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Wu Zetian 武則天 (624-705 CE) was a concubine and a nun before seizing control of the imperial court and royal family of Tang Dynasty China for fifty years. She reigned as empress-consort (wife of the emperor) then empress-dowager (mother and regent to two emperors), before declaring herself empress-regnant and donning the yellow Dragon robe, the only female sovereign in imperial Chinese history. Her burial site is a massive ornate tablet that bears no inscription (her own choice) an acknowledgement and testament to a continually disputed and re-examined legacy.
I Choose to Reflect the Times and Situations in Which I Find Myself (2016 - present)
This collection of oil-on-wood paintings began as a departure from gesso-on-canvas as a material and white supremacist capitalist patriarchy as the assumed default gaze of the viewer. Its decolonial themes and settings are inspired by the works of Nina Simone, bell hooks, and Erykah Badu. An American-born artist balancing both Cantonese and Korean artistic traditions, Eric Chan’s queer, diverse, and inclusive body of work offers a joyful contrast to the monolithic commodified Orientalist lens of the Western classical and American contemporary visual language.
Eric Chan / 陳志宇 / 진지유 (b. 1988) is a first-generation Asian-American visual artist based in Seattle. His artwork features narrative portraiture with ink line drawing and oil painting on wood. Eric was born in Connecticut and raised by a Cantonese father, Korean mother, and Korean-Japanese grandparents. He attended Qingdao University in 2008 and graduated from Vassar College in 2010, where he studied Chinese art, culture, history, and language.
Chan learned to paint from his observations as a life model for studio art classes and became inspired by narrative art and history painting while working at a book publisher as a proofreader of book jackets and cover art. In 2018 he relocated from New York to Seattle, wandering westward for three months in a camper van with his husband Dan. A grandson of Hong Kong immigrants to Seattle’s Chinatown - International District, Chan’s artistic subjects are often rooted in a personal exploration of intergenerational and multicultural themes of diaspora, dissidence, pilgrimage, and pioneers.
My artwork combines ink line drawing and oil painting on unprimed wood surfaces. I paint on off-cut wood because each piece possesses its own distinct composition that offers unanticipated challenges in the process of both drawing and painting. Unlike traditional paper, canvas, or digital space, scrap wood has no standard, blank white default setting. The human body has the same experience as wood, it never exists as a neutral, static object without context. Both are always aged and dynamically aging, rich with unique imperfections, random dimensions, and unexpected varieties of sizes, shapes, colors, and textures.
I try to capture the human body in motion rather than centering proportion, perspective, or likeness, because human viewers are capable of reacting across language and cultural barriers and beyond their own conscious minds in recognizing themselves in another kindred form or idea. I most frequently center queer people of color, indigenous and nomadic traditions, folklore, and diaspora in my artwork because the known and perpetuated social conventions, cultural norms, and institutions throughout most histories in most places are monolithic and exclusive by intent or inaccessible by default to people like us who happen to exist in the margins of the margins and experience the intersections of compounding oppression and invisibility.
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