Meet the On-line Artist // Cynthia C
Cynthia Chou (@__canvassed) is a Taiwanese-Canadian artist based in Berlin, exploring the nature of the self-image in relation to memory, permanence, and decay. Exploring abstract and expressive portraiture as an act of personal documentation and preservation, her practice also includes the ongoing research of degradable vs. permanent materials through drawing, painting, and biomaterials.
Her residency seeks to answer the question of how the marks we make outlive us, and how they reflect our innate desire to maintain and remember parts of the self. Characterised by a rich synthesis of both visual and tactile elements, her residency revolves around the development of new formats and processes that integrate biomaterials into her practice.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What is your background and where are you now?
I’m a Taiwanese-born, Canada-raised, and now Berlin-based artist who’s fascinated by the mixing of mediums. Abstract and expressive portraiture has been my primary interest, and for this residency I’m exploring the idea of the self-image in relation to memory, permanence, and decay. How does repeated mark-making build up identities over time? How do the marks we make out-live us? And what parts of our identities do we choose to remember or preserve?
Can you describe your process of researching materials and experimenting with different formats and processes in your artistic practice?
My research process starts with a wealth of reading (Are.na and Pro qm are some of my favourite resources), then I take my sketches and notes as an aesthetic and thematic starting point. Then I scour sites like Future Materials Bank for material inspiration and Materiom for recipes, before going through multiple rounds of cooking, dyeing, curing, and testing bioplastics for their color, texture, strength, opacity, etc. Documenting my experiments and observations then helps me figure out how I can layer, paint, or draw with these materials.
What motivated you to explore biomaterials as a canvas, and research self-image as a theme?
I’ve always been especially drawn to faces and bodies as landscapes to explore. I think entering my 30s has also caused me to reflect more on selfhood and my own self-image, and to use art as a journaling practice, as an ongoing documentation and processing of my changing inner and outer identity. The changing nature of biomaterials seemed like a perfect medium to express these themes.
How has your background in both science and design influenced your artistic practice?
I spent my early years of university studying natural sciences, and I love viewing the creative process as a natural extension of research and experimentation. I also spent a couple weeks at ELISAVA Design School last summer being introduced to the world of biomaterials, and was inspired by my experience creating biodegradable ‘plastics’ from agar, carageenan , and gelatin. The unpredictable way these materials changed over time intrigued me, and I wanted to add this line of material research into my usual portfolio of oil paint, charcoal, and textiles.
In what ways do you envision your art evolving in the future, particularly in terms of themes, techniques, or mediums you might explore?
I think biomaterials is a big wide world to discover, especially in terms of its applications in art. The more I play around with recipes and processes, the more I’m drawn to using them as sculptural or wearable pieces that highlight their interaction with the environment.