Artist Interview with Biennial Edition of Peripheral ARTeries
Updated: Aug 2, 2019
Below interview was initially published by Peripheral ARTeries in May 2019 at https://issuu.com/artpress/docs/biennial.edition.v/24
Hello Zelene and welcome to Peripheral ARTeries. Before starting to elaborate on your artistic production, we would like to invite our readers to visit http://www.zeleneschlosberg.com in order to get a better idea about your artistic production. We will start this interview with a couple of questions about your multifaceted background. Are there any experiences that particularly influenced your evolution as an artist? In particular, how does the relationship between your Chinese roots and your current life in the United States direct the trajectory of your current artistic research?
I have recently undertaken a study of ancient Chinese calligraphy and ink painting. At the same time, I immerse myself deeply in both contemporary art, and contemporary classical music, so I think these dual poles influence me in equal measure. Certainly my move to Chicago from Beijing in 2009 helped me both find new artistic food, and to reflect more on the traditions I left behind. I feel I am lucky to interact with both eastern and western cultures that both have thousands of years of history and cultural treasure. This background sparks many good ideas for me and also I embrace a diversity of skills and methods.
We have appreciated the way the results of your artistic inquiry convey such a coherent combination between Minimalism and Chinese cultural heritage, and the body of works that we have selected for this special edition of Peripheral ARTeries has at once impressed us with your insightful exploration of the dynamics between surface and sculptural polarities in the way you provide the viewers with such a multilayered visual experience: when walking our readers through your usual setup and process, would you tell us how do you usually develop the initial ideas for your artworks?
I’ve been doing a lot of reading about art theory and criticism. That must have an influence of my selection somehow, but more often than not my inspiration comes from meditation, or, to put it more casually, staring at a wall or space, and imagining possibilities. It’s strange - often I feel some kind of energy inside of me and urge myself to get it out, and then art appears. It’s especially interesting when I dream, literally, about making art. So it’s just in my nature for me to create art, to think about art. I keep a very simple sketch book with works and lines to record some ideas just got so ideas will not escape away. Often ideas come during the middle of night or the moment when I wake up. While I am in studio, I look at the sketch book and start to decide which ideas to work with and that is the initial ideas. Your practice is marked with such unconventional techniques, including cutting, wrapping, stitching and crocheting. New York City based artist Lydia Dona once stated that in order to make art today one has to reevaluate the conceptual language behind the mechanism of art making itself: do you create your works gesturally, instinctively? Or do you methodically transpose geometric schemes?
Most definitely the former. While critical thinking certainly plays a part, I trend toward the more instinctual. Often, I am trying to use these techniques to create the space inside and outside the artwork, to create dramatic tension. The holes in the work are like an entrance so the air and light can enter, so the artwork can breathe and shine inside and out. This three-dimensionality can hopefully create excitement in the viewer. All these techniques are used liberally depending on the particular situation and how I feel the materials responds to what I am doing. Basically, I want the art processes to happen very organically, almost as if the artwork is creating itself.
As you remarked in your artist statement, a central aspect of your artistic inquiry is focused on the exploration of the aesthetics of fragility and the meditative power of imagery. How do your memories and your everyday life's experience fuel your creative process? And how do you think your works respond to it in finding hidden, crystalized moments in the everyday?
This is not a line of inquiry that concerns or affects me directly…but of course, all of life’s experiences and memories accumulate and eventually affect my art making subconsciously. My finished works may seem introverted or even silent, but the art process can be anywhere from delicate to violent, like when I hammer nails in o the word panel, or just break the canvas and then stitch the canvas pieces together. The idea behind it is really from the reality of the often harsh nature of contemporary life. That in turn makes me think that fragility is really the essence of life and that my artwork is just a representation of that idea.
Some viewers often think my work has some kind of curative quality, that it brings peace of mind through meditative means.
As you put it, “the themes of transience and the powerful aesthetics of fragility are essential to certain streams of Eastern philosophy.” How do you consider the relationship between ancient heritage and the idea of “contemporariness” that affects our unstable and globalized, media-driven society?
I think mediating or combining these two eras hints at a quality that our world could use more of these days: reconciliation. With each other, and with our planet. By having a variety of viewpoints (or eras, aesthetic frameworks), one almost by definition strives toward compassion and understanding.
With the powerfully evocative, yet abstract quality of your works, and in particular the ones from your interesting River Noir series, your artworks emanate, as you put it, “both a sense of melody and mystery” and they seem to invite the viewers to look inside of what appears to be seen, rather than its surface, providing the spectator with freedom to realize their own perception. How important is it for you to invite the viewers to elaborate personal meaning? How open would you like your artworks to be understood? In particular, what are you looking to emotionally raise in the viewers and how do you hope the viewers connect with your artworks?
I think anyone dealing with art that doesn’t have an inherent social or political message in it wants to invite a multitude of meanings. The fact that I am dealing in pure abstraction only heightens this feeling. So, yes, I would very much hope that there is a wide range of reactions to my work, and that any individual spectator has a very personal reaction to it.
Art making is a physical experience that reveals not only a work of art but also a state of being: how do you consider the relationship between the emotional nature of the concepts that you explore in your artistic research and the physical aspect of your practice?
I use a lot of alternative materials in my work, such as thread and stone. Often the thread is tangled, and the physical reality of this “entanglement” certainly is intended to have an emotional counterpart, a “confused mind” if I’m being blunt. Also, the use of stone, so often a source of meditative energy in Eastern religions, is also meant to have a visceral yet calming response to the viewer. “The medium is the message” is a well-known phrase that comes to mind.
Over the years your artworks have been showcased in a number of occasions, including a number of solo shows, and your upcoming participation in shows in Illinois, Missouri, South Korea and London. How do you consider the nature of your relationship with your audience? And what do you hope your audience take away from your artworks? In particular, how do you consider the role of emerging online technosphere in creating new links between artists and worldwide audience?
Engaging the art world online is a tricky subject. On the one hand, it has the ability to level the playing field for any artist without regard to geography, social background, or artistic pedigree. On the other hand, viewing works online is an extremely poor substitute for witnessing art in person, being able to walk around it, and to appreciate it its true three dimensionality, even if we are referring to canvas on a wall. In that sense, even visual art hanging on a wall can be thought of as a “performing art.” The viewing of art in real time is hardly a static experience.
We have really appreciated the multifaceted nature of your artistic research and before leaving this stimulating conversation we would like to thank you for chatting with us and for sharing your thoughts, Zelene. What projects are you currently working on, and what are some of the ideas that you hope to explore in the future?
I am more and more interested in installation, sculpture and genres that blur lines between norms. Right now I seem to me moving away from “canvas on wall”, but my mind is constantly reevaluating aesthetic possibilities, so who knows what even tomorrow will bring! Certainly conceptual art is gaining more and more a foothold on my imagination, and the solo shows I have coming up I hope will reflect my new thinking in that realm of ideas. Thank you, it’s been a pleasure talking to you!