HSIEH IN ITALY
Introduction by Ian Stewart / Interview by Antonio Zanobi
Victor Hsieh's elaborate abstract paintings are done in his own tradition, which formulates congenial relationships among delicate lines, resplendent colors and voluptuous contours. In every one of them Hsieh is divulged, but in the most auspicious he also leaves himself behind and allows the painting to pledge itself as a visual equivalent to natural phenomenon. Nature is the origin of Hsieh's incentive, although none of his pictures portray landscapes or indications of them. Rather, the forces of nature are given form in his work. Hsieh contrasts lights and darks with warms and cools to orchestrate resplendent symphonies. He thoughtfully strokes diagonal trajectories, mature biomorphic forms and exuberant lines into dynamic sediments of rich pigment. Contrasting color, value, angular edge and an underlying layout of stippled blends add to the convoluted ocular effects of the pictures, which are both dimensional and flat in a modernistic sense but soundly charge into imaginary space. Hsieh's charismatic compositions are in equilibrium and appear to continue well beyond the stretchers' edges. In the discussion concerning a new space for abstract painting, Hsieh has something original to add. At the Flash Art Museum's First International Biennial, the young originator was kind enough to answer a series of thoughtful questions concerning! art, Italy, creativity, painting, deKooning, music, tin foil and shit.
Antonio Zanobi: How do you feel this show turned out?
Victor Hsieh: Swell, it's nice to have a survey of exciting new work coming from everywhere.
AZ: What have you been doing the last couple days?
VH: Sightseeing, starting to miss the studio.
AZ: See any art?
VH: Yeah, lots of it. Europe seems to have a consistency of healthy painting.
AZ: And the States?
VH: Well the roots of painting are here and European countries fund more on art. Schools here also stress skill. The States seem more involved with installation and photography.
AZ: People call that the "enemy of painting." You agree?
VH: Only in terms of what's shown more. Otherwise, if anything, it simply makes painting a more sacred practice.
AZ: What do you recommend to the artists of your generation?
VH: What we do requires enormous amounts of discipline and independent commitment. I'd therefore recommend accomplishing a higher state of diligence in order to progress.
VH: That's what makes an artist's life so valuable. Life's work is a vehicle to examine the depths of one's inner spirit, connected with their interests, experiences and surroundings. A widening path of enlightenment. We're searching to grasp our personal truths, which themselves are in a state of evolution. All is subject to change; ourselves and our environments, spiritually and physically. It's coming up with a set of rules in a visual language, then expanding and cultivating the mode as time passes.
AZ: Does that mean your work always improves?
VH: It means one's work from a certain stage is their definition of truth and ability at that given point in time. As far as the "greatest work" of an artist, that's obviously in the eye of the beholder. For instance, some feel deKooning's late paintings are the best he had to offer, while others think it's trash and prefer his women.
AZ: What do you think?
VH: I prefer his landscapes.
AZ: How did you learn to do such skillful work?
VH: By listening to my inner voice and placing effort in results. Belief and endurance.
AZ: Much of your work is just plain beautiful. Do you make a conscious effort to make it look pretty?
VH: No, it takes shape naturally; an honesty from within, untouched by superficial motives.
AZ: What was your first artistic experience?
VH: When I was four, during my first day of preschool. I still remember those hours photographically, in the dimly-lit classroom at Francis Parker's south-end, faced toward the window drawing and drawing, realizing that there are no limits to forming a piece. Thinking of the endless possibilities in rendering things. Drew regularly from then on.
AZ: What about abstract painting?
VH: Did a blue-green watercolor in seventh grade and acrylic on canvas in eleventh. All the other students had to follow teacher's assignments, and the teachers gave class lectures regarding my paintings. I'm grateful to them for moral support and allowing me the freedom to do as I dreamed.
AZ: Which was?
VH: The birth of my art. My very first canvas, "Meeting Place" (Exhibited at the San Diego Museum of Art when he was 18) had several characteristics seen in today's work.
AZ: As a self-taught artist, you're making your own rules?
VH: I see it as more of a process of learning to dive within and capture your concepts accurately. Accomplishing your craft on your own. Everyone wonders how I did this or that; it's unconventional methods of treatment that initiated my processes to begin with.
AZ: What are you looking to capture in your work?
VH: Accuracy of my vision.
AZ: Why did you dress up like an extraterrestrial transvestite for your first one-man show?
VH: At the time (1995) that had been a long-time fantasy, longing to become one with my artwork.
AZ: How was it received?
VH: Surprisingly enough, quite well. They had me cut the ribbon for the new building opening ceremony. I expected people to be offended, but they actually appreciated it and acknowledged my intent to become a living work of art.
AZ: I noticed how you wore a jockstrap over your head. Where did that come from?
VH: It all started in a hotel room in Stuttgart (Germany) when I was 8 doing Michael Jackson impersonations in front of my family.
AZ: What were you trying to prove?
VH: I proved that it was possible to use a common undergarment multiple times and then place it in an entirely new context, in an uncommon situation, along with the full-body costume.
AZ: There seems to be wit and humor in some of your work's titles. Is that intentional?
VH: That's odd it came across that way. They're always thoughtful matches conceived before completion. An extremely personal level of perception on a multitude of subjects.
AZ: You listen to many different musical genres, which style of music influences your work most?
VH: Elements of baroque, jazz and classical sometimes blend with synthetic pitches in some of the lines, whereas other times it's based upon singular facets of sound series' and their given composites.
AZ: What do you listen to while painting?
VH: Sometimes Liberace, other times Beethoven, country, jazz or cock rock.
AZ: Some of your work pertains to food. Have you thought of new ideas eating here in Italy?
VH: Yes, from Italian ice cream and those green pasta noodles.
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