Hsian-Jung Chen Abstracts Plants, Fruits, and Foods in Memphis-Style Ceramics | News STIRpad
The instantly recognizable 1980s Memphis style with its geometric shapes, bright hues of primary and pastel colors and repeating patterns, never fails to brighten her mood. Its bold, humorous aura stands out from today’s minimalist and modernist objects and spaces. The revival of this unique and fun style in the 21st century was therefore long and inevitable. While his resurgence is most visible in graphic design and illustrative creations, the Taiwanese graphic designer turned ceramicist Hsian Jung Chen, who sincerely admires Memphis design, has taken this style and colored his latest light sculpture in hues and shades of blue, green, yellow, orange and black. His sculptural works of art are unostentatious and light, but also attractive and charming.
Chen’s pieces are simplified shapes of everyday objects like trees, plants, flowers, fruits, vegetables, cars, candelabra, pretzels and toys. Shaped using clay, these physical objects sometimes appear as toys and at other times as original decorations that can serve as accessories in one’s personal space. Chen, who lives in Taipei, first draws and measures these shapes and forms on a piece of paper, then transfers them to clay and later puts them together to form cohesive sculptural artworks, all by hand. The sculptor-artist’s colorful creations, characterized by bright colors and playfully juxtaposed circles, cylinders and rectangles, breathe joy into their surroundings.
The Taiwanese artist discovered ceramics nine years ago. Since then, he regularly experiments with the material to create utilitarian and decorative objects in his constantly evolving style. While his early pieces were characterized by a more traditional ceramic look, his recent creations are experimental, both in form and function, and in appearance. In one of his pieces, namely “Your Empire is Empty”, Chen constructed broken micro-spaces using ceramics and invited another artist, Son Li, to deconstruct the space with her drawings in single trait. Before embarking on his latest creation, he imagined the ‘Coconut’ collection, the ‘Ice and Juice Bar’ collection, ‘Food Pose’, ‘Gold & Green’ and ‘Edible’. All these ceramic creations are inspired by food and nature.
Clinging to this source of inspiration, Chen began to experiment with new colors, shapes and sizes to interpret these everyday objects in a new way with each new collection. He describes his process as similar to designing clothes or creating graphic art. The visual dislocation he faces during the initial phase of the project helps him create experiences with his designs. Chen’s intention for his Memphis lamps, like his earlier designs, was not the fulfillment of a function. Rather, he wanted to create sculptural pieces that could sit comfortably both as lighted fixtures and as sculptures. The warm luminescence added in the lamps therefore acts as an extra layer that can be enjoyed.
Chen, who uses her hands to shape these ceramic pieces, believes clay is a very accessible medium. It can easily be used to assert ideas and emotions. Perfect or imperfect, the final ceramic pieces always manage to communicate interesting images. He plans to experiment more with the material in his future pieces by combining clay with plastic, wood and metal.