Sean Chao is an Art Center graduate, who lives and works in Los Angeles but is originally from Taiwan. When I first saw his works, I was captivated by the exciting and energetic sculptures which sparked everyone’s imagination. What’s going on in there? Who are these tiny people? The pieces are microcosms of his world, yet at the same time, they’re mini installations. Each piece takes you inside much like a terrarium, except you get to dream up a story with his “tiny people”. You’ll get lost in his sometimes-fairytale and oftentimes-idyllic pieces. His works are exciting and pure, and along with Inés Estrada, we’re excited to have him in Blithe Spirits at Giant Robot 2. Sean Chao; Preview Images from Blithe Spirits.
GR: Can you talk a little about the world you create? Where is it coming from and why does it have it’s forms?
SC: The world and the characters I created are base on my imagination, and they are inspired and influenced by interesting things and fun experiences that happen around me. The mischievous characters were sort of created accidentally, It all started from a random drawing I did on a photograph. Eventually I developed the character from the drawing and I made a sculpture out of it.
GR: Is there general narrative?
SC: There is always a narrative idea behind each piece of my works. I usually tell a story of daily experiences and show snapshots of regular interactions. These situations may be looked at as simple everyday occurrences, but I expand on those and add more to make it an interesting narrative Sometimes the story can get a little bizarre and psychedelic, but most of the works are simple ideas that people can relate to.
GR: There seems to be a color palate for them. Why those colors?
SC: The colors just came natural to me. Most of my works are involved with humor and warm feelings, so the color choices I make are directly related to those emotions.
GR: Did your instructors at Art Center have an opinion on what you were making?
SC: When I was in the school my instructors encouraged me to create works with my own sense of style. I believe their teaching completely changed my attitude and respect to art. Without the education, I will most likely still be working in an art related field, but I might not be creating art of my own.
GR: How did you get into sculpting?
SC: I was always very fascinated with sculpting since I was very young. We used to have a sandbox at my elementary school, and I would stay after classes and play in the sand until sunset every day. I remember once I was building a small city in the sand box. I went next to the pond to scoop water for the river in my sand city, and all of a sudden I fell right into the pond. I also tripped over the roots of a banyan tree. I was soaked, but it didn’t stop me from what I had planned. I took some water back and continued with my sand sculpting. After sunset I walked home soaking wet, my mom was totally freaked out to see her son drenching wet and covered in sand. I was sick for a whole week but I was so eager to go back to school to see my sand city, but of course it was gone when I got back.
When I was in college I took an anatomy class, the assignment was to build a human anatomic model with wire armature and Sculpey clay. Anatomy was interesting, but I was more excited to work with clay again. It reminded me of how passionate I was with sculpting when I was young. Eventually I started to use clay as a new material to create my work.
GR: Is any of your art work aspects from Taiwan? Whether it’s subject matter, or technique.
SC: I believe the culture from Taiwan definitely influenced the direction of my work. Taiwan is a very beautiful and unique place. When the Portuguese first sailed to Taiwan in the 15th century, they gave it the name, Formosa, which means “beautiful” in Portuguese. Taiwan is a place that conjoins various cultures from China, Japan and local natives. After the Chinese civil war, people originating from every region of China settled in Taiwan. Similar to as if a large group of people from each state decide to permanently move to Hawaii. The capital, Taipei also had a great number of businessman from all over the world. Growing up in the diverse city of Taipei was a great experience. I was able to meet people from different parts of the world and to learn how to combine different types of ideas harmoniously. Taiwanese people are generally very warm and friendly. I always tell my friends if they travel to Taiwan they don’t need a tour guide to show them places, because the locals are always eager to show visitors the best parts of the town. In my work, I also attempt to express the same kind of warmth and friendliness, to welcome people into the world I create. Beside the natural beauty of the island, Taiwan was also highly industrialized during the 70s to the 90s. Growing up watching the city gradually develop into a modernized society, it was enlightening to see how nature and machinery coexist. I create a world that is occupied with the both extremes of Taiwan, combining the organic elements that nurtured its people and the technological creations that made the people proud. My favorites being automobiles and bikes. While some argue that the two sides contradict one another, I believe both play a vital role in our society as they portray a harmonious world.
GR: What kinds of comments have you received about your work? Any particular stories?
SC: My favorite comment and reaction I got from people are a simple smile and a good laugh from my quirky humor. There are many people that saw my work and ask if I’ve made any stop motion animation in the past. The answer is no, but I would love to try in the future.
GR: Where does it go from here? Larger pieces? Are you making more 2d art?
SC: I would definitely work on larger scale of works with a concept that embraced a more profound idea. I found making sculptures irresistible, but I do paintings, drawing and make prints as well.