Saturday, January 24, 2009

Drawing and Illusionism: Hsin-Hsi Chen

Sketch Pages talks to Hsin-Hsi Chen about her many shades of gray:

Explain your interest in illusionism and how/why you use drawing as a tool to allude to it.

My idea of using the most basic tools, pencil on paper, is to see how far one medium can take me to different scales, formats and other possibilities. I am fascinated and experienced by how the broken bits of riddled paths in our lives can link to each other and complete us in some ways. From the reality to the surreal and illusionary world, the untouchable and invisible time and space overlap the unpredictable challenges and growth of us. Illusion annexes and extracts these unspeakable thoughts into the real world. I am devoted to unfold my view of life and seek the balance between the existence and illusion through my artwork.

When did you become interested in creating drawings with tones and shades of gray? How do the shades of gray play into your vision as an artist?

Back in 1993, I wanted to present my philosophy of life in a very basic way without color and brilliant decorations. A certain color will give a specific meaning, but the tone of black and white does not limit imagination and space. In this colorless world, we still can see the color and radiant source of life penetrating through the layers of graphite.

Do you work from sources in reality when shading different tones? Where do the different shades and shapes come from in your work?

No, it comes naturally from my experiences and skills when shading different tones. In order to capture the moment of time in space, I create different shades and shapes to make the abstract vision of light, shadow and space solid by freezing these untouchable and fluid elements. My drawing presents the inner of human when the surreal exterior space transforming into the illusionary interior of architecture. The Shadow within reflects its subject as the soul to the human being.

In your Penumbra Series, has the role of illusionism in your work changed since you started working on three-dimensional surfaces?

Yes. In my earlier 3D work, Limpid and Flowing Pneuma series, I have used illusions to distort the real 3D structures. In addition to the previous concept, I add a new idea to the Penumbra series to create true shadows from designed 3D structures, in combination with illusionary shades to generate real and imaginary shade puzzles.

Do you have any new works in the making?

Yes and always. I am continuing in the progress of a series of pencil drawings on wood in different scales of natural and designed forms. The wood material requires huge amount of time and labor to prepare and refine the rough surfaces before I can really start to apply my drawing onto it. It is a total different aspect comparing to the latest Penumbra and Penumbra II series.

About the Artist
Hsin-Hsi Chen has received her MFA from University of Maryland at College Park in USA and BFA from Tunghai University in Taiwan. Chen was awarded The 2007 Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant and selected in The Drawing Center Viewing Program in New York. She was the Art Critic/Judge for George Mason University and the 2007 Regional Scholastic Art Competition in Fairfax, VA. Her work is included in the Permanent Art Collection at National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD. Chen was selected in 99’ Critics’ Residency Program, Maryland Art Place and Artsites’ 98, Arlington Art Center, and awarded the 1999 cover of Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society in Chicago/Seattle, etc. Her artworks are collected internationally and reviewed by major newspapers and journals including:

The New York Times
The Boston Globe
The Washington Post
The Baltimore Sun
Philadelphia Weekly
The Washington Times
Washington Review
Art & Antiques
Home & Design

Hsin-Hsi Chen's artworks have been exhibited at:

The International Museum of Women, San Francisco, CA
The Octagon Museum, Washington, DC
The Katzen Arts Center Museum, Washington, DC
University of Richmond Museum, Richmond, VA
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
The United Nations, New York, NY
White Columns, New York, NY
Chuck Levitan Gallery, Soho, New York, NY
Pelham Art Center, Pelham, NY
Korean Embassy, Washington, DC
Troyer Fitzpatrick Lassman Gallery, Washington, DC
C. Grimaldis Gallery, Baltimore, MD
Peng Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
Osuna Art Gallery, Bethesda, MD
Maryland Art Place, Baltimore, MD
Government House, Annapolis, MD
McLean Project for the Arts, McLean, VA
Arlington Arts Center, Arlington, VA
Flint Institute of Arts, Flint, MI
YWCA Women's Art Gallery, Cincinnati, OH
Bedford Gallery, Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek, CA
Första Galleriet, Helsingborg

For more detail information about Chen's artwork and new book (2008 edition), please visit

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