I am my own landscape—Macao painter Crystal Chan seeks for art nutrition in New York

04 2018 | Issue 26

Text/Jasper Hou

Crystal Chan has been interested in art since she was a child. She went to New York for pursuing her artistic dream. And recently, supported by the Chinese American Arts Council and the Gallery 456, she held her solo exhibition “I Am My Own Landscape” in New York for the first time. Besides, nominated by school last year, Crystal participated in the “Will Barnet Student Show” and won the champion as well as the opportunities to hold a solo exhibition again in The National Arts Club in April this year, which is a remarkable success. 

Seeking opportunities for developing artistic sense

Born in a family that is not wealthy, Crystal Chan finally finished the three-year-course of art degree in the School of Visual Art in New York. She frankly said that she dared not choose art in the very beginning. She said: “Even though my family condition is modest, my parents have given me a lot of freedom since I was a child. My family let me choose the future road myself. I love art very much, so when I was a secondary school student, I did part time tutoring job after class in order to save money for buying camera. I also attended the art courses and sought every opportunity to get in touch with art.” 

Graduated from senior high school, Crystal went to Taiwan to study interior design courses. Later, she went back to Macao to study hospitality management. Meanwhile, she went to Greece for internship and tried the first tour around Europe. In her travel, she constantly developed her artistic sense. After coming back to Macao and joining the Art for All Society (AFA), Crystal conceived the idea of pursing her artistic dream in New York. She said, “I got more and more opportunities to participate in overseas exhibition after joining AFA. One of these opportunities arranged to New York. I was so inspired that the exhibition pieces were favoured by visitors and were sold successfully there. Therefore, when I was back to Macao, I immediately applied for the schools in New York to study art courses.” 

Forming unique style through New York art education

Crystal said, “New York, as an art centre of the world, there are many art exhibitions and museums, as well as international masterpieces. Their works could communicate with the present. As the local artistic creation is highly sensitive to social topics, many controversial art works could be seen in New York, which is thought-provoking.” She added, “The most we learnt from class is not painting skill, but to think about the social problem through a lot of readings and homework-discussions, which is really different from the education in Taiwan and Macao.” 

When studying in New York, Crystal gradually formed her own painting style with highly personalised characters. No matter it is portrait or landscape photography, she made her expressions with strong emotion: “My paintings have clear stroke and line, which is influenced by calligraphy that I learnt in my childhood. I express sadness and anger through painting.” After coming to New York, because of being alone in a remote place, Crystal felt her positions change constantly, which made her rethink herself. It also became the inspiration of the theme of the New York exhibition “I Am My Own Landscape”. 

To obtain opportunities needs to take initiative

When talking about how to obtain the opportunity to hold solo exhibition, Crystal said, “Chinese American Arts Council has open call on the internet. Every year, twelve artists are selected to hold solo exhibition. I use my body as the starting point of my works, which fit the topics of feminism, that is the reason why I was selected.” Crystal hopes to express her idea through art creation and appeal to people to make conversations and dialogues. The opportunity of holding exhibition is everywhere. The most important thing is that you clearly know what you want to express through arts. You could take initiative to express your idea, other than waiting people to tell you that you are an artist. 

The New York solo exhibition was well recognised. Regarding the sale of the art pieces, Crystal thought, “I have participated in different exhibitions in early time, no matter in Macao or overseas. Each exhibition could sell some of my own works, which inspired me a lot. In the same time, I tried to cooperate with different agencies and artists. I had cross-boundary cooperation with internationally known fashion photographer Nick Knight earlier. Our works, which are now toured and sold in London and Europe, were inspired by the international fashion brands showing in the Milan Fashion Week." 

Hoping to work in art education

In the future, Crystal hopes to work in art education: “I hope that there could be more resources, talents and education agencies to cultivate local art talents. The reason why New York became the art centre is that the art education developed well there. Art includes culture, historical background, social condition, etc. It could train our sense of beauty and the thinking mode of solving problems, which makes people being more critical. Meanwhile, I hope that the secondary education could publicise more artistic knowledge. Therefore, students who are fond of arts will not be lost due to lacking information to get in touch with arts.”