Interview via email on 29th November, 2016
KL: Welcome to Beijing! You haven’t been in the neighbourhood for long but what are your first impressions of the creative scene here in our smoggy city? What encouraged you to move here?
HC: Thanks, two months fresh and just beginning to dive into some of Beijing’s local goodness. I just had to figure out how to dial in the WeChat a bit and the floodgates pretty much opened for sweet tunes, cool art digs, and rad people… food’s not bad here either.
Beijing way is product of my lovely cohort Griffin, guiding us out after her master’s degreeing and professoring at UCDenver. I have a gourmet food truck, on temporary hiatus, that also needed some new menu inspirad and so here we are.
KL: How does the scene differ from Colorado? How long have you been creating art? Is this an egg-carton crocodile situation (from the kinder years) or have you discovered the passion recently? Have you always worked in mixed media or is this a new venture? If not, what have you done before?
HC: As far as art scenes go, I’m not really too keen. All my recent artstuffs emerged unexpectedly after isolating up in a tiny mountain town cabin after realizing the 9 years of food truckin’ living was catching up. Incidentally, of course, no rest for the weary, I ended up trading in cooking powpow for the ∆Ʀƚ§ & ₵ƦƌƑƬɎ, one intense lifestyle for another. Turned out it was so much fun that I ended up churning out somewhere in the ballpark of 6-700 pieces over the following winter months there. Once the seasons changed and spring rolled around it seemed like it was time to get out of lockdown and start showing people the artshiiit. My food truck biz, from the very beginning, was always interconnected with the local art/music scene. So, all summer long, just prior to moving out here to Beijing, I got to showcase ∀ŘŦ instead of ȇ₳Ƭƨ at all these venues, markets, and shows. Nice change of scenery.
KL: Your works are created from 19th century textbooks, is the vintage an integral part of the works or is it secondary to subject?
HC: The vintage aspect of the books doesn’t concern me. I had been collecting old textbooks for years because I enjoyed the aesthetic; the worn covers, the brittle yellow paper, the weird smell, and the scribbled notes from previous keepers. Much of the time the words or content within the page or on the backside became the driving force for the piece. I never really imagined that I’d end up destroying these old books all to make artstuffs. I mean destroying their original intended purpose. Is what it is now.
KL: Your collages are made in the old-school tactile cut and paste style, what is the allure of the old cut-and-paste? Are you totally in love with your X-Acto knife? Are the tools part of the appeal?
HC: It’s funny, the whole collage thing and cut-out incorporation also follows a bizzaro progression like the repurposed textbooks. I’d never been interested in collage art or anything similar, let alone doing it. And then shortly after moving up the mountain from Denver, an elderly neighbor lady asked for my help throwing out some old junk she was finally through with. She was trying to dumpster toss heavy milk-crates full of old National Geographics, from the 1960’s to present day, a lot of em doubles. I don’t even know what compelled me to take em all home but I did. Hundreds of lbs of magazines. Seemed like a waste to trash them and for a time they ended up just taking up space in an already limited cabin. But, another key ingredient for the project had serendipitously lined itself again. Didn’t even consider cutting them up until a friend came to visit and suggested we chop em up.
The tools, the tools, like everything else was a slow burn. I already had a pretty extensive set of slicers and dicers from a previous woodcut print infatuation I had a few years back in NYC. I was digging all kinds of tossed wood pieces out of garbages and carving woodcut designs for acrylic paint prints I was trying to do at the time but could never fully realize then. Luckily I kept em all during my travelings in between. All those woodcuts would become the middle-ground for these new mixed-media pieces, connecting the old text to the cut-outs sort of.
I had a few X-Actos around but never really used them much or any other knives to extract all the cut-outs… seemed so tedious and my hand isn’t that steady. I’m more of a scissor cutter. I started with some small sewing scissors. Used them for the first long while, then realized there’s all kinds of rad scissors out there…I’ve got a lot of scissors now.
KL: I noticed that you sell your work on Etsy, what role do you think Etsy plays in the art scene? It has created an avenue for people to share and sell their artworks at reasonable prices but has not created any art successes in anything other than a commercial sense. Does it matter? Is it the true democratisation of art?
HC: I think etsy is a great platform… for some folks, but it didn’t work very well for me. I guess they say things only work as hard as you work em and I never did care much for dealing with it. Selling art is the worst part of this whole deal! My girlfriend ended up setting it up and managed it from time to time but I think I only ended up selling maybe a dozen pieces the whole year or so it’s been up and running. Better than nothing yes, but the time expense it takes to put it all together with just the right pics and prices and shipping and ahhhH! Just wasn’t really worth it for me. But hell, other people make their livelihoods with etsy and mediums like it so more power to em.
KL: Loreli encourages collaboration and I’m curious to know if you have already or would consider collaborating with other artist, writers or musicians. Your pieces would work well in an illustrative context or even as animation.
HC: YES COLLABORATION YES! Art’s fun by yourself an all but it’s a blast with other creators. I play music too, was always in bands and such along the way, but for the life of me I can’t sit down along and write a tune or record songs from single tracks. For me music has always been a collaboration must and, even with the collage stuff, I’d love to throw it in the mix with other ideas, techniques, media, whatever.
KL: Do you think China will have an impact on the context for your art? There is a strong techno-propaganda feel to a lot of your work. Will China give you the opportunity to expand on that? You should definitely explore the markets for old books and other ephemera.
HC: China will most certainly have an impact on whatever creative output I’m spewing. Every little bit of stimuli changes the course, for me at least, whether subtle or intense… and China’s pretty damn intense. I’ve got no clue where it’s all heading next but I’m down for the ride and I’ll try and do my part if I have a part. Artshiit never seemed like it was ever up to me anyways, always a madman at the wheel.
KL: What are your plans for Beijing? Will you be working on your art fulltime? What aspirations do you have in the scene? Markets like the Loreli Affordable Art Market, galleries, or residencies?
HC: Plans…. never been good at those. I figure as long as I keep doing something every day, it’ll lead to the next thing, inevitably. Even just getting connected with you and Loreli China was all very auspicious. One little thing leads to the other if you follow it. Griffin left a webpage up on my comp, I suppose it was a recent event she had seen of your alls and your EMAIL happened there, centered on the screen, seemed to stand out to me for a second. So, I fired one off click clack, on a whim. What could it hurt? Not really expecting to hear anything back. And so… THANK YOU so much for reaching back out. Without your forum and stage to throw this stuff on, a lot of us would just be hiding out, making this shit in basements hoping someone, someday will come looking. I appreciate YOU….and now that I know it works I think I’ll go try that email thing again, see what happens next.
Hello Chaz makes ∆∆∆ Acrylic Print Collage - backing of old or antique book page(s), often textbooks from the 19th century on geometry, organic chemistry, etc. Titles are taken from text that appears on the page. Hand carved wood printing blocks are used to apply acrylic. ∆∆∆