Interviews | March 3, 2023 |

Interview: Chihyang Hsu
Luca Curci talks with Chihyang Hsu during the second appointment of SUPERNATURAL, held in LONDON, at THE LINE Contemporary Art Space.

Chihyang Hsu is an interdisciplinary artist works with photography, video, painting, and installation. His creative practices are based on congenital color vision deficiency. As a result, he probes into everyday visual communication and suggests the ambiguity he constantly encounters. Hsu has volunteered with visually-impaired communities for years to support disadvantaged individuals. He receives the Directors Fellowship from the International Center of Photography, NY, and the Master of Fine Arts degree from the School of Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University, MA. Hsu grew up in Taiwan and currently lives in New York City. He follows the Holocene Calendar.

Luca Curci – How did you get into photography? Do you remember why you took your first professional photo?
Chihyang Hsu – My journey with photography began two decades ago when I got my hands on my sister’s digital point-and-shoot camera. It was a time when digital cameras were gaining popularity, and I was ecstatic to carry them to school to capture snapshots of my classmates. Subsequently, in my university years, my father gifted me a DSLR camera on my birthday, which sparked a newfound passion for photography. I joined a photography club and delved into self-learning, participating in competitions and exploring the artistic aspect of photography. My first professional gig was collaborating with Shanghai’s leading interior design company to photograph a retirement housing complex they had constructed. Following that, I captured promotional images for the VIP lounge of Taiwan’s oldest airline at the airport. After two busy years of commercial photography, I decided to dedicate myself entirely to artistic creation, inspired by my deep interest in visual language. Using street photography as a medium, I embarked on a series of works that explored the invention of the earliest Asian writing system, the oracle bone script. This body of work earned me the prestigious Director Fellowship at the International Center of Photography in New York.

LC – According to you, what makes a good photo? Which details do you focus on?
CH – The interplay of light and shadow has always fascinated me, especially in photography. After reading “In Praise of Shadows,” I became acutely aware of how darkness can enhance our perception and imagination of details. I relish the uncertainty and mystery that shadows bring to an image. However, my recent artistic direction takes a different approach. In my latest series of thermography photography, I use bright and vibrant colours to stimulate the audience’s visual senses. These colours form ambiguous shapes that interact with one another, often leading viewers to interpret them in ways I never anticipated.
What’s particularly fascinating is that as a colour-blind artist, I cannot always distinguish the hues in the images I create. Yet, this very limitation has become an integral part of the series. By highlighting the ambiguity of visual communication, I aim to transform viewers’ misconceptions and imaginative responses into interactive elements of my work.

LC – How do you choose your subjects? Is it a reasoned or an instinctive process?
CH –
I firmly believe that great art is born out of an artist’s keen observation of life. As creators, we have the power to construct a bridge of communication through our art, inviting viewers to engage in a dialogue that is informed by their own life experiences. To me, the creative process always starts with introspection. I ask myself what my life means to me and to others, and how I can use my artistic talents to make a positive impact on the people around me. By starting from a place of reason and articulating fundamental values, I am able to create work that speaks to both the mind and the heart. At the same time, I also rely on my intuition to guide me through the creative process. I draw inspiration from the people and things that are closest to me, and I try to communicate through an artistic language that is authentic and genuine. In this way, my work becomes a harmonious blend of both reason and intuition, grounded in observation and informed by my own personal experiences.

LC – What is the most challenging part about creating your artwork?
CH – Photography has come a long way since its invention in 1839, finally being recognized as a legitimate medium for artistic creation. However, the thermal imaging camera I use presents unique challenges that set it apart from regular digital cameras. For one, obtaining hardware support for this type of camera can be difficult and costly. But even more challenging is the process of turning the digital images into physical prints. Unlike regular digital images, the color gamut of thermal images is limited, making it difficult to fully reproduce the colors in the original work. Yet, I embrace these limitations and see them as an opportunity for creative exploration. By working within the constraints of this production process, I am reminded of how our experience of the world is often shaped by the different media we encounter. This inspires me to push the boundaries of what is possible with thermal imaging, exploring new ways to communicate through color and form. Despite the challenges, I am grateful for the opportunity to work with this unique and exciting medium.

LC – Is there an unrealised or unrealisable project, even a crazy one, that you would like to work on?
CH –
As an artist, I am deeply intrigued by the boundary between life and death. I believe that contemplating death is essential for living well, as it forces us to confront our own mortality and appreciate the preciousness of life. I am fascinated by the idea that when a person dies, their energy does not simply disappear but instead transforms into a different form of existence. My work explores the question of what happens when life transcends its limits and transforms into something else. This is a fundamental question about the nature of art and life, one that extends beyond the realms of science and religion. At present, we do not have a clear understanding of the origin of consciousness, and I am eager to explore the form of existence that consciousness and energy take after the body has perished.
Through my art, I seek to capture the essence of this mysterious transformation and explore the possibilities that lie beyond our current understanding. By pushing the boundaries of what is possible, I hope to contribute to a deeper and more profound understanding of the meaning of life and death.

LC – What do you think about the concept of this exhibition? How did it inspire you?
CH –
The concept of the supernatural represents that which lies beyond what we consider natural, and I believe that the field of art is uniquely suited to explore and discuss these ideas. In contemporary education and media, we are often taught to understand the world primarily through scientific, technological, and logical perspectives, but this approach has its limitations. Art allows us to explore and communicate ideas that cannot be fully understood or explained through these traditional means.
Through my photography, I seek to challenge people’s understanding of the world around them and open their minds to new possibilities. I have found that children, in particular, have a remarkable capacity for imagination and are not limited by conventional notions of what is real or possible. When they view my photos, they often see surreal elements such as disproportionate scales or imaginary creatures, which excites me about the potential for these images to inspire the imagination. In this way, art can serve as a bridge between the natural and the supernatural, offering a glimpse into the unknown and challenging us to expand our understanding of the world.

LC – What is the message linked to the artwork you have shown in this event? How is it connected to the theme of the entire exhibition?
CH – My ongoing project explores the possibilities of intimacy and visual communication. At the age of nine, I was diagnosed with color blindness, which opened my eyes to the complexity of the world beyond my perception. This realization inspired me to challenge conventional methods of visual communication and explore new ways to convey meaning. To push the boundaries of color perception, I began using a compact thermal camera to capture images that incorporate heat, which is associated with the sense of touch. Through this approach, I seek to expand our understanding of visual communication beyond what can be seen with the naked eye. My subjects include mostly the hands of friends and objects that I have heated up to create illusions. With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, physical contact has become a more complicated issue. As we become more aware of the risks of touching, we are forced to re-imagine what intimacy means in a world where physical contact is limited. This was particularly true for me when I moved to New York on my own and experienced the city’s silent panic. Through this series of works, I seek to document my personal reimagining of physical contact and explore the possibilities of intimacy in a world that is increasingly defined by social distancing.

LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
CH – I am delighted to say that my experience with Seher and Giulia was wonderful. They were instrumental in helping me showcase the finest aspects of me and my work to the audience, and I am grateful for their valuable contributions. I am eagerly looking forward to more opportunities for collaboration in the future.

LC – What do you think about ITSLIQUID Platform?
CH – ITSLIQUID is a dynamic platform that offers a diverse range of contemporary artwork and innovative ideas. It is a space where artists from all walks of life can showcase their work and connect with a global community of art enthusiasts. With a focus on fresh and daring perspectives, ITSLIQUID is a hub for discovering new talent and exploring the latest trends in the contemporary art world. Whether you are an artist, a collector, or simply a lover of art, ITSLIQUID offers an unparalleled experience that is both stimulating and thought-provoking.

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