Artist Interview: Christine WuIllustration // Friday, 14 Jun 2013
Christine Wu is a Los Angeles based artist whose work captures the ephemeral and fragmented body in flux. Wu combines figurative painting, gold leaf and careful line-work to generate fractal visions of her subjects. These works are haunting and sensual, lovely impressions of a visionary mind.
Your work deals with multiple images and doubling pretty heavily, what is the conceptual content of this stylistic effect?
"I want to create a world that is at once nostalgic, intimate, raw and honest. I depict images of people in some form of growth, but not exactly a physical one of age, but something more cerebral and visceral, and although those two words are somewhat at odds, it feels like the correct description. Sometimes we have bittersweet moments with ourselves, where we have to lose something to move forward - allowing our minds to grow up and mature. My work has a lot to do with metaphorical deaths, and with the layering, I am creating ghost images of things that could be, could have been, and may never be. But the layers do have a multitude of meanings and I am not forcing my interpretation on anyone because at the same time, I see the multiple images as the many faucets of personalities that everyone has, and the faucets that we might not want the world to see.
"I've been told that my work sometimes elicits discomfort from a viewer despite the fact that I'm not purposely trying to make anyone uncomfortable. I do want to show my figures in a way that is truthful, and the truth is, butterflies and rainbows are few and far between (which makes them all the more precious when they do appear)."
What is your workspace like?
I'm kind of a neat freak. My space is pretty minimal, and I don't like to have too many colors around me when I'm working, so it's fairly grayscale. I'm constantly cleaning and rearranging the things on my desk for maximum efficiency in space usage. When people come over, they're usually surprised at how clean my floors are, especially since my paintings have a lot of drips and grit to them.
If you could hang out with one person, living or dead, who would that be? What would you do?
There's this one lady from 17th century France named Julie d'Aubigny, although she's been nicknamed La Maupin. She was kind of a female Casanova - a real badass. She kissed the girls and made boys cry, but she kissed the boys too. There's a tale of her becoming a nun just to get into the convent because there was a young nun she was in love with. So d'Aubigny ended up kidnapping the girl and setting the convent on fire to cover it up, while shacking up with the ex-nun for a few months. Then she was in a duel sometime further down the line, with three men and she ended up defeating all of them and wounding one of them, who happened to be the son of some important this-and-that and she had an affair with said wounded fancy man. She also enjoyed singing in various inns and taverns dressed as a man, which was quite a no-no for a woman of her pedigree, especially since she was also a singer in the Paris Opera.
But as nice as it'd be to hang out with some mythic-historical figures, like Rasputin, Merlin or La Maupin, at the end of the day, I think I would rather hang out with some llamas. We'd make a llama circle and have a sticker party and I'd make flower crowns for all my new friends. Just a normal, grass-fed kind of day.
Any rituals you have when you do art?
I have more of a daily ritual that supplements my artistic efforts. When I work, I need to be in the right mind set, or else I'll end up rolling around on the floor for the whole day. This is where my neat freak sensibilities come in to play. I get up in the morning and make my bed, attend my toilet, make a well balanced breakfast, do the dishes, check and respond to my emails then sit down to work. If it doesn't happen this way, things usually get a bit out of whack. I've recently cancelled my internet so I can focus on the things I need to rather than look at adorable puppies all day. I am a very strong believer in making the bed - it creates a continuous flow of energy that I can start the day with and have it follow through, into the night.
If you were gifted with a superhuman power, what would it be? Would you use it for good or evil?
It would be amazing if I could be extremely stealthy and get around completely unnoticed if I wanted to. I don't really believe in good and evil, and if I did, I don't think I'd use the power for either. I think I would probably pull a few subtle and harmless pranks, like changing the salt and sugar around in peoples' houses or shave off everyone's left eyebrow and painting a toenail pink. It'd just be easier to get around without people pointing me out for whatever reason.
Where do you get inspiration?
I am inspired by everything around and within me, particularly when I see someone move expressively with their hands in a mundane setting. I think everyone is prone to mood changes, and in my work, I strive to have specific moods to the image. I really pull from the language of our bodies as well as the language of the materials I use to create an image. There is a fantastically intangible magic about inspiration though, and it very much does strike at the most unexpected times, so I unfortunately cannot pinpoint exactly where it comes from.
What role does your asian-american background play into your art? What about fashion?
Being Asian-American is a bit of a strange thing, not really having a homeland and sometimes feeling at odds with culture. But these traits could also just be my personal "artist sensitivities." I do feel like these circumstantial things very much contribute to my work, a push and pull of feeling something like a ghost, not quite belonging anywhere and stuck in some kind of limbo.
I think fashion plays a role in everyone's lives, whether or not they are artists. It is something that is so prevalent and accessible on a visual level, it permeates culture and has a tendency to homogenize trends. Although I am someone who loves fashion very much and would love to have a whole wardrobe of fancy things, I try to not let it influence my work. There is definitely a "dark" trend that is circling around, and luckily for me, it is possible that because of this my work is more easily accepted. But regardless of whatever is trending in fashion, I like to believe that I am still true to what I am trying to say about life, culture and the human condition.
Anything else you'd like everyone to know about?
I have a solo show in Los Angeles at La Luz de Jesus, opening on November 1 that I have been working very hard towards, and you should come out and see the work! I also very much would like to have a farm, away from the city, some time in the future, with chickens and maybe a goat.
Interview by Lauren YS