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As we welcome Tofer Chin to the Tappan family, we spent some time exploring his artistic practice in his Los Angeles studio. Working across a host of mediums, we loved learning about Chin’s keyhole approach as well as the strong influence meditation plays in his work.
Full CV available upon request.
Tell us about yourself and how you came to be an artist…
I never thought I’d be an “artist”. It also never occurred to me that I could and would be making a living being an artist. What I did know at a relatively early age is that I fell in love with painting, immediately. I was exposed to art as a child, going to museums with my parents frequently on weekends. But still, it never really dawned on me that I could be an artist. I always thought I’d do something creative like be a photographer or an animator, but never an artist. Even in college, at art school, I wasn’t really taught anything about the business of art. But, I knew, in my blood, that I loved to paint and could paint every day for the rest of my life and be totally content.
As you work across a diverse range of mediums, how do you approach paintings vs sculpture vs murals and installations differently?
Conceptually the approach is similar to all of these mediums. Starting with the idea of a keyhole perspective, seeing what’s in front of you, knowing that there is a world beyond. For a painting, I like to think about scale and where the piece will be living, and for sculpture I tend to start experimenting with the material first, say it’s concrete, wood or metal and decide which medium will better translate the idea I have for that particular piece. For murals, the bigger the better. I love approaching a surface, disregarding any architectural obstacles, painting a moment that seems larger than life with depth and movement. For installations and creating environments, I think about all senses that include lighting, shadow, touch and the interaction between the viewer and the space I’m creating.
Tofer Chin says
“I came to understand that there are no shortcuts for the creative process, it’s about two things: time dedicated in the studio to the practice and being in a child- experiencing-the-world-for-the-first-time type of state, where you can really grasp whatever catches your eye, the connections you make in your mind and then how that can become something else.”
Describe your work in three words...
Internal. Architecture. Perspective.
What is your creative process?
I’ve been working on developing my conceptual and visual language for years, it’s an ongoing process and investigation. Going back to very early memories to the most current, it begins by the way my mind captures and processes images, situations, landscapes - how these different perspectives provoke in me certain feelings and states. Now, translating ideas, concepts and feelings to a visual practice requires hours in the studio day after day, working and experimenting. I came to understand that there are no shortcuts for the creative process, it’s about two things: time dedicated in the studio to the practice and being in a child- experiencing-the-world-for-the-first-time type of state, where you can really grasp whatever catches your eye, the connections you make in your mind and then how that can become something else.
In between, taking notes, listening to podcasts, watching documentaries, reading and meditating. Working small, then working big. Playing around with new materials as well as pushing the boundaries with familiar materials. Depending on the project, its limitations and its site specificity will determine my approach, execution and outcome. What’s so exciting about working in the studio as well as creating installations (indoors and outdoors) is that a challenge always presents itself; having the ability to let go, knowing there’s a set of tools in front of me along with a constantly growing vocabulary to refer back to, gives me the confidence to trust my work.
What messages or emotions do you hope to convey to your audience?
Provoke a strong sense of scale. Questioning perspective. A moment to be able to breathe and reflect. A world of endless possibilities.
Are there any quotes or mantras that you particularly connect with?
The man who comes back through the Door in the wall will never be quite the same as the man who went out. - Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception
Who are some contemporaries or figures in art history who have influenced you?
Cai Guo-Qiang, Oscar Niemeyer, Paulo Mendes da Rocha, Tadao Ando, Katharina Grosse, Pierre Soulages and Olafur Eliasson.
What makes you nervous?
My garbage disposal, I can’t even talk about it.
What makes you laugh?
Ha so much. Right now, everyday, my daughter, Gala.
What makes you excited about the future?
Watching my daughter Gala grow! All of the public projects that are on the horizon, especially the ones I’m doing for the City of Los Angeles, my next solo exhibition in Rome opening February 2019 and all of the future collaborations.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
I get inspired by my travels, cities, new places, new landscapes - where I let go of being in control, where I don’t necessarily understand the language being spoken. As a result of this, my senses become so much more present and I can process these places more in depth. For example, over a decade ago, I traveled to São Paulo, Brazil for the first time (this would be the first of many trips to Brazil), and when I came back to my studio in Los Angeles, I recognized immediately the perspective shift within me. New concepts were coming to light and I just went with it. The feeling of being in such a jungle of a city, not ever really knowing exactly where you are, looking up towards the sky, seeing portions of these really modern yet brutalist concrete buildings that seemed to be growing from the lush green trees is what really sparked my interest into exploring form, shape, color and scale through a keyhole perspective.
I get inspired by food and making food, where my headspace is so open, humble and experimentative. I get inspired watching good movies and/or series with astonishing cinematography. I get inspired reading and listening about artists that came before me, how they faced their craft, even though it was during different times and circumstances. I get inspired by my morning walks, ordinary things that catch my attention when I’m in the present moment.
You have studios in both Los Angeles and Brazil. How does this influence the work you create in both locations?
It’s so refreshing. My Los Angeles studio, is where the majority of my ideas are flushed out and work is created. I also spent one year designing and building this studio from the ground up. Every angle and every detail. When I go to São Paulo, my studio is in the countryside, and has a similar vibe as my LA studio but on a much much smaller scale, with most of the work area dedicated outdoors under a covered area and with more hammocks and more dogs. My studio in São Paulo is much more simple. When I’m there I’m normally in a different rhythm which affects the way I approach my work utilizing and experimenting with the materials available on the surrounding property. Both studios have an abundant amount of natural light, something that is so important to me making work.
Space, both physically and metaphorically within the mind, play a role in your artistic practice. How has meditation influenced your recent work?
Meditation has taught me how to be still. To be present. Its taught me how to look inward, and acknowledge the blocks and the patterns, our internal architecture, while continuing to explore the dialogue between shape, color and form. The possibilities and the patterns.
About Tofer Chin
Chin’s work uses repetition of pattern to build abstract landscapes through painting, sculpture, installation and photography.
Tofer Chin is a visual artist born in Los Angeles, CA, working between Los Angeles and São Paolo. His work uses repetition of pattern to build abstract landscapes through painting, sculpture, installation and photography. Often based on mathematical calculations as well as his own explorations into meditation and the interior landscape of the mind, his work challenges perspective through conventional concepts of form, color and scale. Chin received his BFA from Otis College of Art and Design and has exhibited work in solo and group exhibitions in Australia, Germany, Spain, Brazil, China, United Arab Emirates and the United States and has produced selected public commissions in Brazil, Nicaragua, Japan and the United States.
“My work encompasses paintings, sculpture, large scale public murals and installations that challenge perspective through conventional concepts of form, color and scale. The intention of my practice activates a process in the viewer’s mind to further their understanding of their surroundings, entering into our internal architecture, the ego, thoughts and emotions. This insight animates the rigid to fluid movement of the textural surface. A cross-disciplinary conversation has the goal to shift mood and consciousness, and amplify awareness of being intimate with reality. My work opens the door to greater possibilities and is based on the idea of a keyhole perspective, seeing only a portion of something and knowing more is beyond. Each work adheres to a formulaic expression that presents a window, an architectural shift, into the psychological space within the viewer.” - Tofer Chin
2002. Otis College of Art and Design. BFA.
2008. Graphis Design Annual Gold Award, Flaunt 79
2017 8, Schneider Museum of Art, Ashland, OR
2015 Keys, mural, LA><ART|Slanguage, LA, CA
2015 Fruits and Plains, Champions of Culture, LA
2013 Ar, Lu Magnus, New York, NY
2012 Totally, Lu Magnus, New York, NY
2012 Untitled Art Fair, Lu Magnus, Miami Beach, FL
2011 Fourteen Black, Parque Lage, Rio de Janeiro
2010 Alex, FFDG, San Francisco, CA
2009 Double Dip, Cerasoli Gallery, Culver City, CA
2008 Vivid, Commissary Arts, Venice, CA
2007 Take Walks, Rojo Artspace, Barcelona, Spain
2004 Lost in _ _ _ _ _ _, 4-F Gallery, LA, CA
2003 Follow Tofer, Four x Four, LA, CA
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
2018 Surf Solar, two-person exhibition, Tofer Chin and Koen Delaere, AAD, Abu Dhabi, UAE