Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Art Space Talk: Stella Lai

I recently interviewed artist Stella Lai. Lai is a San Francisco artist born in Hong Kong. Her paintings have been described as so precise that they could pass for digital prints. I observed her work at the Pulse art fair.

A recent Art in America review of Lai’s work said it had a "graphic sensibility informed by anime and advertising," and that "behind the overall prettiness of Lai’s Asian-flavored imagery, there’s often a feeling of melancholy or menace."

Lai's work is influenced by the cultural environment of Hong Kong , which was returned to China in 1997 after 155 years as a British colony. By drawing upon her memories and knowledge of the architecture and language of Hong Kong , Lai has developed an installation of paintings that examine the city’s bipolar history and new status as a hyper-accelerated metropolis dominated by 21st century consumption.

Q. I observed your work at Pulse (New York). Your work was represented by the Nathan Larramendy Gallery. How did you feel about this experience?

A. "I am currently having a show at Nathan Larrymendy Gallery, he decided to take my works to Pulse. The works were well received, it was a good experience."

Q. How has society influenced your art? Are there any social implications in your art?
A. "My paintings investigate the schizophrenic character of contemporary Chinese culture, at once imprinted by the weight of its imperial history and propelled by the hyper-accelerated frenzy of global technology and consumerism. I use both mass media culture and traditional Chinese painting traditions as a means of exploring how gender identities and notions of "beauty" are constructed today."

Q. On average, how long does it take you to create a piece?

A. "2 weeks to a month."

Q. What was your most important exhibition? Care to share that experience?

A. "My first museum solo show at ASU Art Museum, Phoenix. The building was designed by Antoine Predock, it’s an amazing architecture. The space where I had my show was beautiful. It was the first time working with professional preparators, and it made the who installation process so much easier."

Q. Do you have any 'studio rituals'? As in, do you listen to certain types of music while working? What helps to get you in the mood for working?

A. "I normally listen to NPR when I am painting, sometimes I get bored, and switch to music. It’s very important to have background noise, it helps me to focus. I have to organized my work station before I start."

Q. If you could pinpoint the characteristics of people who collect your art, what would they be?

A. "Hmmm, it’s really all over the place. People like my work for different reasons, but for the most part it’s sex. Who doesn’t like sex?"

Q. Discuss one of your pieces. What were you thinking when you created it?

A. ""I Love My Foreigner Friends, Whiter," (image above) gouache on paper, 2006, 30" x 20"

This piece is inspired by a lot of cosmetics in Asia that sells the idea of whitening. It’s very common for women to buy skin care because they believe it can lighten their skin. When I went to get a facial in Hong Kong awhile ago, the women recommended a mask that can whiten and take out the "yellowness" under my skin. This obsession of beauty and skin tone fascinate me."

Q.Where can we see more of your art?

Q. Are you represented by a gallery? Do you have any upcoming exhibits?
A. "I am working with Nathan Larramendy Gallery in Ojai, CA and Saltworks in Atlanta, GA. I am going to be in a group show at the 1918 Artspace in Shanghai, China, this summer."

Q. In one sentence... why do you create art?

A. "Ice-cream & Chocolate."

Q. What can you tell our readers about the art scene in your area?

A. "I just moved to LA from San Francisco about a year ago. I really don’t know LA very well yet."

I hope that you have enjoyed my interview with Stella Lai. Feel free to critique or discuss her work.
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

No comments: