Xuan Chen

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Artist Statement

Statement of Light Matter, Light Threads, Screens, and Painting Light Series

A strange feeling of amusement struck me when I attended a newcomer’s potluck for a Meetup group. After the initial hello and exchange of social media handles, half the people took out their phone, dissolved themselves into the device and disappeared the rest of the evening. Some of them were drawn by whatever was on their phone, perhaps not finding the crowd interesting, others, however, started to text each other.

My IPad-sized wall-sculptures devise an intimate connection between light, space, color and the viewer. Using various media such as embroidery thread, fluorescent paint or color transparencies, I create layered sculptures painted form digitally constructed images. The final forms lack traditional substrates in order to emphasize the physical complexity of the material themselves. The media are constructed on hard surfaces to further examine and challenge traditional painting materials and to emphasize the process of digital image-making. In the sculptures, spaces are constructed by digitally manipulating color and geometric shapes, as well as by physically bending or cutting the supporting structure; aura of light casts on the work itself or on the exhibition wall from the neon colors painted on the bended parts or on the reverse side of the work; or embroidery threads are wrapped on the pieces forming a glowing illusion as if they are tangible lights.

It is clear that these sculptures are influenced by the light-and-space movement, in which grandiose light installations often directly embed artificial light within objects or architecture, as demonstrated in works by Robert Irwin and James Turrell. Unlike Irwin and Turrell’s work in which the light itself often becomes the space and viewers feel the physical intensity that space can give, my small abstract sculptures are not about the power of space, but about the intimate relation between space and you, about the growing obsession with personalized digital gadgets, or perhaps, about our unrelenting love of beautifully designed objects. Thus, common motifs in my pieces include surprises of light, bright digital colors and welcoming geometric shapes. These spatial arrangements intend to encourage viewers to closely gaze at the work and examine it from different angles like exploring a newly acquired digital device.