Tranquility, 2022
Rice paper, sumi ink, silicone, SHA-1 commit checksums
Artwork: 13’’ x 26’’, Scroll: 17’’ x 46’’
Meandering Path, 2022
Rice paper, sumi ink, silicone, minified JavaScript
Artwork: 13’’ x 17’’, Scroll: 13’’ x 31’’
In times of rapid change, painting a guiding light is an artist’s duty. As the migration of people across borders accelerates, this experience of being an outsider is increasingly familiar to many. We are at the dawn of a cultural mixing at a scale the world has never seen before. In this series, I play with possible futures, combining dissonant concepts: femininity and masculinity, technology with nature, and abstract expressionism [1]  with shan shui (山水) [2]. An aspirational future is made visible, showing that code can be feminine, technology need not destroy nature, and modern techniques can mix with ones from an ancestral heritage.
Before becoming an artist, I was a software engineer working in Silicon Valley. Tech is notorious for excluding women from the field and it is common to associate software with masculine traits like decisiveness, confidence, independence and being logical. By printing JavaScript and commit checksums[3] on delicate and transparent rice paper, the art transfers these features to code. I re-envision code to adopt positive feminine traits such as gentleness, grace, modesty, and tenderness to show that technology can also exist in this way.
With this body of work, I also wanted to ask myself, what would abstract expressionism and shan shui look like if they were mixed together? What would that symbolize? These two art styles originated from opposite sides of the world..If I were to force these two to intersect, what would that look like? Through juxtaposition, I simultaneously communicate two views. I used abstract expression to tell the viewer that the art should be interpreted through the feelings it invokes rather than what is represented. With shan shui, I say that I’m imagining a future where technology exists in balance with the world because “when Chinese painters work on shan shui painting, they do not try to present an image of what they have seen in the nature, but what they have thought about nature.”[4] By using a style with American and Chinese lineages, I have expanded what Chinese art, American art and Chinese American art can be.
Through combining typically unrelated concepts like code / femininity and abstract expressionism / shan shui, these works speak to merging cultures and expanding what is possible, showing a level of inclusivity that rarely exists today.
[1] Abstract expressionism is a post WWII American art movement developed. Characteristics of abstract expressionism include a rejection of representative forms, strokes that appear to be spontaneous and expressing feeling.
[2] shan shui (山水) is a traditional Chinese painting style depicting scenery or a landscape. Instead of painting the water, mountains or plants exactly as is, the painter aims to capture the essence of the view.
[3] A commit checksum is an identifier for a unit of work written by a software engineer.
[4] Sirén, Osvald (1956). Chinese Painting: Leading Masters and Principles. Ronald Press. pp. 62, 104.

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