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  • Writer's pictureLoy Luo

Artron Interview: Homeless, LoyLuo's Art Creation in the United State

Updated: Mar 4, 2021

Homeless. When I saw the theme of this exhibition, I had a strange feeling that it matched the temperament of artist Loy Luo who appears in the camera, being always a cool figure, with a crew cut and dressed in black, concentrating on the picture in front of her.

She is very independent and is always traveling on her own. From Beijing to Europe, to the United States, she travels and visits museums. Many people are afraid to travel to some new place alone because but Loy Luo never hesitates to seek out new places.

She is eager for someone to understand her art, so she enjoys talking with others about it. If someone tells her that he likes her art or discusses it with her she will get excited. There are always a few people who can understand and appreciate her art.

I have known Loy Luo for many years, and I have seldom spoken about art with her because it has always cost me a lot of brain cells every time. From the few conversations we did have, I understood that her works, whether sculpture or painting, mostly conveyed a sense of melancholy about life, people, and the self in an abstract way. Therefore, I think "homeless", the title of her new exhibit suits her temperament very well: she has always been searching for the "home" that she has been unable to find. For Loy Luo, her reality and spiritual outlook have become the same.

Therefore, I always admire her courage, her insistence on art, her unhesitating willingness to explore the strange world, and her unwavering self-confidence. It is this perseverance and courage that have made people admire her.

Most of the time, Loy Luo and I do not talk about art, we simply chat about her life. She comes from the Jiangxi province, she likes delicious food, cooks well and she likes the children around and hugs them as if she were an old mother full of love. She loves to meet and talk with people, invites a lot of people to her studio and lets them give her a lot of advice on life and art.

She loves life, she always likes to invest a lot of energy and money in her studio which also serves as her living space. At one point, she invited people to build a glass house for many days with her. When she didn't like the studio door, she designed one herself and had it custom-made, then climbed up on a ladder and painted it.

Loy Luo, Pre-epidemic Tour Bus, drawing on paper, 100*500cm 2020

Loy Luo,United States Chief Justice , drawing on paper, 27.9*35.6cm 2020

Loy Luo, Homeless , drawing on paper, 27.9*35.6cm 2020

Loy Luo, Mask , drawing on paper, 27.9*35.6cm 2020

In the past year, due to the impact of the global epidemic and the changing relationship between countries, Loy Luo's experience has become a kind microcosm, similar to that of hundreds of millions of other individuals affected by the epidemic. Beginning with a simple road trip in the eastern United States, to being stranded and unable to return to China due to the epidemic, to slowly settling into a studio space in the Dumbo Art district in Brooklyn, New York, and finally working through this dislocation by engaging in artistic creation.

Even though she was stranded in a foreign country, Loy Luo's "take things as they come" mentality soon enabled her to find her own way through these experiences through her own creative process. At first, she sketched portraits of people on the street and altered this process and made it a tool for viewing the existing social reality. She then started the hundred of people’s portraits project named The Other I. In this project, she gradually observed and depicted many homeless and on the streets of New York.

Loy Luo, Troubadour, Mixed-Media, 36” *48”, 2020

Loy Luo, Dumbledore, Mixed-Media, 36” *48”, 2020

At the end of the hundred portraits’ project, Luo, with a relatively stable life and studio situation, shifted her thinking to a more profound and formal creation called the Homeless series. In my opinion, these works are more aligned to her previous abstract works, with the rendering of large color blocks and the abstraction of characters. The whole painting presents an atmosphere that has a sense of scene but cannot be described specifically. Compared to her previous abstract creations, it is obvious that these new paintings have temperature and emotion, and she has had a more profound life experience in the past year than previously.

I have followed her on the social media platforms and it is clear to me that she still thinks independently about both reality and the self through her art, and although she misses her hometown, she also likes being in the foreign country, to which she has adapted.

On December 4, 2020, Loy Luo "homeless" Solo exhibition opened in Undercurrent gallery in DUMBO neighborhood in Brooklyn, exhibiting her "homeless" series. As a friend of many years, being far away, I can't take any concrete actions to support her more, can't give her a hug, I only have this essay and this interview. I would also like to wish well and that I hope she can get back home soon so that we can see each other again.

Q:Liu Qian

A:Loy Luo

Q: Can you share with us your experience in 2020?

A: In January 2020, due to a major family event, I decided to go to the United States for a short visit to relieve my mood. When I got off the plane, I rented a car and drove around the east coast cities hungrily visiting galleries and museums.

I had planned to drive to the West Coast, but then came the news of the epidemic in China. In some deep sense I was becoming aware of the great turbulence and anxiety of the world that was beginning to manifest so I went nervously to the mountains north of New York to live in t house of an American family. About half a month later, I returned to New York to observe the colorful art activities in the golden Month of Art around March. At the same time, I began the preparation and implementation of the portrait exhibition of hundreds of people. Despite all the difficulties, I have always believed that performance art works in the context of the epidemic are meaningful.

"The Other I”, an exhibition of one hundred of people’s portraits , opened on July 15th at the White Box Art Center in New York. The exhibition was highly commented on by critics: it was a post-post-modern art work that fully demonstrated the intimate connection between the individual and the environment (a bit difficult for the public to understand, after all, it looked too much like an ordinary portrait exhibition), and lasted for two months. But by this time I had followed my heart and started the preparation and creation of the Homeless exhibition, the homeless series was like my next breath, which I had to take as soon as possible.

Shorty thereafter, the partners of Undercurrent Gallery in New York approved the exhibition plan for homeless, which the gallery planned to show in December. On the opening day of the exhibition, people braved the winter rain and literally risked their lives to see it, the lonely watched the lonely, and the troubadours sang and sang in front of the troubadours' portraits. Surprisingly, the news of exhibition was featured by Artforum, Artcards, Artindumbo and more than a dozen other American media, and many Chinese art medias and platforms continued to report it. Almost every day there are visitors who come to see the show.

Q: What's your current life and creative experience like?

A: I have been living in the Dumbo Art District studio in Brooklyn for nearly half A year, and my creative state has been very good. In keeping with the economic insecurity that is endemic to the epidemic, since the end of July I have chosen to live illegally in my studio, sleeping as a homeless person in a tent and a sleeping bag. The studio didn't have a shower, so I have to go to a local gym to take a shower. The semi-underground studio was extremely quiet, and at night it seems like I was the only person on the whole street and the whole world. Often in the middle of the night, I would go out and run around like the wind. Under the stars, this empty world let me feel very exciting and wonderful and I could hear my heart beating.

Q: Please tell us a little about the origin of the exhibition. Why an exhibition like this?

A: To put it simply, the image of more homeless people on the streets of New York during the epidemic resonated with my own experience of homelessness. It was not only the objective state of homelessness as experienced by individuals in a specific period, but also the spiritual normality of homelessness on a metaphorical level. While this exhibition may raise questions about hierarchy, I want to convey something that transcends politics and social structures, that is, the sting that people have experienced in this disaster, cannot be conveyed in words but only by art.

Q: In 2020, you sketched overseas for a while and did an exhibition. This exhibition is of mixed-media works. How did the creation of the two series change?

A: There is a close connection between the two series. It can be said that the latter is a natural continuation of the former. It can also be said that the latter is based on the reflection and deepens the the former.

In most of the works of The Other I, I, as an observer, depicted the subject in deliberate detail. This is only one aspect of the work scheme, namely, in covid-19 the street portrait is a particular way of making a living. Here, the painting itself is not a so-called pure art since it is not created only through the individual will of the artist, but is designed as a tool to help me to survive in this difficult economic environment.

Loy Luo, Entanglement, Mixed-Media, 36”*48”, 2020

Loy Luo, Blace Wall, Mixed-Media, 36”*48”, 2020

What's different is that these extremely simple, patiently articulated details not only express respect for the subject, but I also try to indicate the importance of individuality that is easily overlooked during an epidemic. But in the end, my practice encountered a paradox: in the simultaneous online and offline exhibition of different features and creative intention, when hundreds of detailed portraits were presented together, it inevitably produced an objective effect that the individuals were lumped together by groups. It is as if in the real world, no matter how wonderful an individual is, they will inevitably drown in a sea of people.

In fact, in the later implementation of The Other I, there are already some images of the homeless, and you may have found that the facial images reduced in detail did not weaken their individuality, but present a more poignant and vivid spiritual quality. This secret discovery was made more clear when the faceless features were adopted in the Homeless series. And it is not enough to explain it by the phrase "less is more."

If The Other I is more about externally sympathizing with the whole world and the neglected individuality, then Homeless is more about internally sympathizing with the self by borrowing the image of the homeless, and thereby sympathizing with the self-dependent spirit that always exists. Apparently, this introspective portrayal of the spirit lead to more sympathy and empathy. In fact, going from "The Other I” to "Homeless" was a much deeper process toward self-knowledge.

Loy Luo, The Shaded Area, Mixed-Media, 36” *48”, 2020

Loy Luo, Huge Bed, Mixed-Media, 36” *48”, 2020

Q: How are people depicted in this series?

A: About this, I would like to quote the sentence in the preface of the exhibition to answer: "How long, and to what degree, must a being imprint itself upon the geometries of our lived architecture before imparting suggestions of a warm body? " In my opinion, in the relationship between the human and the world, human figures are nothing more than gradually static and faded marks. This feeling has something to do with the inevitable dissolution of ones identity in the brutal experience of existence. That is, every one of us has been vivid in the micro territory of this world, but life can not afford to macro, can not afford to time , can not afford to disaster. After all, we are only an obscure face, or even only a vague outline of an existence. In fact, these vague faces and figures convey a stronger spiritual breath, because they are more consistent with the humble and insoluble isolation of human existence.

Loy Luo, Copper Sleeping Buddha, Mixed-Media, 36” *48”, 2020

Loy Luo, Quasimodo,Mixed-Media, 36” *48”, 2020

Q: The background of the work can tell the sense of scene, but the actual expression is abstract, abstract picture, abstract person. Could you tell me something about your painting?

A: Abstraction is my original preference. I have been focusing on the research and practice of abstract art for more than ten years. Abstract thinking and abstract art are the outlet for my personal spirit. At the beginning of this group of paintings, I was eager to vent emotion. These works were concise and general, with flexible brushwork and intuitive color. At that time, I just wanted to leave them as a first draft to be polished later, but after showing them to some friends, I was urged one after another that I should keep the feeling the picture captured because it could not be obtained again. I personally was not particularly keen on quick painting, although it is easy to obtain some visual effects, but my faith was that painting is the same as a person, the momentary beauty is not more impressive than the beauty precipitated and created by time. So, I was always struggling to destroy the picture that looks good early on, which really needs courage, because a polished work brings more spiritual depth. For me, such polishing is usually directed towards the eliminating of emotion in the work. Just like my abstract works, when I cover and dissolve emotion with the investment of time, the abstract sense of the picture is strengthened, and an objective spirit replaces the original emotion.

Worldly people often call emotional feeling spirit and various kinds of concrete, abstract expressionism reveres mood as spirit, but it is a subjective spirit. Subjective spirit and objective spirit are the two absolutely different things, the former is attached to the secular world of matter, which connects to the body too closely. Subjective spirit in existential philosophy, the modern mainstream philosophy, won the highest respect, so all kinds of expressionist art that depict subjective emotion actually belong to the modernist art. But objective spirit is the metaphysical spirit of classical philosophy, which is different from the existentialist philosophy. Obviously, because my work contains human temperature, my work is not of this classical approach. Of course, maybe my work had sparked a discussion on post-post-modern, but I would rather say I prefer the term post-existentialist, a term is not far from existence but tries to transcend existence, a term in keeping with human’s traces but go forward the objective spirit of the world.

Loy Luo, Red Wall, Mixed-Media, 36” *48”, 2020

Loy Luo, The Son of the God, Mixed-Media, 36” *48”, 2020

Q: The theme of this exhibition is "homeless", does it fit your state of mind and your view of the society in 2020?

A: Yes, 2020 has been a very dramatic year for me. But it is the world which has served as a kind of background, much like a theater plot, which finally gave me the opportunity to use "Homeless" to vent and give expression to the inherent human suffering of this epidemic unreservedly. As for the view of the society, we cannot get rid of this view of ourselves. We constantly change our point of view: we try to see ourselves clearly by looking at the world, and we try to see the world by looking inside ourselves, so as to interpret a hidden story between a vague mark, destiny and its background, namely, architecture or universe.

Artist Statement

The images of New York's homeless shocked me. In this so-called civilized world that human beings are proud of, the scenes of underclass life both greatly appalled me and also inspired my passion for creation. I often see homeless people with mental health problems dancing, chanting loudly and walking proudly down the street. They remind me of ancient minstrels, so whenever I see them, I am always in awe. I have always believed that artists are also born homeless, and they also have various psychological problems, because they are more sensitive to the problems of their own times than ordinary people.

When I arrived in New York in January 2020, a sudden outbreak brought travelers like me an unprecedented feeling of homelessness. At first, when news of the outbreak came from China, relatives and friends advised me not to return home out of concern. Two months later, when New York became the center of the epidemic, my friends and family wanted me not to go home out of concern for the safety of others at home. Later, there were a variety of obstacles such as canceled flights, sky-high ticket prices, quarantine testing standards, etc., to prevent people from returning. The acute challenge of the epidemic to family relationships and relations to others, and the unusual entanglements and wounds it has caused, is beyond the depth of previous thinkers' thinking about human nature.

The "faceless" feature of these paintings should be consistent with the confused feeling brought about by the loss of identity during this unique time, and is also a pun on the human notion of dignity. The inspiration for these works originally came from my observations in the original panic of the epidemic: while most people had used masks to protect themselves from the virus, the homeless didn't wear masks over their faces. It occurred to me that those who mask their true selves often succeed in society, while those who reveal their true selves often fail, which raises doubts about the identity in the social system. And when I saw the hunchback body of ”Quasimodo” standing, sculptural and solemn, or the lonely figure of “Troubadour" on the historical ruins, I saw the connection between the useless presence defined by the secular social order and the useless as articulated by Chinese classical philosophy on the inherent value of the useless.

In fact, aside from the fact that some people have been displaced and have to sleep in public Spaces, in tents, sleeping bags and even cardboard boxes, the epidemic has also brought the experience of homelessness to countless others: we eat out, rest on street steps, have no toilets to use, and are often always shamefully alone...

Loy Luo

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