Rachel Liu Interview - The Hopper Prize

Rachel Liu

Rachel Liu on finding inspiration in a stash of old black and white family photos, working through a project based practice, and the importance of active looking.

How did you get into making art?

Some of my earliest memories were asking my mother to buy me my own set of watercolor palette, and enjoying playing with colors and mixing colors. I got really into fashion illustration during elementary school years and had a phase of wanting to be a fashion designer growing up. Lots have changed since, but needless to say, the desire and urge to create and make things have remained the same.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on two very different projects. One is a body of work I started in 2017 titled “Remember Me Like This.” It’s based off of a collection of old black and white photographs of family members. What do we want to remember and be remembered by? How do we want to see and be seen through photographic images? These are some of the questions I’m exploring and calling attention to in this body of work.

I’m also working on creating an installation from a series of unfixed lumen prints that I have started since the beginning of the Covid lock down. I make them using disinfecting products such as hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol, bleach; objects like masks and gloves; and of course, the sun.

The concept dictates the method, material, and approach of a project.

Rachel Liu

What inspired you to get started on this body of work?

When visiting my grandmother in my hometown Qingdao, I found a stash of old black and white family photos taken from the 1940s to early 1980s. Those photos drew me in immediately, and I experienced a multitude of thoughts and emotions that I couldn’t really process then and still can’t fully process now. And that’s probably one of the reasons why I’m still working with and finding inspirations in these pictures.

The unfixed lumen prints project started off as my way to cope with the lockdown. This body of work has evolved to be very much a reflection of my own personal psyche and neurosis living in a pandemic.

Do you work on distinct projects or do you take a broader approach to your practice?

My practice has always been project based. The concept dictates the method, material, and approach of a project.

What’s a typical day like in your studio?

I don’t follow any particular routine or schedule for a studio day. However, before I begin doing the actual physical work, I always make sure to devote ample time to looking at what I’m working on that day. Active looking helps me to focus my attention, to see things with fresh perspectives, and to become more aware and mindful of my own work. Over the years, I’ve come to realized the importance of the mental part of art making which oftentimes is more challenging and time consuming than the physical making of the work.

Who are your favorite artists?

Perhaps too many to name here. Recently, I am particularly drawn to works by Gerhard Richter and Sigma Polke.

Where do you go to discover new artists?

I encounter new artists almost daily on social media platforms. However, I still prefer to go to in-person exhibitions and art fairs to discover interesting new artists and new works. Most of the artwork I like can only be fully experienced and appreciated in person.

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