I am interested in infinity in its many manifestations – from humanity’s historical inquiry of the notion to its relevance in the age of exponential technological advances. Infinity suggests the presence of a realm beyond our reach; yet our comprehension of the concept relies on that which is within our reach - an infinite number of an entity relies on the foundational comprehension of what one unit of the entity is. Infinity is hence a fascinating embodiment of reasoning meets imagination; materiality meets abstraction, and a bridge between the real and the imagined.
Each of my series tackles a sub-inquiry of infinity. Do we crave for the possession of truth, or as Gotthold Ephraim Lessing puts it, the “sincere exertion to get to the truth”? What’s behind humanity’s craving for immortality, and what properties does timelessness have?
In the past decade, there has been a surge in creative coding tools, democratizing artists’ capacity to extend their practice into digital or computational art. At the same time, technologists are increasingly drawn to leverage tools they are familiar with to pose inquiries in lieu of providing immediate solutions, particularly through computational methods that allow machines to have a controlled degree of creativity between inputs and outputs.
My work juxtaposes oil on canvas - one of the oldest mediums of expression - with computational art. I’m interested in comparing the way that these two mediums shape inquiry by expressing the same subject matter in oil on canvas and custom software whilst placing them on the same surface. There’s no lack of literature exploring whether autonomous creativity can exist in an artificial system, and its consequences. I hope for my work to contribute to that dialogue by offering a window into a more refined articulation of ‘human creativity’ - one that accounts for the history of art-making from the 19th century onwards.
I grew up spending most of my weekends at Pierre Y. F. Chan's atelier practicing portraiture, landscape, still life and history painting. Formative experiences at the University of Chicago changed my artistic focus: the painting classes prompted me to examine the limitations of my process, which heavily relies on figurative representations for narration, and adopt a more experimental practice; a class titled ‘Approaching Infinity: a History of Imaginative Attempts’ posed an inquiry about the nature of inquiry and introduced me to texts I still re-read before working on new pieces, such as Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Zellini’s A Brief History of Infinity, and Calvino’s Invisible Cities; a class on big data gave me the first taste of the thrill of using computational tools to eavesdrop on ‘humanity's inner monologue’.
Upon graduation, I moved to San Francisco and joined a studio space called Code and Canvas, where I continue to make works that are visual representations of various aspects of infinity. I also further honed my creative coding and data analysis skills by collaborating with artists-in-residence at Gray Area Art and Tech, as well as working as an analyst on Tagged’s Product Data Science team. It was then when I started getting interested in the differences between oil-painting and computation as mediums of inquiry.
My first installation that juxtaposed the two mediums was titled ‘Of Vanitas’. In the installation, viewers encounter a red carpet leading up to two canvases and a lit candle. The left canvas is an oil-painting composed of multiple Vanitas paintings. The right canvas is composed of crowd-generated images pulled using Instagram’s API appropriated into a hypercube-like figure and projected onto the blank canvas. The carpet represents a lifetime, and walking down the carpet alters the projected images to reflect important milestones in life. What interests me is contrasting the nature of symbolism with real-time data processing - the former involves a distillation process resulting in essences that transcend time and geography; the latter achieves its relevance via the specificity and frequency with which it’s regenerated.
I spent summer this year at the Painting and Mixed Media art residency at SVA, where I made ‘Imagining Sisyphus Happy’, the first of a series that uses Albert Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus as a starting point. On the canvas, an automated animation is projected onto a community of ‘Sisyphi’ painted on the canvas. The animation is confined by the parameter of ‘72 strokes’ (a number play on 1942, the year The Myth of Sisyphus was published), which gives the illusion of it moving forward while its fundamentals, as defined by total number of strokes, have not changed. I also made ‘La Technologie pour la Technoloige III’ as a part of a series that juxtaposes motherboards and tablets with oil on canvas. The series draws heavily from Walter Benjamin’s "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”, with visual texture influenced by the work of Gerhard Richter, Matthew Ritchie and Clyfford Still.
“In all the arts there is a physical component which can no longer be considered or treated as it used to be, which cannot remain unaffected by our modern knowledge and over. […] We must expect great innovations to transform the entire technique of the arts, thereby affecting artistic invention itself and perhaps even bringing about an amazing change in our very notion of art” - Paul Valery, Pieces sur L’Art, 1931; Le Conquete de l’ubiquity.
Using tools and techniques in oil-painting and creative coding, I hope for my work to raise questions about the state of contemporary art by carving out a space for dialogues and confrontations between the two mediums. Further off in the future, I hope for my work to prompt contemplation on what the last frontier of automation looks like, and shape what human labor entails.
You can find my CV here.