Artist of the Week: Hsin-Hsi Chen

In the corner of the Members’ Gallery at Hillyer Art Space, an illuminated geometric structure made of polystyrene, radiates glowing white light. Luminescence pulses with the vibrancy of life and extends into the viewer’s immediate space, inviting the plastic work’s human counterpart to reveal elements of his inner soul, to expose what is typically hidden under his hard and restrictive shell.

Hsin-Hsi Chen’s new series, LUX explores the optical and cognitive effects of light and shadow when juxtaposed with illusionary or surreal light. Her study successfully elicits questions of fact versus fiction and confronts the opposing duo’s interplay within everyday life. Just as it is at times perplexing to distinguish the corporeal shadows made by paper folds from the phantom darkness developed by diligent pencil shading, it is often difficult, sometimes confusing or impossible, to separate authenticity from fraud.

Some of Chen’s artworks are limited in material, using only pencil on paper, to create complex planes. These images are capable of confounding the viewer who strives to match his visual perception of the drawing with his thoroughly convinced feelings for space and depth. Grotto is the most interesting of the series, for when seen at close gaze, the viewer is transported into the pictorial frame, as if he is standing within Jean Dubuffet’s Cave that exists in its permanent home at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, France.

Chen abstracts two-dimensional cuts, angles and lines of her drawings into medium-sized three-dimensional paper and wood models. Enhanced by LED lights, these works challenge the viewer’s ability to examine and realize the overlaps between created and natural space and shadow. Such exercise requires focused attention and inquisitive eyes.

Some thee-dimensional works adopt futuristic personas. Alien light softly glows below machine-precise edges to create an illusion reminiscent of a science fiction hovercraft. Others convey thoughts of fantasy, more naturally formed with imperfect curves. Like the brain that produces dreams, these objects have mysterious openings that emit an enticing light from an unknown source. 

Together, pencil drawings, paper and wood objects, and a polystyrene structure, engage in dialogue with one another, creating a visual progression marking Chen’s artistic process—from two to three-dimensions—as well as posing intriguing questions concerning illusionary and real space in everyday life

LUX is on display at Hillyer Art Space until April 26, 2013.

Tuesday- Friday 12- 6 PM, Monday and Saturday 12- 5 PM, Closed Sunday

9 Hillyer Court, NW

Bringin the Art in DC to You,

Roxanne Goldberg