I-Hsuen Chen

BY Elisabeth Biondi, May 1, 2013

I-Hsuen Chen’s pictures have a language all of their own, and as with all artists the work is subjective. Visually, without words, I-Hsuen conveys his personal view of Taiwan where he grew up but left as a young adult to live in New York.

Geographically he takes us on a road trip to Taiwan, but these are not traditional travel photographs — far from it. The pictures seem casual, randomly taken, and almost incidental, yet emotionally these images are precise, as precise as a state of emotional ambivalence can be. They accurately reflect his state of mind — a sense of hovering between places, Taiwan and New York.

I-Hsuen had left Taiwan where he worked in marketing and was also a concert and an opera singer. He arrived in New York to study photography in 2010. When he returned to visit his country a year later and again this year, he found himself in a state of cultural suspense. He did not identify with the U.S. and at the same time he felt distanced from the country in which he grew up. This state of not belonging can be alienating but at the same time it is fertile territory for the artist to explore. It has allowed him to make a personal statement in his work, free of conventional notions.

At first glance his take seems slightly cynical but upon closer viewing his pictures reveal layers of factual information. I-Hsuen set out on a trip to explore his Taiwan and it turned into a surreal road trip in which we participate.