Tag Archives: artist interview

LIZ TRAN interviewed in ART PLUGGED

17 Jan

Liz Tran’s Rorschach-Inspired Inkblots Explore The Human Psyche And Imagination

Artist Interviews


Last updated:January 17, 2023

Liz Tran


Seattle-based artist Liz Tran’s practice is an immersive exploration into the depths of the human psyche and imagination, making her work a feast for the eyes as much as it is for the soul. Tran’s adept use of colours, dots, circles, blots, and splashes is like looking into a kaleidoscope. You see something new, a provocative experience that challenges perspective every time you look.

Liz Tran

I have a childhood memory of taking the Rorschach test and it made a lasting impression. The inkblots in the test are ambiguous and open to interpretationLiz Tran

Her past exhibition, Matriarchs and Daughters Dream Oceans of Braille at Morton Fine Art in collaboration with Homme DC in December last year, was inspired by Tran’s memories of being administered Rorschach tests. A psychological evaluation of mental health and trauma through associative responses to inkblots. In this body of work, Tran transforms disparate monochromatic prints into a captivating narrative of technicolour panels, a testament to her artistic prowess. Tran’s work features in public collections that include the City of Seattle’s Portable Works Collection, Capital One, and Vulcan Inc.

In this interview, we learn more about the Seattle-based artist practice, creative process and more.

Q: Hi Liz, can you please introduce yourself? Can you share a little bit about your background and who you are as an artist?

Liz Tran: I emerged into the world on the hottest day of summer in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. I hold no memory of a time when creating was not a part of my
life—Play-Doh sculptures and sand castle landscapes later morphed into massive
paintings and installations.

Matriarchs and Daughters Dream Oceans of Braille installation view
Courtesy Morton Fine Art. Photo credit: Jarrett Hendrix
Q: In some ways your art functions as a sort of anti- Rorschach or positive- Rorschach test, stripped of the pathological assessment that defined the original test. Can you speak into your appropriation of the form, how you came to the Rorschach test? The work in this series seems to operate on a number of levels, from colorful and invigorating to slyly subversive.

Liz Tran: I have a childhood memory of taking the Rorschach test and it made a lasting impression. The inkblots in the test are ambiguous and open to interpretation, which encourages viewers to consider their own subjectivity and how it influences their understanding of the art.

The Rorschach test has a long history and has been the subject of much debate and discussion within the field of psychology. By appropriating the form of the test, I’m exploring these themes and inviting viewers to approach it with an open mind, minus the intention of diagnosis, which, historically speaking, was often incorrect.

Liz Tran Baby Father, 2019
Liz Tran Baby Father, 2019 24 x 24 in. Mixed media on panel
Courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist
Q: Your work places generous emphasis on the self: self-knowledge, self-reflection, arguably self-care. How do you encourage and deepen these gestures to the self in a body of work that originates from a rather impersonal, profoundly analytical test?

Liz Tran: It’s true that the Rorschach test is often associated with psychological analysis and assessment, and it is typically administered by a trained evaluator in a clinical setting. However, the use of the Rorschach test in art can be a way to invite
self-reflection and exploration of the self in a more personal and artistic context.

Liz Tran
Mirror 11, 2020
12 x 12 in. Mixed media on panel
Courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist
Q: How do you view art? Buried in these works is the idea that there is no “correct way”to understand and engage with art. I’m interested in how you engage.

Liz Tran: I primarily engage with art and art making from the place of intuition and
feeling, later taking into consideration the context of the artist’s intentions and the cultural and historical context in which it was created. Keeping in mind that there are many different ways to engage with art, it’s important to remember that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to do so.

Q: What are your thoughts about abstraction? Obviously, you work in this mode, but your art nevertheless seems to be critically alert to how we talk about and look at abstraction (art)?

Liz Tran: Abstraction can be a very effective way for artists to explore and express complex ideas and emotions, allowing for a wide range of interpretations by the viewer. It can also be a way for artists to challenge traditional notions of representation and encourage viewers to consider the art in a more open-ended and subjective way.

Liz Tran-Heirloom
Heirloom, 2022 Mixed media fiber collage installation 198 x 53 in.
Courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist
Q: Heirloom has a delightful origin. Can you tell us the inspiration behind this piece, how long it took to complete, and its meaning? What was it like working with your mother on the piece?

Liz Tran: I have memories of sitting in church and staring at the oversized, colorful
wall hangings in the otherwise monochromatic space. This imagery definitely played a part in creating my own, non-denominational textile.

Heirloom is a large wall hanging composed of various bodies of work and pieces of installations completed over the past decade. The binding is my matriarchal grandmother’s tablecloth, cut up and dyed with turmeric and the entire piece is sewn together by my mother. Heirloom serves as a marker of my career as an artist, while simultaneously serving as a tribute to the women who came before me.

Liz Tran
Cosmic Circle 1, 2020 24 x 24
Liz Tran
Cosmic Circle 1, 2020 24 x 24
in.Mixed media on panel
Courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist
Q: What’s next for you as an artist?

Liz Tran: I’ll continue to follow my curiosity to worlds beyond explanation.

Learn more about Liz Tran

©2023 Liz Tran, Morton Fine Art

Len Gordon

Len is a curator and writer at Art Plugged, a contemporary platform inspired by a passion for showcasing exceptional artists and their work he also studying an MFA in Curating at Goldsmiths London.

Available artwork by LIZ TRAN

NATALIE CHEUNG Interviewed | PetaPixel | Camera-Less Photography

26 Oct

Camera-Less Photographer Creates Beautifully Abstract Cyanotypes

 OCT 25, 2022


Abstract ocean waves blue and white Cyanotype image
57 Hours, 2022 (detail). Cyanotype photogram on paper. Courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist

In a unique blending of mediums, the works of artist Natalie Cheung invite viewers into a myriad of captured ‘experiences through time and movement’ set onto the surface of photosensitive paper and microplastic sculptures.

With pictures reminiscent of Rorschach tests, Cheung’s captivating ‘camera-less’ photo series Made Of Light, leaves onlookers beguiled yet intrigued by the artist’s map-like aesthetics.

Cheung’s work is influenced by the natural world, as well as created by light, duration, and the chemistry of making a photographic print. Made of Light manages to adeptly pay homage while utilizing the cyanotype technique.

Cyanotype image blue and white (abstract)

“Cyanotype is the earliest form of photography;[…] it’s the same process from which early architectural blueprints were made.” Cheung continues, “One of the bodies of work featured in Made of Light […] is Intermediaries. In Intermediaries, evaporation is my subject. The mappings contemplate the incremental transformations our planet is facing as climate change progresses. It is predicted that warming temperatures around the world will cause coastal areas to become dramatically wetter and inland regions drier. The title of each work indicates the hours in which water took to evaporate completely, and what remains is a blueprint of evaporation. The titles in hours are an homage to the ticking clock (literal and figuratively) we have on our planet to reduce emissions and stave off the point of no return for climate change.” Cheung says, speaking to PetaPixel

Cyanotype sepia and dark beige and brown
Untitled 1, 2021. Silver gelatin chemigram on photo paper. (From the series Facsimile). Courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist

Cheung hails from a mixed-medium background. At 10 years old, she received an in-box 35mm Minolta film camera from her uncle and fell in love with the discipline then and there. She progressed as an avid film user, favoriting Hasselblad, and Rolleiflex and picking up inspiration from album art from bands such as the Pixies. Particularly, their Doolittle album art.

“The photographs in that album were so textural, rusty, and abandoned. So while other kids in my class were taking pictures of their friends and normal stuff teenagers would take pictures of, I was taking pictures of human teeth in crusty backdrops,” she says.

While studying film photography during the height of the “digital revolution,” and as traditional photography began to gravitate towards pixels, Cheung chose to dabble in the creation of new works in the darkroom without the aid of film images.

Teal and violet image, can see houses in the distance
Intersections of Light #060, 2022. Color pinhole photograph. Courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist

“When the digital revolution in the photo world took over a few years into my career, I started to think a lot about the essence of the medium: documenting a moment in time with light. I questioned why darkroom photographic processes were still relevant and how I could continue to use them in a contemporary context without my work looking like it was clinging to antiquated romanticism. This is the central idea behind all my work.” Cheung says.

She stuck with the basics, that being Crynotype, and fully committed to a cameraless approach to her images.

“The inspiration for my cameraless photography has shifted over the years. Everybody of work looks very different from the last; even what the artwork is about changes. But the artwork always remains connected by the importance of the process woven into the concept and by the random element of chance that is involved,” She says.

Abstract pink and white cyanotype image with red lines
Intersections of Light #033, 2022. Color pinhole photograph. Courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist

The conceptualization of her process is almost as abstract as the results of her works. In a controlled environment, Cheung uses slow-reacting cyanotype to yield inky-like images with intriguing shapes, textures, and patterns. While some images resemble a kind of cartography complete with river deltas and signs of erosion, others simply invoke the calm and contemplative, aggressive or panicked ‘mood’ of the artist.

“I think about my process like controlled experiments: there are control elements and there are factors I can play with to create a little chaos. I never know what’s going to happen exactly. Sometimes the artwork is a dud and sometimes it’s wonderful and that is very exciting,” Cheung says.

Sepia colored Abstract image, with lighter and dark blots and waves
Silver gelatin chemigram on photo paper. (From the series Facsimile). Courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist

The artist allows her mixtures to evaporate naturally, a process that mimics while subtly commenting on the steady passing of time and loss of water that defines humanity’s relationship with the climate crisis. The results are a brilliant merging of mediums, artistry, and social commentary.

“I’m always excited to see the outcome of an artwork. My work is not predictable: you can set everything up, but the image could be a dud…and there are a lot of duds. So when one turns out great, it’s magic. The process is so technical and labor-intensive that anything could go wrong during processing, so I feel super protective about the artwork until it’s dried and stored.”

Natalie Cheung , with long dark brown hair and glasses and polka-dot shirt
Courtesy Natalie Cheung

‘Cameraless photography’ has afforded Cheung an unconventional yet intriguing kind of set-up and work space,

“I don’t use much equipment at all! I use jumbo darkroom trays, chemicals, light, lots of nitrile gloves, and Ilford paper. I keep tagging Ilford in my Instagram posts but have never gotten a nod. I’m sure they are horrified at what I am doing with their product.”

cyanotype image with cloud and water like abstract imagery
57 Hours, 2022. Cyanotype photogram on paper. Courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist

Without the traditional nuances of digital, it’s tempting to view Cheung’s process and setup as a simplistic form of photography, however life in a darkroom consistently has proven challenging at times for the D.C based artist,

“Everything is a challenge! I like to make large artwork and I’m small, so from cutting giant heavy rolls of paper to backbreaking processing & archival washing to figuring out who is going to help me move a 7-foot framed artwork, it’s all challenging in different ways. I use these huge trays in the darkroom and even moving one of those around, I think I did something weird and tweaked my shoulder once. Another time the darkroom suddenly had no water pressure…that was fun, to say the least. At the end of the day, I personally need to make this artwork and it’s well worth all the hurdles…and I move my trays carefully now.”

Feedback for Cheung’s works has both challenged and amused the camera-less photographer,

blue and white abstract and looks like clouds over a big blue ocean
67 Hours, 2018. Cyanotype photogram on paper. (From the series Intermediaries). Courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist

“If you’re an artist then you know there’s wildly varying feedback. Of course, I love the complimentary stuff, but I value critical, well-thought-out comments the most. Sometimes the most valuable comments come from the most unlikely people. I also secretly enjoy the weird comments like: “This reminds me of the time I spilled laundry detergent” or “I am confused but interested in this”. It’s like reading internet comments. I know it’s wrong to be so entertained, but I am!

Currently, Cheung is focusing on the Made of Light exhibition at Morton Fine Art, and is busy dreaming of future collaborations with artist Marimekko, or at least “a scientist with a powerful microscope.” In the future, she is staying committed to trying different mediums and assessing the fruits of her labors.

“I recently got into large-scale artworks and I’m kind of in love, so I am going to continue exploring scale. I also started making my reclaim (model islands) sculptures, so I want to see where I can go with those. It baffles even me, how after decades of strictly being a photographer, I just sat down and started carving out a sculpture.”

Abstract Cyanotype teal and orange and yellow image
Intersections of Light #008, 2022. Color pinhole photograph. Courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist

For more from Cheung, make sure to visit her Website and Instagram

Image credits: All photographs courtesy Natalie Cheung

Available Artwork by NATALIE CHEUNG