Interview with Lucie Chan

Line Gallery: Why do you think you came to focus on drawing as opposed to another medium?

Lucie Chan: I chose it because it doesn’t come with hardware, machinery and you can generally do it anywhere, it’s economical, it can be anything, and people are always eventually moving onto other media and end up giving away their drawing supplies.


LG: Why do you think drawing is important in contemporary art or as a practice?

LC: My question is: Is drawing important?? (in contemporary art). I like that there are movements that are carried on from history or won’t go away and are still changing, repeating itself, raising questions about why people still do it. Drawing as a practice has slowed down how I look at things and reflect on them. It has made me more of an observant human being.


LG: In your practice you seem to consistently make a large number of drawings for each body of work. Why do you think this is an important part of your process? What is your working process like?

LC: I start with a small idea that I want to expand on. For myself, drawing is about the process and not just the outcome. I feel like if I just showed the outcome and not how I got there, I’d be cheating myself as well as anyone looking at the work. I think of drawing as personal freedom by the very fact that it is the only place where failure is allowed. And failure happens all of the time in drawing. Happy failures in the best of light! I also like that I build and try not to edit myself too much with drawing and perhaps that is why I show so many drawings at once. My process is about searching and trying to make sense of the world around me, I am also trying to let a lot go, to accept the failures, and trying to save them from happening at the same time. My working process is a meditative one and at the same time how I think and work things out.


LG: Your drawing practice at times has extended itself into the realms of installation and animation. Can you speak a little about how your practice developed in these ways?

LC: I have always been fascinated in how an image of a place can transport you to another place. With installation I try to do the same thing, give the viewer a chance to feel enveloped into a physical space or a more physical experience. The animations began when I wanted to have my drawings of people evolve. I wanted to show them thinking, not in a moment of thinking. My first animation was of a girl’s face looking out at the viewer and blinking. I was hooked. The animations are always slow paced and in that way I feel like it has to do with my own way of looking and taking things in. It feels voyeuristic, which is a very big part of my drawing practice.


LG: Are there any artists or experiences that have shaped/influenced your practice?

LC: I am influenced by being in and looking at any artist’s studio, to see their work in progress and how they work. It’s that or any artist who has allowed me to look at their sketchbooks. Both make me feel like I’m getting a true sense of the person and their thoughts in its rawest form. I am influenced by others doing creative things around me, so not just artists but anyway who is trying to look at the world and do something with in and be in it in a way that goes off the beaten track a bit. Looking at the way others work makes me more of an empathetic human being which affects the way I approach my ideas and make the work that I do.


LG: It is really interesting that you do not edit and that you purposefully exhibit work that reflects your working process and imperfections, or even failures, as you say. How do you think you came to make work in this way? Was there a point in time where you started to make work in this way?

LC: For myself, it is an important part of being an artist to consider my role as sharing something with this world, possibly what is not already before them. I know that I appreciate seeing the process of an artist’s work as a way to better understand it. By showing a lot of failures, not-so-great images, I am giving more of an entry point for anyone who views it and wishes to engage with it on another level other than face value. This way of presenting work, with copious amounts of failed moments, they get the chance to be more critical through my attempts to be generous which in my belief they will care more if they have a broader understanding of it. When I present a body of work or an installation, I want it to feel as if I have opened up an entire sketchbook or am having a series of conversations with the viewer through studio visits without me actually having to be present.

I came to work this way when I realized I would never make the perfect image as well as that didn’t really matter to me, so why not show next to everything? I also arrived at an understanding about sharing that much unedited work and it was that I wanted viewers to have several options around how to enter the work, to see what they wanted to see, and to allow more openness for criticism. A big part of making art is to feel a sense of vulnerability when it is put into the public.


LG: How does your own life experience and cultural background contribute to or influence your work?

LC: That question around life experience brings me back to vulnerability and I feel like making an image is what I do as a person in this life, whether or not I have a pencil in my hand and a surface to place its marks on. When I say vulnerability, I make a direct relationship between making an image which is literally making the illusion of nothing into something, to forming yourself as a human being where each person you interact with you have to start from scratch and remake yourself in order to meet them half way. Making an image and being a human being are the same to me, no matter what is going on in my life. Add to that an ongoing feeling of cultural awkwardness, existing on the margins of all cultures (immigrant, person of color), and never being able to see oneself reflected back when looking out into the world, and that may summarize where all of my work begins. That being said, I see life experience and cultural background as building a bridge to walk on to meet whoever wants to meet the work half way.


LG: Are there any drawers that you have been looking at recently? Are there any Canadian drawers we should check out?

LC: I’m always looking at Anne Kipling and often Susan Turcot, most recently Melissa Manfull and Jason Botkin, all for kinds of reasons.

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