin. Once you open up your skin and show what you’ve got inside, you feel every single movement in life, even a gentle breeze. It hurts, but it makes you feel alive.
*I have to say that normally people feel disturbing to see those strange subject matters you drew in your works, however I also have to admit that I don’t feel uncomfortable with your illustrations, on the contrary, they are quite appealling to me. But, why? Is there any magic in your hands?
Some people find my drawings strange or disturbing. But I’m not trying to shock anyone, or make them uncomfortable, just so I can seem radical or cool or extreme. I hate the “extreme” attitude that so many artists have.
The characters in my drawings are not in pain, even if their internal organs are coming out. They are looking inward – it’s a private moment. Sometimes there is a slightly cruel mood in a face that I draw, but it’s mostly innocent and mysterious and peaceful, not violent or aggressive.
When I draw, I don’t think about any audience except myself. I make the same faces as the characters I draw, while I’m drawing them. I draw my drawings so I can look at them, I don’t aim to create any sort of effect or impact on anyone else.
So maybe people can look at my drawings and find something they can gaze at quietly, without being pushed away. That way, maybe they can find something beautiful even in things they find a little disturbing.
*Some of your works seemed cruel, but they also appeared humorous at the same time, such as the duck with a peer’s head in its mouth. I’m wondering how did you come up with these sort of ideas?
I don’t know where I get any of my ideas from! Ideas and images just come to me. I don’t try to make them up – I don’t even know how I’m going to finish drawings after I start them.
A lot of the ideas I have are funny to me, even if other people don’t think they’re funny. I often end up laughing at what I’m drawing.
My sense of humour is a bit twisted. I think life is cruel and humorous at the same time – so cruel that it’s humorous and so humorous that it’s cruel. It’s all intertwined.
*Some of your works reminesced the images of Khalo Frida, such as “After all”, “Tough skin, Juicy heart”, “My proxy”. But the obvious difference between you and her that I felt was : your works sort of conveyed a sense of humour, self-exploration and happiness, Khalo Frida, anguish but there’s strength in there. How do you think about this?
Mmm… that’s very flattering, but I’m not sure if I deserve such a compliment. For the last ten years, different friends of mine have been giving me Frida-related goods – a calendar, a refrigerator magnet, a case of lip cream. At first, I didn’t bother looking up who she was. I don’t know anything at all about art history – I only knew that she had a uni-brow.
I like the way Frida drew herself again and again, and she didn’t try to make herself look too good. She seems honest, but sad.
Most of my drawings aren’t sad at all. I draw when I’m happy, sad and frustrated – when i start drawing and colouring, i gradually become happy and i forget why i was sad or mad about. My best drawings are when I’m frustrated.
*There’s some sort of “surreal ambience” in your works: your own portrait with chicken feet and head, breasts sewn upon boy’s eyes, exposed brain, organs….even the girl could tunnel through giraffe’s ears to catch the heart. It seemed like you created a dreamland or you dived into subconscious field ,which sort of echoed the surrealists’ ethos. Do you agree with it? How do you feel about surrealists?
I don’t really know much about art history, so I can’t really say what category my drawings will fit in. I’m not interested in categorizing my drawings.
when an image pops into my mind, i simply place it onto a sheet of paper. i don’t plan out the composition or colours to use. i get excited about the image and just start drawing and keep colouring until i am satisfied. sometimes i’m surprised by what i end up drawing, because i’ll start drawing without knowing how i’m going to finish.
i’m just playful and enjoy creating images on paper.
My favorite artist is Rene Magritte. I like the sentimental sadness that he creates in his world.
* Having given birth to a baby should be a very special experience for you, and we did share it through your art. But, could you tell us what this experience really changed or affected you?
while i was pregnant, i was using vivid colours. after giving birth, i have gone back to pastel and soft tones. it wasn’t a conscious choice – funny how things work.
it was an amazing experience to be able to feel a new life growing inside of me during my pregnancy. i felt my body transforming every day. your body changes every day whether you’re pregnant or not, but I never felt a physical transformation this intimate taking place in such a predictable way. everything seems to happen according to the schedule, it’s very organized.
the changes that I’m seeing in my body is as same as other pregnant women around the world. our bodies are programmed to work this way. our “organs” work mechanically, like human machinery. this is the kind of “natural” life that appeals to me.
now i watch my baby changing everyday – learning and absorbing everything he can. human-beings are beautiful.
having experienced a birth of life was so powerful that i can’t stop thinking about the death comes with it. everything ends. happiness doesn’t last forever. when there’s a happiness, i like to be there 100%. when there’s none, i’d like to make one.