My latest body of work involves creating interior-exteriors that function as portraits. Pairs of chairs or trees represent my sister and I, and this fated journey we have been on since being sent to live abroad during our early adolescence. Outside the window, situates a whimsical landscape; a place that stems from both the imagination and idealized memories of adventure, travel, and escapism. These escapes suggest a sense of longing; a “I am here, but I’d rather be there” kind of feeling – much like Matisse’s window paintings from his time in the South of France. As a millennial, I am further influenced by the daily postings of “altered realities” by my peers on social media. The use of windows as subtle framing devices hint at the omnipresent laptop-monitors that subconsciously dominate our everyday lives. We are constantly offered the potential fulfillment of desires and escapism via windows into another world. The inside-outside juxtaposition similarly echoes this duality of space in which my generation exists, one between our online (outer) selves and our actual selves behind digital screens. Emoticons have provided relevant titles for my works.
Having grown up moving between Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, and the United States, the search and understanding of places, both in reality and in my work, continue to fuel my artistic practice. Having spent most of my life living away from home, I became an avid traveler who developed a practice of drawing from hotel rooms, “homes” abroad, and travel expeditions over the years. From these drawings, I create paintings of dream worlds that appear both overly-sweet and subtly sinister, seeking to exhibit a Sunshine-Noir kind of sensation. This contradiction strongly embodies my own Jekyll and Hyde character and understanding of the world, particularly as I continue to navigate the shifting realities of my cross-border heritage, while attempting to find a sense of home.
Susan M B Chen is a Hong Kong-American artist who paints interiors and landscapes that reflect as both self-portraits and idealized memories of adventure, travel, and escapism. Chen grew up between Hong Kong and the United Kingdom prior to moving to the United States to attend Brown University where she received her B.A. Honors in Visual Arts and International Relations (2015). Her work has been exhibited and collected by United Kingdom Parliament, Shanghai Hosane Auction House, Perry & Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts, Brown University Investment Office, and is part of private collections in several international cities. She currently maintains her art practice in Chicago and is advancing her professional art studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.