Esther Chang’s Ukiyo Translating Human Presence Into Non-figurative Subjects

``My approach to art-making has become more experimental, more accidental. It’s exhilarating to watch paint fall onto the canvas and take on a life of its own. To evolve with my practice is to be comfortable in accepting change and to not be precious about achieving a perfect image. ``

Esther Chang’s drawings and oil paintings often depict the spatial-psychological deconstruction and fragmentation of the figure. With a strong focus on craftsmanship, her works take inspiration from Old Masters, yet they challenge the traditional aesthetics of portraiture. Her interest lies in the idea of the uncanny and the dissonance created when the familiar is fractured and distorted. They explore subtle shifts in value and color, the play between the diaphanous and architectonic, and the linear and ethereal qualities in form. Her evocative works create a crackled tension of unknown space and internal dialect on the canvas, blurring the distinction between fiction and quotation.

Interview

Numeroventi: What is the interaction between your personal development and the evolution of your practice?

Esther: My personal development and the evolution of my art practice are interrelated. I’m attracted to the idea of finding beauty in imperfection and in moments of uncertainty. My approach to art-making has become more experimental, more accidental. It’s exhilarating to watch paint fall onto the canvas and take on a life of its own. To evolve with my practice is to be comfortable in accepting change and to not be precious about achieving a perfect image. 

N: Your work is less figurative now compared to your first residency at Numeroventi, tell us about this extension.

E: The shift from figurative work started with a visit to a Gutai Art exhibit last year. When I came across a Kazuo Shiraga painting, what I saw in the abstract mass of paint, was the transcendental body- more powerful and present than a figurative work. It was as if the painting was breathing. From this experience, l started experimenting with ways I could translate human presence through non-figurative subjects. I found that being intuitively present during the process while letting materials activate on their own makes the image come alive. Leaving the work to chance and letting it form in a way that has never been analyzed is what makes the image poignant.

N: How did it all start, you becoming an artist? 

E: I studied painting in my undergraduate studies, then I went on to work in the fashion industry. At some point, I began to realise this lack of fulfilment, and I knew it was because I wasn’t creating enough. I had to devote myself to full-time art-making. Someone once told me that becoming an artist is like gambling your life away. The life and career of an artist is unpredictable, but with risk comes great enjoyment.

N: Tell us about your new series Ukiyo, where did the inspiration come from?

Ukiyo is a series of works that merges my fascination in classical antiquity with an expressive approach to physical application and experimentation of materials. My search for harmony and an ordered image is led by a process of chance and the intuitive act of destroying and preserving. The work I foresee often transforms itself by the activation of unfamiliar materials. Termed ‘Floating World’, Ukiyo is a space tethering on the unknown, brimming with possibilities. It is a world that allows me to tune in and trust the process.

N: Your new studio in New York looks amazing and also very active, what are your future plans?

I’m currently working on a new Ukiyo series and preparing for an upcoming show. This year I would like to start incorporating marble sculpture into my work. I hope to allow more time for travel and artist residencies.

 

Photos: Marina Denisova & Daniel Civetta 

Photos created in collaboration with Rus The Brand. See more of their new collection their website