Parade | The Mind-Altering Art of Wayland Chu

Parade | The Mind-Altering Art of Wayland Chu

In our series, Parade, we examine up and coming artists via a series of questions about their work as well as their view of the world at large.

We were fortunate enough in this issue of Parade to grab an interview with one of the most sensational up and coming stars in the Colorado art scene, Wayland Chu; a graduate of the prestigious Art Institute of Chicago who has since risen to become one of the most exciting new names in the Denver art scene with his wildly unique figures that at times seem to play about amongst visual dimensions and provocative inclusions throughout his creations. The overall effect is as incredibly enchanting as it is baffling and intense, as it seems that his creations have been and are truly still his own since he refuses to keep a consistent style, always evolving to remain unique.

MineTheHive, Wayland Chu, Parade, Abstract Art,

What three words would you use to describe your artwork in general? If you had to pick three.

WC: Erotic… unintentionally erotic [laugh]. I never intend for it be erotic. Human bodies for me are… just erotic… unintentionally erotic. More so, they seem to be grotesque; and I’d guess I’d call that my second word [laugh]. They are intentionally grotesque.

MTH: So is showcasing that an intentional strive towards provocation?

WC: No, not at all, that just happens to be how I see the human form… We seem to be dressing ourselves up, almost desperately, to be anything other than an animal. That grotesqueness is just trying to express that natural state. America… today… you’re drenched in these brands of clothes just to keep you from being an animal, to keep you above that. And that really is us today. We love to see ourselves as higher than animals. But in a sense, that kind of makes our primal nature shine through even louder.

MTH: Is there a third term you’d put to it?

WC: I guess whimsical. I never plan on any of the drawings being anything other than the characters splayed around a composition that I’m trying to do do. Usually they’re just characters that I come up with. And I like to use figure models when I can but… I can’t always do that…I just make up what I can, and it’s whimsical in that sense because they’re always so ridiculous, they’re androgynous, seedy, and strange.

MineTheHive, Wayland Chu, Parade, Abstract Art,

How is the artwork you create today different than what you created five years ago?

MineTheHive, Wayland Chu, Parade, Abstract Art,

WC: It is totally different. Back then… a lot of people called it psychedelic, just because of all the colors I used, or surrealistic, because of different illusions, … but most of them were portraits… made up portraits. And that’s because I was always fascinated with portraits because I was  interested in having something looking back at you. But I think portraiture nowadays is more risque than contemporary art. Because contemporary art is all abstract shit now because people feel that they have to do that. But doing a portrait nowadays still has the same relevance as it did 300 years ago, the same subject matter still has the same things to say… It was more portraiture.

MTH: Having seen some of your artwork from that time period, it seems like you incorporated a lot more dimensions in your work today. It seems like you’re working with a lot more dimensions. Is that something you came into? I know during you’re earlier period you went through the Chicago Art Institute.

WC: (laugh) I don’t know one art student that it didn’t change didn’t change… Well, I suppose first of all I started working with the whole body, instead of just faces… There’s a lot of beauty in the human form, it’s the most classical subject matter, it’s the human body… I mean, how much expressiveness can you get out of the human body? Humans are naturally obsessed with themselves, you know?. And I was encouraged in art school to do… just abstract stuff… always. Like, in painting class, [i’d hear] this isn’t fine art, because this is figurative. And this is one of the biggest problems I had with art school… And just because art isn’t considered fine art if it’s figurative anymore, I think that’s a relic of the 70’s. I’ve always wanted to work with the human form. I think art isn’t considered fine art when it’s figurative. Bodies fade into each other. Me just tap more into what fine art is.  I don’t know how many times painting has been declared dead. I always loved working in 2D. I just wanted to see how much farther I could take that medium. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that painting has been declared dead I’ve always loved working with bodies. But then I started layering them.

WC: When my work is in a weird place between illustration and fine art… it seems like a good thing. But that wasn’t the reaction from my teachers at art school.

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“All famous artists… they were singular, their style could not be misconstrued as someone else’s work: Kandinsky looks like Kandinsky, doesn’t look like Picasso, doesn’t look like Van Gogh. You can always tell, no matter what painting it is, that it is distinctly their own.”

MineTheHive, Wayland Chu, Parade, Abstract Art,

Are there any artists from the past that you’d consider to be inspirations?

WC: There are a ton… and a lot influence how I am now… Egon Schiele is certainly one. He’s an Austrian draftsman. He died very young… But the way he treated the body was just so real… He’d pick up street urchins and hookers… And they’d be emaciated and gangly… He had a real sense of the skeleton under the body. The joints… His work with hands was amazing… It comes out of jugendstil, which is Austrian draftsmanship… His lines were perfect. They were spontaneous.

What about contemporary artists?

MineTheHive, Wayland Chu, Parade, Abstract Art,

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WC: They’re amazing, and there’s plenty of them, but it’s totally different.

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WC: Takashi Murakami, for instance, because he’s doing contemporary pop art now… he’ll take low brow shit and blast it up and expand it like Andy Warhol did and turn it into sugary pop art paintings.

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MTH: Would you mind giving a couple others?

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WC: A contemporary painter, who was actually a commencement speaker at my graduation, was Albert Roland… He did totally abstract art, and from what I said before, it might seem like I don’t love abstract art, but I love abstract art, it’s just not what I want to create…. But his compositions are just so out there… He’ll do collage… these outrageous smatterings of paint. And his compositions just leave so much space to really dive into his pictures… they’re amazing… He’s a great painter.

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MTH: Anyone else just off the top of the head? If you had to draw one more up?

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WC: If you look up the whole roster of gagosian, they represent dead Picasso, they do showcases of him, live presentations… They have a ton of live artists as well, Cecily Brown… They’re so busy and it definitely influences me.

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MineTheHive, Wayland Chu, Parade, Abstract Art,

What bothers you about the art world today?

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WC: What is considered fine art is… it’s good in some places. But there’s so many different habitats of art… Things that should have such merit, like a Jeff Koons sculpture, is relegated to something lesser, when it shouldn’t be at all… Like James Jean is one of the most famous illustrators around right now, and he gave up illustration to pursue fine art painting… probably because of art world pressures because what he’s making isn’t considered fine art by the people he listens to. A lot of artists have just commodified. They’re just creating what people will buy. What’s considered fine art, the trends that are going around now

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WC: My biggest problem would be that figuration… isn’t considered fine art anymore, it’s just considered illustration. And painters will say, pejoratively, that illustration is regarded as painting… even though it’s the same thing.

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MTH: What about street art being taken into galleries?

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WC: Context speaks volumes. A piece of incredible art will be seen as genius in a museum and ignored if it’s sitting in a bar.

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WC: They did an experiment where they had a monkey just draw randomly, and a bunch of critics then examined it in a high-class context, and they loved it and were fascinated by it. It speaks a lot about what critics know.

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Describe a typical work session?

WC: The whole thing is super instinctual… I always warm up just by sketching out a bunch of bodies, freeing up my hand… I start playing music very loudly.. I need stimulation, music or tv or something [laugh] The only time I ever got in trouble with it was when I was playing Death Grips far too loud… [laugh] but i need loud music.

MineTheHive, Wayland Chu, Parade, Abstract Art,

WC: But I just start putting bodies down. Rarely do I sketch out and plan a piece. Sometimes I plan compositions… I’m layering bodies and stuff in the case that sometimes I’m trying to make a very poignant, elegant figure composition. But otherwise I leave all the thinking on the page… If I make a mistake, I might sand it off, and I leave the after image of what was there, and I leave that for people to see how it developed, for the viewer to be able to join in the process.

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MineTheHive, Wayland Chu, Parade, Abstract Art,

Where will you be and what will you be doing five years from now?

WC: Just making art, full time… And it being the only thing I’m thinking about. Worrying about finances sucks a lot of the beauty out of creating art so I’d like to be in a place that this isn’t an issue.

Give one piece of advice to an aspiring artist trying to find success?

WC: Perseverance is key here. It’s not easy. In the art world, it’s… tough to make a living. But just knowing that your hard-work does pay off. If you really want it—and you have to decide that you really want it. Being able to find the right balance between accepting criticism and defending your own art.

What is one thing that is happening in the world today that is good?

WC: It is nice that people are more progressive today. A decade ago, certain jokes were able to fly a little more [laugh]…. People don’t want to hear that everything is incredible right now, they want to hear about shootings; whether they know that or not.

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MineTheHive, Wayland Chu, Parade, Abstract Art,MineTheHive, Wayland Chu, Parade, Abstract Art,

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