Purple Magazine
— F/W 2011 issue 16

Julia Chiang


portrait by ALEXIS DAHAN


JULIANA BALESTIN — I recently saw your first New York City solo show, at Half Gallery. It featured a series of hand-made ceramic chains. You employ a variety of materials but you always seem to come back to clay.
JULIA CHANG — I’ve always been drawn to working with my hands. I try to avoid materials you need tools to work with, because they feel less accessible. I’m interested in ceramic because it has such a long history, as a tool, as a craft, and as an art form. It’s a great material because it’s both fragile and strong.

JULIANA BALESTIN — The strength and weakness inherent in clay makes it a perfect medium for your chain installation. I’m intrigued by the imperfection in the repetition of so many handcrafted clay links, and by the fact that much of your work focuses on repeated forms.
JULIA CHANG — Superficially, I love the visual impact of multiple objects. I like to collect things in groups of three or more. It’s partly an obsession. But I think the reason repetition works is because things like mantras and self-help guides instruct us to repeat things over and over in order to achieve a desired result. I’m interested in what happens when you write a phrase, or make a shape, over and over again, while searching for perfection or an ideal. For example, when you repeat a phrase or image many times, do you affirm the original sense of it more strongly, or do you lose it?

JULIANA BALESTIN — Do you think of repetition as a kind of ritual?
JULIA CHANG — No, it’s more about my obsessive need to work that way. Ritual makes it sound too transcendent or formal.

JULIANA BALESTIN — I saw your installations at the Miami art fair — large-scale text pieces made out of ring-pop candies and cut flowers. Are your aims different when presenting work at an art fair?
JULIA CHANG — Both of those installations were outside of the main convention hall, which alleviated some of the pressure. I’ve always thought of art fairs as contemporary versions of old-time fairs. I like the idea of different groups of people coming together and seeing a variety of work, one that otherwise they would never have access to.
In reality, it’s like a mega market or a fire sale. When OHWOW Gallery offered me the opportunity to make work for the art fair,
I took comfort in the idea of making something that was for sale. But, at the same time, my pieces were made of ephemeral material that couldn’t be preserved. People came to town for a few days to see art. But my pieces were made of candy and flowers — work that evolved only to fall apart during the fair. So when the party’s over the work disappears along with it.

JULIANA BALESTIN — Should the decay be a natural evolution, or should it be forced?
JULIA CHANG — The candy melts away subject to the environment, which is out of my control. I did a candy wall installation for the Standard Hotel. They really wanted the work to decompose and fall apart like my work at the fair, but the hotel is so temperature-regulated that the candy never melted. I like it that the work does what it does — maintain or dissolve.

JULIANA BALESTIN — Tell me about your process when you create text-based works.
JULIA CHANG — I have a running list of phrases and words I’ve come across. Initially, I’m never sure if I want to turn them into a drawing or sculpture. I also have a list of materials I want to work with. In most cases I’m drawn to the material first. Certain characteristics of materials hold the ideas I’m thinking of, or obsessing over. From there I’ll see if it makes sense to combine the
material with texts.

More More More, 2011, 303 Gallery, New York

JULIANA BALESTIN — So there’s not necessarily a connection between the two.
JULIA CHANG — Well, with the ring-pops
I was thinking of the candy ring as a symbol that could be related to sweet phrases and thoughts. I associated the ring-pops with words people usually end letters with, such as love always, sincerely yours, and so on. These phrases aren’t really goodbyes, they just mark time, which I thought was symbolized by the decomposing candy. But ultimately, the phrases I select are reactions to the materials, and don’t necessarily have personal significance.

JULIANA BALESTIN — You’ve collaborated with other artists — like Ryan McGinness, for your show at Deitch in 2002. Would you like to be a part of another two-person show?
JULIA CHANG — Definitely! I loved that experience. It’s a thrill to work with a person you like and respect. Putting on a show with someone else lets you connect something you love with another artist’s ideas. You can let go of the ego that often goes into creating your own show. Collaborations are a chance to celebrate something you and someone else make together — as opposed to just saying, “Look what I did!”

JULIANA BALESTIN — You mentioned that you’re working more on flat pieces now.
JULIA CHANG — I needed a break from ceramics after the Half Gallery show. To get away from objects, I’ve been experimenting with works on paper. I’d never painted before, but I started playing around with gouache and watercolor. I’m using the same ideas in my paintings that I did in my text pieces on paper.

JULIANA BALESTIN — Can you describe them?
JULIA CHANG — They’re obsessive, handwritten, continuous phrases that repeat without breaks, spaces, or punctuation, and run off the page. The watercolors are similar in that they feature repetitive colors and lines. I’m having fun taking ideas from objects, transferring them to a flat format, and seeing where it all ends up.

[Table of contents]

F/W 2011 issue 16

Table of contents

purple EDITO

purple NEWS

purple BEST of the SEASON





purple BEAUTY

purple TRAVEL

purple NAKED


purple NIGHT

purple WINTER


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