"Making art functions as piecemeal psychoanalysis for me. My work, however, transcends the personal. Through each work I create, I learn a little more about human vulnerability in relation to the outside world."
Could you tell us a bit about yourself. How long have you been a practising artist and where did you study?
I’m Vincent CY Chen, I was born and raised in Taiwan. I moved to New York City to study fine art at the School of Visual Arts in 2011. Since the graduation in 2015 I’ve been focusing on making sculptures and curating online exhibitions. I’m interested in the interplay of psychology and biology, and I’m obsessed with human body and body parts.
The sculptures you make have a "Slapstick" humour about them, could you tell us about your work and the thoughts behind them?
I find psychology incredibly complex and inspiring, I’m interested in how the human mind works as an individual and collectively as a species. In my sculptures I ask questions like where does a sense of guilt come from? How do we perceive our bodies as aspects of emotion and cognition? How are feelings represented in the body itself? Is there a separation between one’s mind and body or are they interconnected? Through creating sculptures, my attempts at making sense of myself and the chaotic world unfold.
Making art functions as piecemeal psychoanalysis for me. My work, however, transcends the personal. Through each work I create, I learn a little more about human vulnerability in relation to the outside world. The tension between the higher self (superego) and bodily impulses (id) is a recurring theme of my work.
I employ polystyrene foam, polyurethane foam, and silicone rubber to represent the body, bodily fluids, and skin. The irony of using synthetic materials as flesh betrays the dichotomy between our organic and ethereal minds and machine-like bodies. Furthermore, I leave armatures and layers of materials exposed to disarm the figures’ psychological defenses, allowing us to dive deep into the complex human psyche.
Tell us a bit about how you spend your day/studio routine? What is your studio like?
My studio serves as a multi-functional space for me. I call it “the bunker” even though it is four stories above ground. I feel comfortable being vulnerable and honest to myself in here, and it allows me to work on art all day without distractions.
I split my studio into two zones, a clean zone and a dirty zone. In the clean zone I have a computer desk where I do most of my research and writing on, a sofa that I can read comfortably; the dirty zone has a large table and some floor space where I work on my sketches and sculptures. I spend half of the time in my studio reading and researching, the other half on working on my artworks. (And probably too many coffee/cigarette breaks in between)
What artwork have you seen recently that has resonated with you?
I recently visited NADA (New Art Dealers Alliance) Art Fair in NYC, My jaw dropped I saw Stay inside or perish, 2016, a surreal figurative sculpture made of marble hanging from the ceiling made by Ivana Bašić, a Serbian sculptor now lives and works in NYC. The way Bašić explores the tension between organic body and industrial materials, and how she plays with heavy weight and tension through this sculpture really resonated with me.
Where has your work been headed more recently?
Recently I have been combining organic forms (such as body parts, animals and plants) with geometric structures to explore the relationship between body and machines, I am content with this new direction and I plan to make a new series of works to explore it further. Material wise, I have been incorporating more and more found objects, I find the awkward tension of mixing mass produced merchandises with hand made sculptures quite fascinating.
How do you go about naming your work?
The naming process of my work is quite random. Sometimes I utilise a technique my friend and I called “book dipping” when a piece of work is inspired by reading. Here’s the book dipping process: After a piece of sculpture is finished, I go back to the books that inspired me and pick out random words and phrases by quickly flipping through pages, I find a way to reconstruct those seemingly unrelated words and use them as the title of my work.
Is there anything new and exciting in the pipeline you would like to tell us about?
Yes! I will be attending New York University’s MFA studio art program this Fall, I’m very excited to meet the talented people at NYU and become a part of the community.
All images courtesy of the artist
Interview published 01/06/17