Interview: Jazz Szu-Ying Chen
Jazz Szu-Ying Chen (b. 1990) is a Taiwanese artist residing in Taipei after a 10-year stint in the EU/UK and is currently one of the artists-in-residence at New Taipei City’s Banqiao 435 Art District.
We interviewed Jazz Szu-Ying Chen who is based in Taipei about herself.
What was your upbringing?
I had quite an untraditional and flexible upbringing compared to most Taiwanese people – which I am thankful for.
I’ve had a good amount of cultural exposure since my youth – my mum studied music and my dad loved classical music, so we attended many recitals and also frequented museums. I’ve always loved drawing, and painting since I was very young, so I had art lessons every weekend, and that routine continued until I went to university.
When you grew up, what was your interest as a child/adult?
I loved anime and manga – I spent so much pocket money on collecting mangas and merchandise till I was 18! A few of the series I was obsessed with was Naruto, Trinity Blood, and the classic series Black Jack.
Then I got into MSN chatrooms as a sneaky 12-year-old and made a Finnish online friend, who introduced me to metal music. And from there onwards, I got very much into the gothic subculture, and finding esoteric and niche music continues to be a long-running interest of mine.
During all this time, artmaking has always been a constant.
How did your career as an artist begin?
It came by chance – my mom started taking me to local galleries when I was young because my art tutor at that time exhibited there… A manager of one of the galleries in my home city asked to see my portfolio out of curiosity – and at age 17, I was offered my first exhibition at a small gallery space at a bakery! It felt like such a big deal at that time. I designed my own invitation cards, labels, and flyers – which was quite a big task but I enjoyed every moment of the process.
What is your inspiration?
I’m currently feeling inspired by medieval imageries and religious/iconographic motifs, especially from the Renaissance. I’m hoovering up any visuals containing bats, mythological creatures, and the green man.
Right now I am also obsessed with the memento mori death and the maiden motif. One of the Instagram stories that I’ve been following – and is definitely influencing my “death and the maiden” streak – is @monstersholdingbitches
Who is your favorite artist?
That is such a hard question to answer because I definitely have more than one!
One of my all-time favorites gotta be Albrecht Durer – his cartoonish depictions are just beyond his time. Max Ernst (his piece “Europe after Rain” is one of my all-time favorites). Contemporary ones would be Makoto Aida, and I am also lucky that my mentor Eleanor Crook is also one of my favorite artists…
What excites/fascinates you the most when you create your work?
Initial sketching stage, then detail stage! I love developing new ideas in the sketching stage, and with a pencil/pen, I get to flex my illustrating muscles.
As for the detail stage: I plan my work to a certain extent, and the smaller details’ shapes and forms develop organically. Despite how planned and intricate my work looks, I work rather intuitively – and I’m often surprised by the results.
Jazz Szu-Ying Chen (b. 1990) is a Taiwanese artist residing in Taipei after a 10-year stint in EU/UK and is currently one of the artists-in-residence at New Taipei City’s Banqiao 435 Art District. After graduating from London’s Central Saint Martin’s with a Master in Art & Science in 2015, Jazz has been consistently exhibiting in both Taiwan and abroad.
Jazz’s subjects of focus span over her interest in the beauty and grotesque within the field of anatomy/medical historical imageries, to mythologies and folklore such as Nordic mythology and “Classics of Mountains and Seas.” She manipulates the dissected anatomical imageries and creates tableaus with mythological monsters and botanical details. The tableaus are meant to tell stories regarding the cultural clashes, her views on superstition, reflections from her Taiwanese roots, and the many facets of love.