We meet Chen-Jung Kuo to talk about the relationship artists have with society, and how isolation and sorrow can inspire some of our best work.
I am an independent theatre choreographer, this is what I live and breathe, but I also love to paint and draw; I have been doing it for the past ten years.
When did you first discover you interest in creating visual art?
I never went to an academy or studied properly to draw, I started when I was around twenty-two because I was dealing with a difficult moment in my life. I would just grab a pen and paper and just draw everything that I felt, imagined and saw; since then I haven’t stopped.
What kind of medium do you use when making artwork?
Usually I don’t stick to one medium when making a work of art, the materials usually depend on how I feel in that moment. In these paintings specifically I usually acrylic though sometimes I like to use marker or oil pens.
You have quite busy paintings with repetition of motifs like eyes.
Yes, the paintings were done in a series, I drew a lot of eyes in during this time. I do assess some patterns, but I don’t know why I do it really, I just love to put everything on paper and want to fill it all in. As you can see I really like to draw people and faces.
This is one of my first works, it relates to society and the isolation I felt from it in that moment, as an artist you can feel like you don’t quite fit in to your environment, you feel left out and in that moment I drew this feeling.
Do you have any artists which inspire you?
Quite a few, though not many painters, I’m usually inspired by installation artists, performance artists or photographers; it is always still based on image isn’t it.
Do you think some of the skills you have as a choreographer are translated into your work?
I don’t know if there is a connection, I guess if you see my theatre work you could find a relationship between that and my paintings, because it is about sorrow, sadness, isolation, and life and death; these are the subjects that I’m interested in. I love to observe humans; it really interests me at the moment, so in my choreography I put those themes into the body, but in my paintings I don’t actually know where these images come from.
They look very reminiscent of Surrealist work, do you think this is a flowing from within you, less about a plan and more about reacting in that moment?
I never sit down and think “ok this is what I am going to do now,” usually the work tells me, by that I mean the image. I don’t know when the inspiration will come, but when it does I just draw. In the periods where I draw a lot I cry a lot too; in that time I cried a lot. That is probably why I drew a lot of eyes. You know when you don’t like someone you think they are a pig, well I drew a lot of pigs and they are always facing away, never looking back.
When was the last time you exhibited?
Last year in Taiwan I had my first exhibition of this work, it was called Crowded Room, as you can see in the work it is kind of crowded. Like the room is your brain, and sometimes there is a lot of things in your brain and you cannot handle it, so I guess this was how I felt: overwhelmed. You can hear a lot of voices and I don’t know where they come from.
I think we all do living in these crazy cities.
I think that is the main reason I started painting, to deal with these questions and to reduce the noise of these voices and put them into images.
Where do you hope to take your artwork?
I have never thought about it, in choreography yes, I would like to be doing famous productions, but with painting I don’t want it to become a job. It’s like when you drink water you never think, why do I drink water? It is just there and it doesn’t matter if it is assessed or not, but you just keep doing it. If I am lucky someone may appreciate my work, but if not that’s fine, because it is a thing I love to do.
Chen-Jung Kuo will be displaying her paintings and drawings in our #SpringCollection at The Menier Gallery 28th Feb - 4th March.