ART, INTERVIEW

Christine Wu: Ghost World

0 Comments 21 October 2013

Our studio visit with artist Christine Wu.

by Daniel Barron

 

If art is a projection of its creator, one could be forgiven for assuming Christine Wu is a little severe. Her haunting figurative paintings favor desaturated colors, morbid imagery, and subjects that often project a splintered state of mind.  They explore conflicts of life and death, the cerebral versus the visceral, and the struggles of owning one’s femininity.  They seem engineered to prickle the hairs on your neck.  Fortunately, Yay! LA Magazine has photographic proof that Wu can still crack a smile. The artist was surprisingly open when we visited her studio as she was in preparation for her latest exhibition “Come Home,” which opens at the La Luz de Jesus Gallery in LA on November 1st.

 

Christine Wu art

I find your work rather unsettling.  Was that your intention?  Do you get that sort of feedback a lot?

Typically, I get the response that my work is disturbing or unsettling, which I am totally okay with (laughs).  I feel like any reaction to art makes it successful, since it is provoking some kind of thought and producing conversation. I don’t intend my work to be unsettling, although much of it does stem from my personal experiences, and some of the more metaphysical things can potentially be quite uncomfortable. A lot of my work does deal with death and dying, but it is more of a metaphorical death that cycles into growth, rather than a final ending.

Is that why you utilize a lot of overlapping effects in your paintings?  To show figures in a process of change?

The multi-layered quality of the imagery has to do with movement and growth, mimicking the feeling of ghosts and things that might flitter about one’s consciousness as you try to focus or move on. We have to let go of things in order to evolve as a human, and these things may be memories, people or actual objects. We only have so much attention that can be allocated to the forefront of our consciousness, otherwise there would be too much noise as all our life experiences shout for attention. Once we learn to part with pieces of ourselves, we are able to nurture the things that are important in our lives, allowing them to grow and achieve mastery.

Is death something that you think about a lot?

I often think about death, but I don’t think of it in the same way most people see it. To me, the idea of dying is more of a warm embrace, like a return to the womb. I see the world in grays, there is rarely any black-and-white, and dying is no different.

Christine Wu art

Do you think more people should be taking the time to think about their own mortality or is it something that we should constantly ignore in order to stay sane?  What’s the healthier response?

Well, I don’t think it’s healthy for people to obsess over anything but I do think people should consider things more thoroughly when they do decide to think.  I feel like people too often choose not to think because it is so easy to choose to do something easier, like watch TV or listen to popular music or even radio stations where they will do the thinking for you. Mortality itself is definitely something to consider, and I don’t find it unhealthy for it to be floating around in the unconscious realms of our brains. I would have to say that it would be far more unhealthy to ignore it because it is an infallible fact of life, and to ignore it would be to deny life. People try to not look at things that are generally considered “bad” because no one wants to be the “bad guy,” which brings us back to my belief that there really isn’t any black-and-white. I find it unfortunate when anything is too quickly labeled in stark colors.

Do you believe in any sort of afterlife?

I don’t fancy the idea of an afterlife, I am not a religious person.  Despite that, I do respect religion and deem it excellent for those who need it. When I think about death, it’s not specifically about dying, it’s a metaphor for putting stuff away and letting it rest and just letting go of things.  As far as experiences and memories go, if you put them away, the ghosts will still linger about, because they are a part of you. You cannot deny your experiences because there may be things that trigger the memories to arise. But sometimes there are things that you just need to put to rest. 

Do you believe in ghosts or the paranormal?

I am terribly afraid of the idea of ghosts (laughs).  I’ve heard enough creepy ghost stories from people who would not lie about them.  I believe in letting the dead rest and I don’t have much interest in going out and searching through haunted houses or graveyards, that just seems like poor judgment and even somewhat rude. I wouldn’t want someone coming through my home and snooping around if they thought they would find something interesting to tell their friends later, and if strangers did barge into my home, I’d be pretty upset. People who know this about me sometimes make fun of me because I’m more afraid of ghosts and monsters than crazy people (laughs).  Crazy people could stab you or shoot you, but if a ghost haunted me I wouldn’t even begin to know how to deal with that. And all that stuff you hear about creaks in the floor boards or cupboards banging about, I don’t think actual ghosts would bother with that, especially if you’ve upset them. You can call the cops on a serial killer but if a ghost decides to haunt you, you’re pretty fucked (laughs)!

Christine Wu art

Do you consider yourself fearful of a lot of things?

I would not say that I am fearful, it’s hard to describe myself (laughs). A lot of people have preconceived notions about me, as I am often misunderstood. People may say, “Oh, I didn’t know you did this or that,” or, “I thought you were this kind of person,” whenever I step out of whatever they’ve decided they want me to be. It’s surprising to me because I don’t like to project a certain style of personality.  I just like what I like and do what I want and the rest can be damned.

So the macabre sensibility is more of a matter of taste?

I’m not trying to create creepy images for some dark, cadaverous person to hang in their haunted house (laughs).  I think everyone has dark places within themselves, but some people may project it more openly than others, in one way or another.  Since art is a reflection of the artist, I supposed it can be concluded that I am a macabre person, although I don’t consider myself to be a creepy, fucked up or broken. I suppose that the way the paintings manifest themselves can be quite telling (laughs).

Christine Wu art

Do you use any models?  Is there a sort of process that you like to go through in a shoot?

I use models, and most of them are my friends. I like to use people I know and who know me because they are more able to understand where I’m coming from, and because of that they are able to emote in the ways that I’m looking for.  I don’t direct shoots too much because I work organically, I just tell my models the general concept I’m working with and they usually get the idea. I let the composition manifest itself as I work and let the way the models are posing dictate the direction the shoot goes. 

Are your subjects treated like extensions of you or are you trying to realize a quality intrinsic to them?

I’m not trying to produce a biography of myself through my paintings, so my subjects are in no way self-portraits of any kind. Neither am I trying to capture my models’ exact likeness in the way of portraiture. I want I want to communicate a certain sense of vulnerability and power through my work, especially when I paint women.

Would you say there is a distinctly feminine viewpoint to your work?

I don’t set out to make something particularly feminine or particularly masculine, but because I am a female that influence is inevitable.  I do consider myself a feminist just because I really believe in the power of women and that equality should be exercised in the way of respect. But it’s really hard for me to use the word “feminist” because it’s been so overused and stereotyped that it’s become something that it’s not within the general public’s mind and that makes me very sad. 

 

Christine Wu art

Of course. Concerning your status as an Asian woman, do you think that factors into your artistic identity and the themes that you choose to address?  Do you use a lot of Asian models for a reason or is it a quality that’s rather matter-of-fact?

It’s a little bit of both.  I happen to have a lot of Asian friends because of where I grew up and where I went to school, but it’s definitely not a “thing”.  As far as my Asian roots are concerned, my art is not terribly influenced by that background because I grew up in America. Even though I had an Asian upbringing, I’m more focused on the concepts of vulnerability, flux and growth from a human stand point, not a cultural one.

Do you like to disappear behind your work so you can avoid being connected to any meaning or intention?

I am extremely connected to my work and there are layers upon layers of meaning in the images I make, but I am not troubled by whether or not everyone in the world understands what I’m trying to do. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions and I cannot make everyone see things my way. Regardless, I always love the idea of ambiguity.  I think it’s extremely important in creating a successful piece of art.  I think it’s important for the viewer to put their own interpretation on a piece, that they feel empowered and connected to it.

 

Christine Wu art

You have a new exhibition opening up Nov 1st at the La Luz de Jesus Gallery.  What themes did you want to explore for this series?  Is it a new direction for you?

I feel like all of my work up until this point has been extensions of ideas that I have been working with all my life, much of which I’ve already mentioned.  The body of work I am creating is titled Come Home and deals with the cycle of dying and “meeting your maker” so to speak, but also the fact that my mother would often say the phrase to me, not quite understanding that my sense of home has absolutely nothing to do with her. The words have a very fatal ring in my ears, so whenever my mom would say them to me, I would feel a sense of overwhelming emptiness and something akin to betrayal. I believe that it is paramount that every person eventually builds an atmosphere of home for themselves in order to preserve their sanity. The concept for the show will also echo my feelings about women appreciating their own worth. The subjects exhibited, albeit very sensual, are all defiant in their own ways, taking ownership of their sexuality and presenting themselves as authoritative persons. Women who understand their sexuality and do not overtly pimp themselves out command a very distinctive brand of dignity.

Lastly, are there any special routines or rituals to help with your creative process?

Just the usual daily rituals.  I absolutely have to make my bed, because I feel like it’s almost a direct reflection of how you want your day to go.  If you leave the bed unmade it’s kind of inviting some bad juju. I’m also an obsessively clean person.  I thoroughly clean my apartment at least once a week, dusting everything and moving furniture around to get the corners. With something as free-form as art, there has to be some kind of discipline to retain some semblance of sanity in order to be productive. 

 

Christine Wu art

 

Christine Wu art

 

Christine Wu art

 

Christine Wu art

 

Christine Wu art

 

Christine Wu art

 

Christine Wu art

 

Christine Wu art

 

Christine Wu art

 

Christine Wu art

 

View more of Christine Wu‘s art on her official website.

Follow Christine Wu on Twitter and Instagram at @MissChristineWu.

View more or Michael Rababy‘s photos on his official website.

Follow Michael Rababy on Twitter and Instagram at @fullonrad.

‘Like’ Michael Rababy on Facebook.

 

From the studio of Christine Wu…

 

Christine Wu Michael Rababy

Photo by Michael Rababy.

 

Christine Wu art

Photo by Michael Rababy.

Christine Wu art

Photo by Michael Rababy.

 

Michael Rababy Christine Wu

Photo by Michael Rababy.

 

Christine Wu art

Photo by Michael Rababy.

 

Michael Rababy Christine Wu

Photo by Michael Rababy.

 

Christine Wu Michael Rababy

Photo by Michael Rababy.

 

Christine Wu La Luz de Jesus

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- who has written 423 posts on Yay! LA | Arts & Culture Magazine.

Rudderless college graduate Daniel Barron founded Yay! LA Magazine on a love of writing, passion for the arts, and a firm belief that people really like talking about themselves. He contributed to a number of publications, including LA Music Blog and the defunct The Site Unscene, before deciding to cover arts and entertainment the way he wanted to read it. He works as a freelance writer and digital PR consultant in his current home of Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter at @YayDanielBarron.

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