Meet Lan-Chiann Wu
Name: Lan-Chiann Wu
Hails from: Hshin-chu, Taiwan
Time in New York: 4 years
Lan-Chiann Wu is an artist who specializes in Chinese ink painting. She graduated from Taipei’s Chinese Culture University, receiving her BFA, an achievement award from the Fine Arts Department, and the highest distinction for scholastic achievement of the university. She continued her education in New York, receiving a Master of Art degree from New York University. Her works have been exhibited in cities around the world such as Osaka, Taipei, Rome, San Francisco, and New York. She has taught painting at Tainan National College of the Arts in Taiwan as well as lectured on Chinese painting at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
What brought you to New York?
When I was 5 years old, I already knew that I wanted to become an artist. In third grade, my father bought me a series of museum catalogues, which featured world famous Western artists, such as Van Gough, Picasso, and Renoir, etc. I was completely mesmerized by their paintings, and made up my mind at that time that I wanted to learn about Western fine art and society.
Years later, when one of my professors at the Chinese Culture University near Taipei encouraged me to apply for a Master’s degree at New York University, I took her advice and applied. That is what brought me to the City, and I stayed four years from 1996 to 2000.
Much of your work is based on Chinese or Taiwanese themes, but your painting "Snowflakes Quietly Descending" is a scene from New York City. What brought about this particular piece?
In my work, I seek to create a connection between people and place. I am also interested in exploring universal humanistic values, which serve me in my work as important guiding principles. My creative ideas are often inspired by my direct environment -such as when I lived in New York-, and in my work, I want to make connections between people, places, and values.
The painting "Snowflakes Quietly Descending" is a view of Fifth Avenue looking south from the Guggenheim Museum on 89th Street. In this particular painting, I aimed at capturing a quintessential New York City ‘landscape’ during a light winter storm. The painting expresses my love of the City; it is not unlike how Pissarro painted Paris. "Snowflakes Quietly Descending" was purchased by a really wonderful Broadway actor who lives on the West Side and, therefore, I feel that a part of me never left New York.
Your paintings often feature darker colors and shades, punctuated with bits of lights (moonlight, fireflies, lanterns, lamps, etc). This contrast gives off a “ haunting” feeling and indeed your work has been described as “hauntingly beautiful”. Is this the type of emotion that you have in mind when create your work?
I see the lights in my work as metaphors of human resilience; the hope that we carry within. I have always been fascinated by our innate strength to overcome difficulties in life. My painting "The Good Earth" is a good example here. It was inspired by Pearl S. Buck’s seminal novel of struggling farmer Wang Lung. While the story is set in China, the work touches on a universal theme that we all can relate to. In this painting, I created an image with a low perspective and overall composition that is more typical of Western art. It all brings a certain tension in my work, and this is what sets my work apart from traditional ink painting. The light inside the farm creates a sense of interior warmth and safety; the hope within.
Are you working on a new exhibition or work that you’d like to tell us about?
I am presently finishing up a painting inspired by a 1946 photograph of Eugene Smith. After this work is completed, I will begin a new series of work that explores the rhythm of nature as a metaphor for the cycle of life. I have no immediate exhibition plans.
You eventually left New York and moved to California where you currently reside. But do you have any advice for Taiwanese who are living or travelling to New York City?
New York City is a great place to live. You meet people from all walks of life in this city. It has a very diverse and dynamic cultural life, and has much to offer especially on Manhattan but also in the other Boroughs. My advice for anyone from Taiwan and elsewhere: Be sure to take full advantage of the City’s rich offerings and experience its international culture, interact with international activities, and try its international cuisine. And enjoy!
Is there anything you miss about New York?
There are many things that I miss about the City, but what I miss the most are the art museums, galleries and the city’s rich cultural life. I also miss strolling through Central Park on a Sunday afternoon. I just loved observing the seasonal changes and beautiful colors of the Park. And, of course, I much miss the people.
What do you think is the biggest difference between Taiwan and United States? Or Taipei and New York?
In Taipei and Taiwan, there are many great traditions that continue being practiced which are several centuries old. While I love these traditions and the depth of the culture, the society can sometimes seem a bit myopic. New York is a younger place, and the people are very open-minded. They easily embrace new ideas and projects. New York is a layered society and when people interact who have different cultural backgrounds often something new comes out that is greater than the sum of the individual pieces.
What advice can you give to young Asian artists who are thinking of studying in New York?
New York City is an amazing city; there is no place like it. The City has such great diversity and has so many creative people, and everyone is working extremely hard to succeed. There is theatre, opera, ballet, jazz & blues clubs, concert halls, large-scale exhibitions, poetry readings and other small hidden gems, it has everything; you name it. If you are not shy, you can meet all sorts of people, including, writers, musicians, painters, actors, filmmakers, ballet dancers, opera singers, etc. Go to poetry readings, gallery openings, ‘hot spots’, performances, and the more people you meet the more this wonderful city will open up for you. It is the experience of a lifetime.
To view her work and find out more about the artist, Lan-Chiann Wu, visit her site http://www.thetranquilstudio.com/.