Emerging artist Jesse Liu is one of the new talents to watch in 2023. A recent graduate of the esteemed School of Visual Arts New York, Jesse is presenting her first solo art exhibit entitled Spring Fever at the Yiwei Gallery (1350 Abbot Kinney, Venice, CA 90291), from March 4th to April 2nd.
Growing up in Beijing, China, Liu came to South Carolina for high school, and then graduated from School of Visual arts in 2022, majoring in illustration. At that time, what interested her most was how to tell stories through visual representation, but throughout college she felt restricted by having to focus on specific themes and backgrounds for creating illustrations. In her senior year, she began painting freely which sparked her passion for creation and provided her free reign for expressing her emotions and inner world. As a person who is not good at expressing herself in words, painting became a bridge for her to communicate with the outside world.
People feature prominently in Liu’s works. Through their interactions and relationships with one another, she explores how memory is intertwined with her social and emotional lives. Her paintings capture individuals lost in one parallel reality, appearing on the canvas surface, longing, playing, hiding, or seeking. They are not merely props on random occasions, but rather, complex individuals whose stories and relationships add depth and texture to each work. In Spring Fever, Liu creates scenes of exquisite emotional depth and resonance. Her aim is to connect with the viewer, inviting them to share in the captivating and sometimes vulnerable experiences depicted in each work.
Arts & Collections asked Jesse some questions about her work and aspirations
You are a graduate of the School of Visual Arts New York, what was your time there like and how much did this influence and inspire your artistic journey?
School of Visual Arts has been an instrumental part of my artistic journey. Although there were moments of pressure, such as worrying that my work isn’t good enough or struggling with deadlines, the professors at the school can always provide encouragement and professional advice. For example, in my junior year when I was feeling particularly anxious about my thesis project. Fortunately, I had a professor who was exceptionally responsible and treats students like his own children. He provided guidance to everyone in the class with fatherly care, reminding us to approach every assignment with seriousness and strive to reach our full potential. He also provides different suggestions based on respecting everyone’s creativity and ideas. Not only did he assist us with classwork, but he also taught us how to calm our minds and relieve stress through meditation, like a spiritual mentor. My time studying at the School of Visual Arts in New York was marked by the serious and responsible attitude of the professors toward the students, which influenced my approach toward art. I pour my heart and soul into every painting and aspire to present it flawlessly on the canvas, in line with my envisioned concept.
See also: Italian Sculptor Peter Demetz Holds First Major Exhibition in Switzerland
Can you tell us a little bit about Spring Fever, what inspired this exhibition?
The inspiration for this exhibition comes from my personal memories. Sometimes, the most insignificant moments in life can trigger a flood of memories, whether it’s a visual, auditory, or olfactory stimulus or merely a glimpse of someone passing by. Memories sneak up on us all the time, but to what extent can we trust the accuracy of our recollections? Is memory itself a product of subjective consciousness? In my understanding, memories are more likely to record the emotions experienced at a particular moment than objective facts. This inspired me to combine my imagined worlds and emotions with my memories, imbuing each painting with a hidden story. Although these stories are derived from my memories, some may not have actually happened in reality. Nevertheless, when these stories are painted in a figurative form on the canvas, They take on a tangible quality leaving traces of life that endure in reality.
With your debut solo exhibition opening this month, are there any nerves or apprehensions setting in?
I just debuted my first solo exhibition which is currently available to check out at the Yiwei Gallery in Venice Beach, CA. I think most of the lead-up pressure and anxiety stemmed from my own expectations that unexpected challenges may arise, which are beyond my control. I have come to the realization that the only way to make progress is to approach the exhibition one step at a time, giving my best effort with each endeavor. Ultimately the opening event was a huge success and I look forward to having it on view this entire month.
How important was it for you to use such a creative platform to showcase the beauty and mystery of Asian Women?
As an Asian woman, I believe that the beauty of Asian women is not only mysterious but also diverse. However, it is important to note that the figures in my paintings do not necessarily need to be interpreted solely as Asian women. They can represent anyone, regardless of their ethnicity or cultural background. In my paintings, I strive to capture the unique and delicate distinctions in physical features that make each individual beautiful in their own exceptional way. This may include slender limbs, sculptural curves, or fuller figures, among other features.
Will this continue to be a theme you explore in future work?
Yes, I’m still deeply intrigued by the power of memory, even in moments of contemplation or wandering thoughts. I find myself fully immersed in a world of unforgettable memories and fanciful imaginings.
What have been the biggest challenges you faced creating this exhibition?
One of the most significant challenges I face is balancing my energy levels and productivity while I’m getting not enough sleep. Since September of last year, I have been dedicating at least eight hours a day to this exhibition, which has caused me to experience anxiety that disrupts my sleep. Despite completing all the required work, I noticed that the exhibition installation process is more complicated than anticipated, posing an additional challenge. Thankfully, I have a dependable curator and her team who work closely with me to ensure that the exhibition is a success. Together, we strive to present the most perfect and impactful experience for our audience.
As an artist, is it ever difficult for you to let go of your pieces once they are completed?
Yes, I have a hard time letting go. As an artist, I tend to get caught up in my memories, and each painting I create represents a fragment of my past, suggesting a hidden story. When I paint, it feels like I’m time-traveling back to those memories. However, after completing each piece, I find closure and return to the present, eagerly anticipating my next artistic journey. It can be difficult to let go of these memories, but through my art, I am able to revisit them and find a sense of closure that allows me to move forward with a renewed sense of purpose and creativity.
Have you always had a passion for art?
Yes, I have always had a passion for art, and I have been using painting as a way to express my emotions since childhood. Over time, I discovered that painting is not just a hobby, but an essential part of my life. As I continue to explore the world of art, I am constantly learning and growing, and trying to find a better way to express myself more effectively. Painting is a way to connect with my innermost thoughts and feelings and to share those emotions with the world.
Who have been some of your inspirations?
Edvard Munch has always been a source of inspiration for me as an artist. His paintings convey a depth of emotion and feeling that is unmatched and each piece he created has the power to shake the soul.
In college you’ve said you felt restricted “by having to focus on specific themes and backgrounds for creating illustrations”. How essential is it for an artist to continue to push the boundaries of the art they want to create and the stories their art tells?
The pursuit of innovation is very important, which can help artists grow and develop, and lead to new and innovative art forms that have never been seen before. But I don’t think breaking tradition means completely disregarding the basic knowledge and skills learned in college or through formal training.
What do you hope your work says about you as an artist?
When people see the vivid colours in my paintings, they may think that I am a lively person, while others may be more focused on my delicate outlines and assume that I am a cautious individual. These elements are instinctively expressed through my subconscious during the creative process. I believe that art is subjective, and everyone has their own unique perspective and interpretation of it. I don’t aim to explain anything through my art, I simply paint what I feel inspired to create.
Do you have any tips you could offer fellow artists?
Work hard! And remain focused on your goals, so that when an opportunity arises, you are ready to seize it without hesitation.
And finally, what would you like people to take away from Spring Fever?
Simply relax and immerse yourself in the show, feeling the restless hearts of people as they welcome the arrival of spring.