Taiwanese artist Ni Jui Hung shares some secrets about her emerging art practice.

Art Radar gets to know emerging Taiwanese artist Ni Jui Hung, whose work was recently shown at Art Stage Singapore 2018.

Installation view of Ni Jui Hung's "Taipei Singapore", part of Art Stage Singapore 2018. Image courtesy the artist.

Ni Jui Hung, “Taipei Singapore”, part of Art Stage Singapore 2018. Image courtesy the artist.

Congratulations on starting the year 2018 on a high note. In just January alone, you have opened two shows: one in Zi Space in Taiwan and another for Art Stage Singapore. Could you briefly talk about these shows? How do these build on the themes you have previously explored in your work?  

About the show in Zi Space (Taiwan), at first, I just booked the space for my master’s thesis solo show (we are required to show and have a thesis at same time); but for many personal reasons, I kept delaying it. Finally, I pushed myself to make it happen! After a few discussions, we decided to do an unusual show: I used many elements from Chinese myths and religion. And so, they invited a Taoist priest and a Tarot diviner to be my opening guests, making the show more like a cultural introduction. 
 
To show in Singapore was my gallery’s decision. I never went through such a big pressure in my life. I was very tired and busy, but at same time I felt fulfillment and happiness. 
 
About how to build relationships between the pieces, I will always leave some clues or hints in my paintings, and they will all lead to the same answer.  

When we first met in December 2017, you mentioned that you used to illustrate for magazines. As a child, were you always fond of drawing? Can you still remember the earliest things that you drew?  

Yes, I found myself really liking drawing since I was only three years old. I liked drawing Japanese cartoon characters, such as Sailor Moon and Chibi Maruko-Chan, or some Disney princess. I remember that when the teacher asked me what I would want to be when I grew up, I said that I wanted to become an artist. Right now, I think I am accomplishing my dreams.  

Ni Jui Hung, 'The series of love yourself: find the Mr. Charming', 2017, mixed media, dimensions variable. Image courtesy the artist.

Ni Jui Hung, ‘The Series of Love Yourself: Find the Mr. Charming’, 2017, mixed media, dimensions variable. Image courtesy the artist.

When did you decide that you wanted to study art and make a living as an artist? And why did you choose to focus on figurative painting and installation?  

Because I had a very clear purpose to study art, I went to art class after finishing primary school, and then went to art school for college. I then decided to make a living out of art, so I didn’t choose a stable job. I did graphic design or had a part time job in a little theatre. I think being an artist is the only job that I can feel passionate about or feel needed in. 
 
Most of my inspiration comes from my daily life. Taiwan is always full of absurd and black humour. I just collect all that weird stuff and put it into my paintings, and these become different metaphors on reality.  

Could you name some painters or installation artists that have influenced your work?  

I’m afraid it might be a long list because my mom teaches art history in community college, so I grew up with so many great artists. As a child, my favourite artist was Caravaggio.  I will never forget the breathtaking feeling I got when I first saw his work. Then, my world completely changed after reading the autobiography of Andy Warhol. The Japanese artist Murakami Takashi’s book also inspired me to fight with art. I also like many Taiwanese artists, such as Wu Tien-chang, Su Yu-Hsien and Huang Hai Hsin. I think all these great artists have influenced me in some way.   

Reproductions of Ni Jui Hung's works, included in her Zi Space exhibition in January 2018. Image courtesy the artist.

Reproductions of Ni Jui Hung’s works, included in her Zi Space exhibition in January 2018. Image courtesy the artist.

Art Radar is curious about the way the Taiwanese react towards your quirky yet truthfully harsh artworks. Do you get the same reaction from foreign audiences?

The reaction of the Taiwanese is very bipolar when seeing my installation. Most people would tell me that they like it (but they never want to display it at home), while some leave comments, such as it’s ugly but cute. Sometimes, they would tell me that they could see themselves in my work. Also, since the elemental techniques I use can be related to Taiwanese traditional religious events, they’d have a specifically strange and treacherous feeling. 
 
The foreign audiences are not much different than Taiwanese audiences. If they don’t like my work, they will just stay outside. It seems that people can be more understanding about the black humour within my artworks after my explanation.  
 
By the way, in Taiwan, my installation is loved by girls and gays, but when we took the work to Singapore, the fans mysteriously changed to middle-aged white men.   

In her Zi Space exhibition in January 2018, Ni Jui Hung frames her collection of weird stuff on clocks with led light. Image courtesy the artist.

In her Zi Space exhibition in January 2018, Ni Jui Hung frames her collection of weird stuff on clocks with led light. Image courtesy the artist.

What is your reason for painting on snack boxes rather than stretched canvases? When did you begin this practice?  

I think I have a fetish; I like the smell and shape of the package. I also like the material language about which they have been used. Snack boxes are more fascinating than the white canvas. I began this unique technique since my last year in college. Back then, I would go to the 7-Eleven, pick up a box of cookies which I liked, open the box and wait for the image to come to my mind. It’s like a game, but I’m the only player.  

Your paintings offer glimpses of the city you live in, especially the various emotions of Taipei. What do you love most about Taipei as an artist? What do you dislike?

I think Taipei is a good place for artists. People here are very friendly; they help you meet the right person whom you may work with. Moreover, the living prices are not expensive. The city is full of both historical and strange places. It also has good public security, which allows you to have an adventure any time you want. 
 
The only thing I don’t like about it is it’s super hard to make money in Taipei. If I didn’t sign the gallery contract, I might still be getting paid 4 dollars an hour working in a small maternity clinic.  

Ni Jui Hung explaining her works in Art Stage Singapore 2018. Image courtesy the artist.

Ni Jui Hung explaining her works in Art Stage Singapore 2018. Image courtesy the artist.

With so many different projects going on simultaneously, how do you stay inspired? What books, music, movies or activities inspire your art?  

The best way to stay inspired is to keep yourself curious about the world. Do anything you want to do and go outside to play!  
 
I like to read all kind of books, especially about the sociological research, or go to the NDLTD in Taiwan to find an interesting paper. Regarding music, I have recently been listening to a lot of independent beat makers’ sound cloud. Qiūbō radio is my good companion for working. 
 
If I feel that I really want go outside, I always take a walk to a temple or cemetery; and if I want to buy something, I might spend an hour in the hardware store.

Javelyn Ramos

2060

Related topics: Taiwanese artists, art fairs, socialinstallation, illustration, interviewsevents in Singapore

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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