Studio Visit NYC: Jenny Chen

Jenny Chen in her studio

Jenny Chen in her studio

“Studio Visit NYC” is our new program that a small group of people visits artists’ studios in NYC. We examine their work closely and discuss the process and concept of creation with the artists in their own working environment. Our second visit was the studio of Jenny Chen, who has been showing her work in US, Asia as well as in Europe.

Like our first “Studio Visit NYC” artist, Masaaki Noda, Jenny Chen has her studio in SOHO, Manhattan. Even though Mercer Street, where her studio is located, is now very charming street with lots of tasteful shops and boutiques,  Jenny told us, “It used to be called Murder Street because of the darkness and quietness. It was very different before.”

Her studio is on 4th floor. It is hard to believe now that some artists still have their working spaces in this gentrified part of the city. So, when you step out of the elevator and see Jenny’s studio, you will be pleasantly surprised. There, it is a huge, white, open studio space with colorful, large-scaled paintings on the wall and paint all over the floor. Everybody in our group said, “Wow!”

Jenny Chen's spacious studio

Jenny Chen’s spacious studio

After we entered her studio, we noticed a big plastic sheet with dripping paint’s marks on the floor. Someone immediately asked, “Do you work on the floor?” Jenny said, “Yes. I usually put canvas on the floor and pour some paint directly onto the canvas. That’s how I start.” In her studio you can see a stack of big buckets full of acrylic paint. She thins the paint with water and pours it on to the canvas, which is laid on the floor. “I often use recycled pieces too.” She pointed out abstract form of  acrylic paint on the plastic sheet.

Paints on Jenny's work table

Paints on Jenny’s work table

Her recent body of work is very vibrant. When one participant asked how she chooses the color, Jenny told us, “I don’t intend to have harmony in my paintings. I want to have conflict and tension; not harmony. So, if I put red on canvas, I often choose the opposite color next, some color against red.”

“I like something with weights; music, film, food well I shouldn’t eat too much heavy food” Jenny laughed. “What kind of music do you like?” someone asked. “Wagner.” Jenny immediately replied. The participants nodded.  “It defiantly shows. Your paintings are very dramatic.” Jenny’s paintings are certainly rich and have thick layers that represent her life experience. When she was asked why she uses acrylic rather than oil based paint, she replied, “Most contemporary paintings require instinct feeling and acrylic paint dries out quick enough to let my ideas continuing explore. But I do make oil paintings with small scale since it takes time to get dry.”

Detail of Jenny's recent work

Detail of Jenny’s recent work

Smaller oil paintings

Smaller oil paintings

“Some artists create work according to a plan and set their goal and work towards that. I don’t. My work is about establishing personal artistic freedom. I don’t consciously seek to organize the composition of a painting instead, I prefer to allow the working of paint to help determine the arrangement of forms. My belief is that paint has the capacity to speak radically. it is the process of my work which remains central idea.”

She said she is always interested in what is happening around us and in the world. “For example, I’m really concerned about terrorism and refugees currently that bothers me a lot. I think what’s happening at this time really effects our art. Because art is always connected with our life.” Even though she is not trying to express something specific in her painting, she thinks that the time we are living in and something like politics and social issues somehow influence her art.

Jenny Chen (left) and Studio Visit NYC participants

Jenny Chen (left) and Studio Visit NYC participants

Jenny used to have another studio in Taipei as well. Almost every year she had a solo show in Taiwan. After she produced a body of work, she sent them to Taiwan and stored most of work there. But in 2012 the building had fire and tragically her studio burned. “I lost all my works throughout my entire career by fire that time. It was a very sad moment of my life. I was pondering and pondering what would be the next?  Fortunately all works have been digitalized and I still remember the process of my creative art. Suddenly I overcome with a genius idea, all my works have been collected by Buddha.”

Jenny explains her working process.

Jenny explains her working process.

Even when she had a studio in Taiwan, she said she always preferred working in this studio in SOHO. The biggest reason is because, “I enjoy solitude. ” She explained more. “There are so many different people here in NY. And if you want, you can connect with people. But you can also choose to be by yourself. It’s important for me as an artist. I need a place that I can be left alone, so that I can concentrated to what I do.”

Another benefit of working in this studio? “I can listen to Wagner or Mahler at high volume while I am working and nobody cares. Because this is a working studio. Also, it is SOHO after all. Lots of things are available here like IFC cinema. So, whenever I want, I can just step out and see some movies.  I often go to see the movies when I have to wait for paint to dry. I spend a couple of hours in the movie theater and get refreshed. By the time I come back to my studio, the painting is dry already. It’s ready for the next stage. That’s great!”

Jenny Chen:

Lives and works in New York. Chen graduated from National Chengchi University in Taipei and then received MFA from Pratt Institute in NYC in 1990. She has been showing her work internationally in US, Asia as well as in Europe. Her work is public collections of Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taiwan, Pratt Institute, New York, Shanghai Art Museum, China among others. Her recent solo exhibitions include “Sequence of Living Color” Kalo Gallery, Taipei, 2014, “Without End” ISE Cultural Foundation Gallery, New York, 2012, “Time-Flow- Works by Jenny Chen” Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts, Taipei, 2010.