1. The Washington Post, "In the galleries: Confluence and Foreword", by Mark Jenkins, Museums/Review, November 14, 2019.

"... The Otis Street show ranges from the formalism of Hsin-Hsi Chen, who extrapolates shimmering pencil and charcoal abstractions into 3-D constructions..."


2. The Washington Post, "In the galleries: Shadowlands", by Mark Jenkins, Museums/Review, March 29, 2019.

The Washington Post, "In the galleries: Shadowlands"

"... The shadowing is more tightly contained in Hsin-Hsi Chen's intricate paper sculptures, whose multi-planar surfaces are covered with tenebrous graphite, charcoal, ink and paint..."


3. The Washington Post, "Many shades of gray are only the beginning", by Mark Jenkins, Arts&Style, E6, March 25, 2018.

The Washington Post, "Many shades of gray are only the beginning"

"How far can a pencil line travel? And how much depth can it convey? In recent years, Hsin-Hsi Chen has extrapolated her small black-and-white drawings into three-dimensional forms, sometimes cloaked in darkness or lighted from within. Now, the Taiwan-bred, Maryland-educated artist's impressive 'Liminal' can rightly claim VisArts' largest gallery. The means remain austere, but the variety they produce is rich and surprising.
'Liminal' is a contemporary-art buzzword that refers to things that are barely perceptible or in transition. The show is a low-light experience, in which 3-D pieces both cast and exist in shadows. The gloom suits the artworks, which are mostly in white and shades of gray, and adds drama to 'Spaceship Project', a video projection that explicitly turns Chen's complex polygons into spacecraft and asteroids. Rather than tell a story, the video is interactive; its elements move in response to the people near it.
Chen has previously supplemented her folded-paper constructions with wood. She added gesso, foam and spray paint to make the wall-mounted sculptures in three new series: the protruding 'Meta', the cavernous 'Threshold' and the seemingly topographic 'Hedrons'. They remain a link to pencil drawing, since they're cloaked in shiny, lushly layered graphite and charcoal.
The largest works, the two 'Liminals' abandon the wall to perch on the floor or colonize a corner. With triangles as their building blocks, these sculptures grow from the same basic architecture as Chen's simplest works. Yet they curve and sag, as if they've grown from elementary lines on paper into something protoplasmic and even self-generated."


4. East City Art, "Hsin-Hsi Chen's Liminal at VisArts", by Eric Hope, March 14, 2018.

East City Art, "Hsin-Hsi Chen's Liminal at VisArts"

"Physical space, and the ways in which artistic materials can be used to transcend their two-dimensional boundaries to create such space, have long fascinated Hsin-Hsi Chen. The Taiwanese-born, Rockville, Maryland-based artist's solo show Liminal, now on view at Visarts in Rockville, showcases Chen's desire to continually challenge her abilities to capture volumetric forms with flat materials. Building upon her carefully crafted pencil works that blur the lines between sculpture and drawing, Chen's latest exhibition reduces the gallery walls to mere backdrops for fully three-dimensional forms to extend into space, grow along the walls and even begin to crack the fourth dimension of time.
Chen manipulates her pencils in a manner similar to painters applying brushstrokes to canvas. Rather than discrete lines, gradations of grey hue imbue her constructions with complex shadows that give depth to the multitude of surfaces within each piece. In works composed strictly of paper and wood, the notions of depth and space are mostly ephemeral as Chen'7s manipulations trick the viewer's eye into seeing volume where none exists. With Liminal, the artist solidifies volume and depth as core components of her investigation by introducing gesso, foam board and 3D printed materials to create evermore complex forms that imply geologic and in some cases even organic properties. These works build in their complexity, displaying an increasing fervor to test the materials limits, culminating in a video work that integrates the three-dimensional forms present in the gallery into an experiential format that unfolds over time. While differing in size and materials used, the works are extremely cohesive in their use of a limited color palate and intent to create volumetric forms.
Chen's Threshold and Meta series act as formal studies of form whose ideas function as precursors to more intricate works on display. The Threshold series is the more pictorial of the two, with formal compositions encased in a solid form reminiscent of a picture frame. Those frames take the form of parallelograms, adding a counterbalancing constraint to the energetic shapes within. Threshold Series #4 for instance, features crystalline shapes that take the form of vertically-oriented prisms distinguished by their varying shades of grey. The outer edges of the work keeps these forms in check, ceasing their ability to divide further or move beyond the perimeter of the work. Threshold Series #2 echoes this encasement, keeping the potential energy of its horizontally-framed forms from shifting above or below the fixed, black bands that form the outer edges of the piece.
Works in the Meta series display a similar attention to formal composition, but lack the fixed-firm borders seen in the Threshold constructions. While the edges of each work are clearly delineated, the artist's emphasis here seems less on constraining the materials, allowing the wall hangings to take on characteristics of origami as the materials begin to protrude from the surface in planes and folds. Meta series #3 displays over eight planes that protrude into space, culminating in two points that form the outer edge of the materials reach. With fewer incorporated planes than Threshold series works, Meta series #3 evokes more topological properties, as if Chen is trying to recast fictional terrain using only shades of gray.
Her actions become more frenzied with the introduction of the Hedrons series, where she moves from gradual planes to multi-surfaced almost crystalline objects that burst off the wall without regard to any traditional, pictorial composition. Here the artist's use of graduated hues becomes less important to delineate actual shape; rather the varying shades of gray work to heighten the voluminous aspects of the work, adding to the solidity of the object and giving it a certain heft. In breaking free of the wall (or in the case of Hedrons series #1, the corner), Chen emphasizes the sculptural aspects of the work, affirming their existence in a three full dimensions as she seemingly endows them with weight and mass.
Hedrons series #1-#4 act as a visual stepping stones to her other, larger works on display and underscore a conceptual transition from viewing space in the abstract to considering space in more cosmological terms. Liminal 1 and Liminal 2 share the same abstracted planes and materials as hanging works but these works seem almost organic in nature. This could be attributed to the much more spare color palette or the fact that Chen is using the same basic triangular shapes to form a series of masses which seemingly grow inside the gallery. Elsewhere the artist has introduced three-dimensional printed forms that inject even more complexity into her designs. Crumbling Tale III and Space Project I incorporate almost alien architectural forms in their masses that cantilever off the wall.
Several of these forms make appearances in Spaceship Project II, an interactive digital projection that dominates the gallery's larger room. When viewed from the back of the room, the viewer sees the 3D ovular construction from Space Project I moving through black space alongside other forms that resemble rudimentary, fragmented helmets or possibly brains. Moving towards the viewer from an indiscernible horizon point are smaller shapes similar to those from the Hedrons series; in this context they function as asteroids rather than amorphous forms. As the viewer moves forward (stepping into a box delineated on the gallery floor), the larger, alien constructions come to life, moving forward in the visual field as they react to the viewer's movements. The interaction suggests some form of rudimentary intelligence, either biological or mechanical, exists within the forms. Coupled with the Hedrons shapes traveling toward, then past the viewer, the overall effect is to create a feeling of physically occupying limitless (outer) space.
If Space Project II were exhibited independently from the rest works in Liminal the effect would be novel, but would perhaps miss some of the intellectual concerns that Chen wishes to contemplate. Shown together, the video piece alongside the physical constructions highlight the ways in which the artist is playing with two complimentary yet distinct themes. First is the concept of space as a mental construction: how does the human brain process the visual information depicted in Chen's (mostly) two-dimensional forms and create the notions of solidity and depth where none may physically exist? Second is the concept of space as a physical place, albeit a zone of infinite possibilities. In this instance, the artist is challenging us to broaden our understanding of space, the final frontier as it were all the while knowing that the infinity of the universe is unchartable to our modern minds. The movement of the computer-generated forms suggests that with the passage of time, fictional fantasies may become reality; a thorough examination of motionless, geometric constructions is as good a place as any to start.
Shown individually, any of these bodies of work would provide the viewer with an interesting glimpse of Chen's thought process with regard to how we conceive of the space around us. When viewed in sum, we are able to watch her ideas evolve, bringing abstract concerns into realm of physical possibility. It is exciting to experience, for just as she challenges herself, so too does she encourage the viewer to broaden their own understanding of the space around them."


5. The Washington Post, "Spring Solos, as presented by seven artists", by Mark Jenkins, Arts&Style, E4, June 21, 2015.

The Washington Post, "Spring Solos, as presented by seven artists"

"... Hsin-Hsi Chen is known for extrapolating pencil-drawn lines into such sculptural installations as the one that wraps around a corner in her Hillyer show, 'Hedrons' The chunky forms made of wood and paper and lit from inside suggest both modernist architecture and pure geometry. There is at least one other inspiration for Chen's constructions: the pencil itself. In prints of 43 sketchbook drawings, the Taiwan-born local artist depicts the wood-wrapped graphite stick as a elemental form. Its cylindrical shape can mutate into more complex polyhedrons, just as surely as a series of pencil lines can simulate mass, depth and shadow..."


6. East City Art, "WPA SELECT at Artisphere", by Eric Hope, February 12, 2015.

East City Art, "WPA SELECT at Artisphere"

Hsin-Hsi Chen / Revealment, 2014 / Pencil, gesso and wood / 11" x 39" x 5 1/2"

"... Hsin-Hsi Chen's Revealment makes unseen geometric forces into a thing of visual beauty. Where some works seek to explode the visual and physical worlds apart, Chen works to blend them harmoniously..."


7. East City Art, "Last look at works by Hsin-Hsi Chen and Amanda Kates at doris-mae", by Thomas Drymon, June 18, 2014.

East City Art, "Last look at works by Hsin-Hsi Chen and Amanda Kates at doris-mae"

"... Oftentimes, it is the very things that are different about work in an exhibition that are meant to intrigue. Such is the case with the works of Hsin-Hsi Chen and Amanda Kates at doris-mae.
Hsin-Hsi Chen (project space) has used one tool the duration of her career the modest pencil. She has done so out of an interest in seeing where this medium of choice will take her. From her earliest beginnings, her pieces were constructed on paper, flat against the wall or table. But her signature style emerged, and her work was nothing but flat. Hsin-Hsi has a way with graphite and can create depth, light, shadows and angles that couldn't existing naturally on the flat surface. The works were sublime, peaceful, intriguing, beautiful.
Always looking for a challenge, Hsin-Hsi began to construct new surfaces to work on mainly using wood that she hand-cut precisely. The sculptural pieces were gessoed and painted a flat white upon which she placed her mark-making. They would take on more dimensions and present new challenges for the artist. The alterations to the surface are sublime and complex. Later, she would choose to leave some of the natural wood surface revealed in an extension of the series.
At doris-mae, Hsin-Hsi was ready for the next progression in her work. Taking all the elements she was known for, Hsin-Hsi created a full room installation. She began with a scale model of the project space upon which she drew. Disassembling the model, it was scanned and scaled to actual room size. In these files, Hsin-Hsi made the adjustments to her work that allowed for the precision, depth and shadows and light that were familiar in her earlier work. The result is a completely immersive experience in gray-scale that blows the mind.
... Looking at Hsin-Hsi's installation, one gets a sense of calm, a response created from the uniformity of line, gradations of black to gray to white. We've referred to the projoect space playfully as Hsin-Hsi Chen's Infinite Zen Chapel for it feels meditative..."


8. doris-mae blog, "Conversation with Hsin-Hsi Chen", by Luke Atkinson, June 11, 2014.

doris-mae blog, "Conversation with Hsin-Hsi Chen"

On the occasion of her immersive installation at doris-mae (May 16 to June 21, 2014), Hsin-Hsi Chen took some time to answer some questions about art, evolution, and experimentation.
Q: You have done flat works on paper, sculptural work on paper and wood, and now Ulterior, a full-room installation. It is an immersive experience like stepping inside one of your sculptural pieces. Seeing Revealment next to the installation seems like a natural progression of your practice. Was the shift to installation difficult? What were some of the challenges you faced?
A: It's yes and no. I've done a smaller installation, Transition, in VisArts' solo 2012. Transition was also a site-specific installation but only showing the 3D structures without images. The difficult part of my installation is always be finding the right material. Since my work is based on pencil with gradation, it's very time-consuming to do a large installation. The challenge that I gave myself years ago was to use only one very basic tool - pencil - to develop my ideas from 2D to 3D and more. We'll talk about this later. But at this stage of my progress, pencil seems no longer to hold its own role, other material must be involved.
My work has been related to architectural forms, and I always want to find a way to combine my work with actual architecture. My previous small 3D works are indeed the natural progression of my practice to the large-scale installation. I constantly like to play 3D virtual sketches in my head whenever I'm walking or driving. So I guess it's not that difficult to shift the idea of my smaller pencil work to large-scale installation. It's like the natural growth in all creatures, it always has a certain mysterious path transforming into the final form. It's just the matter of time.
... like the natural growth in all creatures, it always has a certain mysterious path transforming into the final form...
The challenges in Ulterior were how to execute my idea/design and some technical issues, such as the measurements of the room, accuracy of the grayscale tone in printing my work into large panels, and how to install them in the room. This is my very first full-room installation. I thought about it many years ago, but didn't know how to do it at the time and didn't have the opportunity to have an actual room until now.
This is quite a big project, although I planned it ahead, there are many unexpected issues that came up in the end. For example, we measured the room, from ceiling, walls to the floor many times and still got different measurements before I started designing my small-scale 3D model drawing. Finally we got all the correct measurements we thought, but the printed panels in the stair-wall section turned out to not match. It's because the whole room, walls and floor are kind of not straight/flat, a bit curved and tilted, somehow from one point to another one seemed to never be the exact size. So I had to cut the panels in order to match and mount them on the stairs/walls. Because this is a full-room design with all images connected to each other, it became more difficult after discovering they couldn't be matched in a very short installation time. But we did overcome the challenges and completed the installation. This is a very challenging and valuable experience and certainly a great lesson for my future projects.
Q: On your website, you have documented your recent work with these meditative, long take videos. They allow the viewer to experience the work's surface and I wonder what encouraged you to start creating these videos?
A: I was taking photos for my work two years ago and felt something was missing in those photos. Although still-images could show very detailed parts of the drawings, they couldn't really represent the actual 3D drawings as I walked through them from far to close-up distances. I wanted to have the real-time experience for the audience, especially my 3D structures which should be viewed from different angles. I wanted to show the close-up details and textures of the pencil marks, gradation of graphite, paper, and wood surfaces as I was examining them through the lens in motion. Besides, not many people can actually come to the exhibitions these days from their busy schedules and see the artwork in person. So, I had the urge to video my artwork because it seemed to be the best solution to present my 3D artwork after each exhibition. Plus, I have always had a very strong interest in movie/film-making and love the transitions in cinematography.
Q: I read that you use the most basic tools - to see how far one medium can take me to different scales, formats and other possibilities. How do you see those basic tools as relevant today? Are there other artists working in the same medium or method that inspire you?
A: Yes, it's the challenge that I gave myself to see how far by using just one basic medium to develop it into different scales, formats and other possibilities. I love to use pencil to create the gradation in my illusionary style and want to show only black/white because certain color will present a certain meaning, but in the tone of grayscale, there is no limitation in imagination.
In the very beginning, it's about drawing and one medium. I didn't know what my work will become to the end, and I didn't actually want to know either. It's a long journey and reflects my interest in the unknown.
I've always been interested in the subjects of certainty and uncertainty, real and unreal, known and unknown, expected and unexpected in this universe. Those elements are invisible, puzzling, and fascinating. The progress of connecting every bit in our lives builds our characters and forms the way we are today. But through the process of my work, from 2D to 3D and large installation, this task that I challenged myself seems to have come to a turning point.
... The progress of connecting every bit in our lives builds our characters and forms the way we are today...
While working on Ulterior, suddenly I realized that my pursuit in pencil drawing all these years has actually just a very small tool and practice in order to develop something larger. It's beyond drawing. It's the 'space' that I am actually concerned with. And it's interesting to see how people interact with my work when they step into the room, they became the small elements in my artwork. After seeing the human scale versus my room-sized illusionary images, I'm definitely giving myself another new challenge now.
Although I work with one medium, I get inspiration from all, not only limited to people or artists, but more from man-made structures, nature, universe in different dimensions and unknown forms. Concept is the core in each artwork; media and technique can only serve as the tools.
Q: You are based in Rockville, MD, right outside DC. Are you involved in the Washington area art scene? Do you find the DC area informs your work? Are there local artists that you look at?
A: Yes, I'm interested and involved in DC and other area art scenes by participating in many solo and group exhibitions through the years. I appreciate the benefits that we can get in our art community here. I do look at the amazing creativity from all local artists and other areas as well.
Q: What are you working on now? Can we look forward to more large-scale installations from you in the future?
A: I'm continuing my development in 2D/3D architectural drawings with pencil and other media, but will create more large-scale installations and structures at the same time for sure. I would be very interested in collaborating with architects or the field in public art, because my ultimate goal is to present my 3D formats and the idea of light and shadow which reflects the human soul in the illusionary space into the reality - combining the illogical spacial puzzles with actual buildings, surroundings, and cityscapes.
Notes Here are links to Hsin-Hsi Chen's website, YouTube, Vimeo, Etsy, and Facebook profile..."


9. The Washington Post, "D.C. area galleries: A Window Into The Mind's Eye", by Mark Jenkins, Entertainment, Museums, February 28, 2014.

"... The graphite line takes a number of jaunts in 'A Window Into the Mind's Eye', a five-artist exhibition at Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery.... Hsin-Hsi Chen pencils triangular forms on the surfaces of abstract wood assemblages, one of which is lighted from within..."


10. The Washington Post, "It's the process, not the picture: In VisArts show, drawing is the means to the end", by Michael O'Sullivan, Weekend, OnExhibit, P.22, 23, June 14, 2013.

Hsin-Hsi Chen fuses trompe-l'oeil drawing and sculpture in the whimsical "Labyrinth P."

"... Renee van der Stelt and Hsin-Hsi Chen also create works that fuse drawing and sculpture, applying graphite to folded paper constructions or whitewashed wooden forms. Except for Chen's whimsical 'Labyrinth P', which looks like a giant, slightly chewed pencil, they're all nonrepresentational objects. Both artists use shading for a subtle trompe-l'oeil effect, exploring the formal possibilities that open when drawing bursts from a 2-D space..."


11. The Washington Post, "Adding dimensions to landscapes: Fawna Xiao, Hsin-Hsi Chen offer interesting takes on contours", by Mark Jenkins, Style, Galleries, C8, April 19, 2013.

'LUX IV': In the sculpture-drawings on display at Hillyer Art Space, Hsin-Hsi Chen works entirely with black pencil, drawing on white paper, wood or, in one instance, ink on polystyrene.

"Two artists at Hillyer offer interesting takes on geological contours... Also at Hillyer, Hsin-Hsi Chen has added another dimension (or two) to the depiction of geological, architectural or topographical contours. In 'Lux', the Maryland-educated artist works entirely with black pencil, drawing on white paper, wood or, in one instance, ink on polystyrene. The latter material allows light to show from the interior of the work, a hivelike outcropping of panels placed in a corner of the gallery. But all four of the sculpture-drawings include LED fixtures; the glow is just less conspicuous from the ones made of wood rather than paper or plastic.

Because Chen's pencil work deftly conveys depth, adding sculptural elements might seem superfluous. But in such pieces as 'Lux I', the added range seems natural, not forced. And even the one traditional piece in this selection isn't quite flat: The artist continues drawing on the sides of the wood panel. Such exuberant details suggest that, for Chen, expanding into 3-D wasn't just logical. It was inevitable.
FAWNA XIAO: LOST LAND; HSIN-HSI CHEN: LUX are on view through April 26 at Hillyer Art Space, 9 Hillyer Ct. NW; 202-338-0680;"


12. ArtSee DC, "Artist of the Week: Hsin-Hsi Chen", by Roxanne Goldberg, April 10, 2013.

Lux IV

"In the corner of the Members Gallery at Hillyer Art Space, an illuminated geometric structure made of polystyrene, radiates glowing white light. Luminescence pulses with the vibrancy of life and extends into the viewer's immediate space, inviting the plastic work's human counterpart to reveal elements of his inner soul, to expose what is typically hidden under his hard and restrictive shell.

Hsin-Hsi Chen's new series, LUX explores the optical and cognitive effects of light and shadow when juxtaposed with illusionary or surreal light. Her study successfully elicits questions of fact versus fiction and confronts the opposing duo's interplay within everyday life. Just as it is at times perplexing to distinguish the corporeal shadows made by paper folds from the phantom darkness developed by diligent pencil shading, it is often difficult, sometimes confusing or impossible, to separate authenticity from fraud.
Some of Chen's artworks are limited in material, using only pencil on paper, to create complex planes. These images are capable of confounding the viewer who strives to match his visual perception of the drawing with his thoroughly convinced feelings for space and depth. Grotto is the most interesting of the series, for when seen at close gaze, the viewer is transported into the pictorial frame, as if he is standing within Jean Dubuffet's Cave that exists in its permanent home at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, France.
Chen abstracts two-dimensional cuts, angles and lines of her drawings into medium-sized three-dimensional paper and wood models. Enhanced by LED lights, these works challenge the viewer's ability to examine and realize the overlaps between created and natural space and shadow. Such exercise requires focused attention and inquisitive eyes.
Some three-dimensional works adopt futuristic personas. Alien light softly glows below machine-precise edges to create an illusion reminiscent of a science fiction hovercraft. Others convey thoughts of fantasy, more naturally formed with imperfect curves. Like the brain that produces dreams, these objects have mysterious openings that emit an enticing light from an unknown source.
Together, pencil drawings, paper and wood objects, and a polystyrene structure, engage in dialogue with one another, creating a visual progression marking Chen's artistic process from two to three-dimensions as well as posing intriguing questions concerning illusionary and real space in everyday life.
LUX is on display at Hillyer Art Space until April 26, 2013.
Tuesday-Friday 12-6 PM, Monday and Saturday 12-5 PM, Closed Sunday
9 Hillyer Court, NW
Bringin the Art in DC to You."


13. The Washington Post, "GALLERY OPENING OF THE WEEK - Hsin-Hsi Chen: Transition", by Michael O'Sullivan, Weekend, On Exhibit, T16, February 10, 2012.

"Transition" by Hsin-Hsi Chen is part of the exhibition of the same name at the Gibbs Street Gallery of VisArts at Rockville. The gallery hosts an opening reception Friday.

"Hsin-Hsi Chen is known for exquisite, small pencil drawings depicting rooms, buildings and the like. They often transcend the flat surface of the paper, bursting forth from the wall in boxlike, 3-D constructions that blur the boundary between illusionistic pictorial space and sculpture. Although her work evokes architecture, it is a space of the imagination that we are invited to visit.

On Friday from 7 to 9 p.m., the Gibbs Street Gallery of VisArts at Rockville will host a reception and artist's talk for Chen's latest exhibit, "Transition". The show includes manipulations of scale and surface that, according to the gallery, will even more fully "immerse" the viewer in the artist's invented world.
Through Feb. 29 at 155 Gibbs St., Rockville. 301-315-8200. Free."


14. The Washington Post, "The Poetics of Water: Art inspired by poetry", by Roger Catlin, Lifestyle, Style, December 29, 2011.

Grotto (2011), pencil, gesso, wood, 24 x 24 x 2 in. / Digital print on canvas, 40 x 40 in.

"Roberts's reflections on the 'McMillan Water Treatment Plan' elicited a jagged monochromatic work of grays and blacks from Hsin-Hsi Chen, who, like several artists in the show, is foreign-born but lives in the area."


15. International Museum of Women, "Drawing and Illusionism: Hsin-Hsi Chen", Exhibiting You, February 13, 2009.

International Museum of Women, "Drawing and Illusionism: Hsin-Hsi Chen"

Drawing and Illusionism: Artist Hsin-Hsi Chen creates elaborate shapes with only pencil and paper.

Home > Community > EXHIBITING YOU > Drawing and Illusionism

Drawing and Illusionism

By: Hsin-Hsi Chen

I wanted to present my philosophy of life simply, without color and brilliant decorations. A certain color will give a certain and specific meaning, whereas the tone of black and white does not limit imagination and space. In this colorless world, we are nevertheless still able to see color and the radiant source of life penetrating through the layers of graphite.

I use the most basic tools--pencil on paper--to see how far one medium can take me. I am fascinated by the way the broken bits of riddled paths in our lives can link to each other and complete us. From the reality to the surreal and illusionary world, the untouchable and invisible time and space overlap our unpredictable challenges and personal growth. Illusion annexes and extracts these unspeakable thoughts into the real world. I am devoted to unfolding my view of life and seeking the balance between the existence and illusion through my artwork.

For more detailed information about Chen's artwork and her new book Expanding Into the Unspeakable, please visit


Norm, United States, 2/18/2009 5:40:19 PM - Her work expands the dimensionality of the paper and broads the functionality of the pencil.

Stu, United States, 2/19/2009 6:41:18 PM - Ms. Chen's sensuous and mysterious works are a metaphor of our own life's journey.

Jay, United States, 2/19/2009 7:11:30 PM - I could get the feeling of ongoing motion from the static artwork. Really unspeakable.

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16. Sketch Pages Blog, "Drawing and Illusionism: Hsin-Hsi Chen", by Nicole Lenzi, January 24, 2009.

Sketch Pages Blog, "Drawing and Illusionism: Hsin-Hsi Chen"

Sketch Pages talks to Hsin-Hsi Chen:

Explain your interest in illusionism and how/why you use drawing as a tool to allude to it.

My idea of using the most basic tools, pencil on paper, is to see how far one medium can take me to different scales, formats and other possibilities. I am fascinated and experienced by how the broken bits of riddled paths in our lives can link to each other and complete us in some ways. From the reality to the surreal and illusionary world, the untouchable and invisible time and space overlap the unpredictable challenges and growth of us. Illusion annexes and extracts these unspeakable thoughts into the real world. I am devoted to unfold my view of life and seek the balance between the existence and illusion through my artwork.

When did you become interested in creating drawings with tones and shades of gray? How do the shades of gray play into your vision as an artist?

Back in 1993, I wanted to present my philosophy of life in a very basic way without color and brilliant decorations. A certain color will give a specific meaning, but the tone of black and white does not limit imagination and space. In this colorless world, we still can see the color and radiant source of life penetrating through the layers of graphite.

Do you work from sources in reality when shading different tones? Where do the different shades and shapes come from in your work?

No, it comes naturally from my experiences and skills when shading different tones. In order to capture the moment of time in space, I create different shades and shapes to make the abstract vision of light, shadow and space solid by freezing these untouchable and fluid elements. My drawing presents the inner of human when the surreal exterior space transforming into the illusionary interior of architecture. The shadow within reflects its subject as the soul to the human being.

In your Penumbra Series, has the role of illusionism in your work changed since you started working on three-dimensional surfaces?

Yes. In my earlier 3D work, Limpid and Flowing Pneuma series, I have used illusions to distort the real 3D structures. In addition to the previous concept, I add a new idea to the Penumbra series to create true shadows from designed 3D structures, in combination with illusionary shades to generate real and imaginary shade puzzles.

Do you have any new works in the making?

Yes and always. I am continuing in the progress of a series of pencil drawings on wood in different scales of natural and designed forms. The wood material requires huge amount of time and labor to prepare and refine the rough surfaces before I can really start to apply my drawing onto it. It is a total different aspect comparing to the latest Penumbra and Penumbra II series.

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17. Thinking About Art Blog, "Beyond the Box: Drawings by Hsin-Hsi Chen", by J. T. Kirkland, December 11, 2006.

"Chen's sculptural drawings were quite interesting little pieces (9.5" x 9.5"). The pieces are simple pencil on paper drawings with some sculptural interventions (real depth vs. perceived). This was framed in white.

I think the pieces are intriguing and they make an excellent juxtaposition to the PhotoGenesis show in the next door gallery. Priced at $450, two or three pieces had sold when I visited.

As always, the MPA has interesting shows up. I recommend a visit."


18. Falls Church News-Press, "Northern Virginia Art Beat", Arts & Entertainment, by Kevin Mellema , December 7, 2006.

"... Also showing at MPA in the Atrium Gallery, 'Beyond the Box: Drawings by Hsin-Hsi Chen', is a series of shadow boxes that seem a cross between origami and Escher-esque drawings. Segmented three dimensional constructions and renderings of box forms. At times the drawn images seem to match the constructed forms, and yet at other times they seem to work against each other. I have a feeling these are works best seen in natural light that moves with the passing of time, and not static staged gallery lighting..."


19. McLean Project for the Arts, "Beyond The Box: Drawings by Hsin-Hsi Chen", by Nancy Sausser, November, 2006.

"Maryland artist Hsin-Hsi Chen creates three-dimensional drawings with the most elementary of materials, paper and pencil. Expanding on the limitless possibilities of this medium, Chen constructs black and white drawings/objects that simultaneously depict and encompass space. In so doing, these works calmly occupy a realm that rests at the intersection between reality and imagination."

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20. Towson Times, "'Path' leads straight to TU gallery", by Mike Giuliano, Life Times, Visual Arts, November 16, 2005.

"... The regionally based artists in "Searching for a Path" combine a contemporary vocabulary with varying degrees of traditional Asian influences. Whatever their distinctions in terms of the materials they use, there is a shared concern for high-level craftsmanship in the work made by Hsin-Hsi Chen,...

... Among the other interesting artists in this show is Hsin-Hsi Chen, whose pencil drawings are M.C. Escher-evocative architectural fantasies in which stairs and floors are schematically rendered in such a way that it's hard to get your bearings.

"Déjà Vu in Labyrinth" and other deliberately disorienting drawings partly achieve this effect through the pencil shading, which favors soft gray tones rather than cleanly delineated blacks. The architectural quality of these two-dimensional drawings makes it logical that the artist also has such three-dimensional pieces as "Over the Steppes", in which the cut-out paper forms stand upright on a shelf..."


21. Asian Arts & Culture Center Gallery, "Searching For A Path", by Ock-Kyung Lee, November 5, 2005.

"Hsin-Hsi Chen, born in Taiwan, received a M.F.A. degree from the University of Maryland. Her pencil-on-paper drawings and constructions depict, in her words, "the many riddled paths in our lives." In Chen's drawings of empty interiors, such as Déjà Vu in Labyrinth (1999), multiple vanishing points, tilted perspective, and dramatic lighting evoke a sense of dislocation and disorientation. Chen invites the viewer into a world with staircases, paths and open doors, but then frustrates the viewer by not providing a clear escape route. Like M.C. Escher, Chen manipulates space and joins different perspectives in a black and white world. Like Paul Cézanne, the planes of perspective often shift and push forward, flattening the picture plane. Although at first glance the world Chen creates appears to be fragmented, her use of monochromatic tones creates a feeling of unity and calm. Her compositions are, on closer inspection, carefully weighted and balanced, suggesting that the world Chen depicts for us is not a fragmented one, but a whole composed of many disrupted parts. This disruption is both real and imaginary. "We combine the real and imaginary world," Chen says. "These brocken bits of riddled paths link to each other and complete us in some ways."

Chen uses no lines in her work; straight edges are defined only by gradual tonal contrasts from dark gray to white. In some of her works, such as Core (1999), the contrast of the gray angles of the architecture against a central void, or empty space, is striking. One can interpret this empty space as a study of the Zen ideal of the void, where one empties the mind of mundane anxiety by meditation and, in the process, renews the mind and soul."

Core (1999), colored pencil/graphite on paper, 14.5 x 20.5 x 2.5 in.


22. The Boston Globe, "Women of the world - Wide-ranging show", by Cate McQuaid, Galleries, Arts & Entertainment, October 21, 2005.

"... The more abstract work, such as Taiwanese artist Hsin-Hsi Chen's M.C. Escheresque image of a space built from cubes, with a hatch at the bottom, suggests more mystery than the mother-and-child pictures..."

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23. Home & Design, "An Art Museum Debuts", by Jacqueline Smith, Washington/Maryland/Virginia Luxury Homes - Fine Interior Design & Furnishings, P.42, 46, September/October, 2005.

"... Artist Hsin-Hsi Chen used the curve of the first floor wall to make her three-dimensional-looking piece pop...."


24. The Washington Post, "At AU, Watch This Space", by Michael O'Sullivan, Weekend/OnExhibit, P.46, July 22, 2005.

A piece by Hsin-Hsi Chen, one of 22 artists in the "Soft Openings" exhibit.

"... The Washington artist's work pulls our eyes upward, toward it... A pencil-on-paper installation by Hsin-Hsi Chen makes more overt, if generic, reference to architecture in her sweeping arc of drawings depicting the roofs of buildings as if viewed from above..."


25. WAMU 88.5 FM, "The American University Museum at the New Katzen Arts Center", by David Furst/Jack Rasmussen, July 22, 2005.

"David Furst: ... there are many pieces up on the walls from local artists."

"Jack Rasmussen: Oh yeah, most of the artists are from the area. For example, this piece installed on this curving wall, by Hsin-Hsi Chen. She's from Taiwan, but she's been here for about twelve years. It's a drawing that sort-of curves around the surface of the wall, and couldn't really exist this way on any other surface. A lot of the artwork was designed to show how we might interact with this architecture, because it's challenging; there are curving, soaring spaces. It's not neutral, it's not a giant shoebox to put things in, it's got a lot of personality. And so the artists have been asked to show me how to work with it, how to make the best use of the kind of spaces it offers. And this is a grerat example of an artist who saw a space and thought her piece would look just great there - if I painted the wall black."

"David Furst: Which you did."

"Jack Rasmussen: Sure. You've hardly scratched the surface here..."

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26. The Washington Times, "'Soft' blending of styles", by Joanna Shaw-Eagle, Arts & Culture, section B, Art, P.B1, B2, July 16, 2005.

"Journey" (left) is a pencil-on-paper rendering by Hsin-Hsi Chen. (P.B1)

"... At the invitation of Katzen Center curator and Director Jack Rasmussen, noted local artists, including Taiwan-born graphite artist Hsin-Hsi Chen... have created site-specific works designed for spaces of their own choosing.

... Miss Chen requested that her convex wall be painted black before she stretched her surreal, M.C. Escher-like architectural shapes across it... They are the most extraordinary works in this often experimental, always fascinating inaugural show."

Hsin-Hsi Chen's "Journey" is seen above after installation. (P.B2)


27. American Weekly, "Katzen ready for Soft Openings", by Sally Acharya, July 11, 2005.

"... Others bring promising new visions, like Hsin-Hsi Chen, whose elegant and precise pencil drawings dance across one of the walls, echoing its curve and creating a three-dimensional illusion that further expands the complexity of the space. "This wall is beautiful," said the Taiwan-born Rockville artist as she stepped back for a better look..."


28. SELECT III 2005 WPA\Corcoran Art Auction, by N. Elizabeth Schlatter,, February 24 - March 5, 2005.

SELECT III 2005 WPA\Corcoran Art Auction", by N. Elizabeth Schlatter,"


"I want to own all the artwork I chose for this year's WPA\C Art Auction... Whimsy supplies content in Chen's disorienting work,... these artists range in experience, location and reputation, but each artwork requires an intimate study of the object to truly experience the piece and the artist's vision..."

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29. Philadelphia Weekly, "Works on Paper" by Roberta Fallon, Editor's Pick, Art, P.73, December 8-14, 2004.

"... Hsin-Hsi Chen's architectural paper constructions, oddly faceted and asteroidal, are charming..."


30. Roberta Fallon and Libby Rosof's Artblog, "Paper world at Peng" by Roberta Fallon and Libby Rosof, P.6-8, November 29, 2004.

Essence Of Void

"... Hsin-Hsi Chen, an artist from Washington, D.C. according to Peng, draws minimalist constructions in pencil on paper that evoke mazes of architecture and call to mind M. C. Escher and Giorgio DiChirico. The drawings portray houses, alleyways and urban space in depopulated, and surreal elongations of space and shadow. Her "Essence of Void", (shown) with its cut-out middle and wiggly edges and trompe l'oeil description of space is playful and a little lonely as well.

Chen is also showing a group of ten small paper constructions from the "Flowing Pneuma" series. The constructions, each of which has an odd, anti-house shape, show a house or part of a house or architectural space. The constructions are all angles and the drawings become angles within angles. Where the construction bends a corner one way, the drawing cuts the other way. Very nice yin/yang conversation between the drawing and the support. The pieces remind me of chunks of rock - asteroids - but with their heavily worked surface texture they evoke skin or fur. They're definite personalities. (shown is detail)"

Flowing Pneuma series - detail


31. Peng Gallery, "Works on Paper" by Jason Peng, November 5 - 27, 2004.

"Hsin-Hsi Chen's two and three-dimensional pencil drawings represent subtly constructed and illusory spaces. The artist's often-labyrinthine works reveal a masterful manipulation of space that has a visceral and disorienting effect on the viewer. Her commitment to pencil and paper stems from a desire to push her chosen medium as far as possible. Chen focuses on changes in scale, format and variations achieved through light and shadow to achieve her intimate compositions..."

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32. The Baltimore Sun, "A fresh view of Asian art" by Laura Cadiz, P.1B, 8B, October 11, 2001.

"Spell-15 More": A partial view of a pencil work by artist Hsin-Hsi Chen.


33. The Washington Post, "Dark, Surreal Interiors Hint at Human Realities" by Nancy Sausser, Art Review, P.T27, September 20, 2001.

A detail from "Limpid" shows Hsin-Hsi Chen's style and distorted aesthetic.

"Using the sparest of materials and the most basic techniques, artist Hsin-Hsi Chen creates drawings that urge the viewer right into the picture plane.

Once there, her deft manipulation of space has a strong visceral effect, creating in the viewer a sense of dislocation. Something is definitely askew in these deceptively simple, elegant drawings of rooms. Walls are curved, ceilings magnified, stairs lead nowhere and perspective is convincingly all wrong.

In this intriguing and refreshingly original exhibit - "Visual Labyrinths", now at Montpelier Cultural Arts Center - Chen shows drawings that offer a new twist on spatial relationships and, by extension, human relationships.

Executed in graphite on thick white paper, Chen's drawings are created by shading alone. Using only the contrast in the gradient from dark gray to white, her works glow with quiet confidence.

There is no expressive line work or tricky technique, just a mastery of the most basic drawing skills. As in all of the very best works of art, the technique recedes into the background, allowing the subject matter to come forward.

Although her drawings are devoid of people, in many ways it is people with which Chen is most concerned. The absence of people is more powerful and poignant than their inclusion would be.

Chen draws architecture, architectural fragments, bits of highway, empty houses and office cubicles, the infrastructure of humankind. She has drawn what remains after we have left the room or what we come upon when we reenter after some unfortunate event has occurred.

As the title "Visual Labyrinths" suggests, the complex spaces can also be seen as relating to the twists and turns of the human psyche, the internal landscape within each of us.

The largest piece in the exhibit is titled "Pneuma", a word meaning soul or spirit. Consisting of four unframed panels of paper that cover an entire wall, it has undeniable presence.

The drawing depicts a tilted room with an unusually large expanse of ceiling and a small window at the bottom framing an odd shape. A huge shadow is cast from the shape upon a disarmingly curved wall. The shape could be a tree, yet its jagged edge suggests something menacing, as does the dominant presence of the shadow.

What is this shape, and what does it mean in symbolic terms? The powerful simplicity of "Pneuma", and the open-ended questions it asks combine to make it the strongest piece in the show.

On the other hand, the piece titled "Core", an egg-shaped drawing of a honeycombed array of rooms leading to a central idealized landscape (the only color in the show) suggests that the artist does better with a less frontal and direct approach and when she allows more mystery.

To Chen's credit, these ominous drawings also have a slightly humorous underbelly that lightens the load. The simplified drawing style, vaguely reminiscent of comic books, reminds us that although a nightmare can be frightening in the darkness, it can also seem slightly amusing in the morning light."


34. The Howard County Center for the Arts, "The Asian Heritage and The Contemporary Expression" by Ock-Kyung Lee, October 8, 2001.

"... Chen's pencil drawings depict the panoramic, bird's eye views of perspective as in the Chinese landscapes: however, the dramatic lighting from multiple sources and the contemporary element of surprise were drawn from the transcendental concept of the space and time in Peking opera."

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35. Montpelier Cultural Arts Center, "Visual Labyrinths: New Drawings by Hsin-Hsi Chen" by John Yeh, July/September 2001.


"... Using primarily pencil and paper, Hsin-Hsi Chen composes soft, flowing drawings of empty, indoor rooms that symbolize the labyrinths and riddles within human spirits. Devoid of furnishings, the rooms in her drawings exist in a dreamlike state where walls curve as if made of rubber. Light from multiple sources pass through open doors and windows in rooms where planes and shadows shift and move. Like Escher, her approach creates pathways for the eye that develop a sense of dislocation within the viewer. To add to this effect, Ms. Chen often folds her drawings into strange shapes which add a three dimensional element that further removes the subject matter from reality. The lack of color, the distortion of perspective, and the empty spaces create in her drawings a sense of pregnant waiting and anticipation..."


36. The Washington Post, "A Tale of Two Houses" by Michael O'Sullivan, Weekend/OnExhibit, P.55-56, February 9, 2001.

"... that theme - wherein glass is not only a window on the past and a mirror of the present but a portal to another world - is picked up again and again. You see it in such works as Hsin-Hsi Chen's delicate pencil-on-paper house constructions, with their tiny mirrored windows..."


37. Through the Looking Glass, "Celebrating the Octagon's Bicentennial", by Vivienne Lassman, January 2001.

In The Gables

"... We invited 13 contemporary artists and architects to apply their varied experiences and talents in contemplating this building... This creates a double illusion and changes our perception of our relationship to the artwork. Providing a counterpoint, Hsin-Hsi Chen's intimate black and white drawings reveal mysteriously lit rooms in complex house forms that function as vernacular objects evoking dolls' houses in their scale but implying monumentality in their deft execution."

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38. Women Of The World, "A Global Collection of Art", foreword by Arlene Raven, P.168, June 2000.

Women Of The World project

"... TAIWAN - Hsin-Hsi Chen's work has been reviewed in major journals and newspapers in the United States. She is on the cover of the winter 1999 issue of Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society..."


39. The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen, "The Year of the Dragon: Art Flowing from East to West" by Deborah McLeod, January 2000.


"... Eastern Chinese ink painting and Chinese scroll painting inspire these surrealistic graphite drawings of interiors, borrowing on the emptiness of Chinese Opera space. The mysterious quality that comes from distorting the perspective and emphasizing atmospheric volume in the scenes suggests a visual relationship to Taoist beliefs and aesthetics. Hsin-Hsi Chen's stylistic approach to her subject demonstrates a sensitivity for the use of meditative space. She adds to it the psychological edge that inclines it toward contemporary Western art, playing with illusion and isolation..."


40. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, "Roaming Through the Still" - Cover of winter issue, 1999.

Roaming Through the Still, Detail II, 1995.

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41. Washington Review: Maryland Art Place 98/99 Critics' Residency Program, "The World Begins in Baltimore" by Barbara Rose, P.4-5, February/March 1999.

"... The artist who stands out most in my mind is Hsin-Hsi Chen, a Taiwanese young woman who specializes in low-tech installations. Granted she does not yet have the means to buy the technology she needs to carry her work further, but her vision of an imaginary physical world that can be penetrated only by the mind is brilliant and fresh.

Her determination to realize that vision is awesome. She spends perhaps two months on each of the eight foot high delicate graphite drawings that inspire the miniature "rooms" she constructs with paper and light inside little home-made light boxes arranged around the viewer in a semi-circle on the floor at an angle that invites the eye to move in to them.

The use of perspective suggests the deep space we need as an antidote to claustrophobia. Each box suggests a means of penetration the hole where the depicted beam of light enters and exits, so we have a feeling of freedom and of flight, of weightlessness and airborne motion. The effect is both magical and moving."


42. Washington Review: Maryland Art Place 98/99 Critics' Residency Program, "Hsin-Hsi Chen" by Blair Ewing, P.8, February/March 1999.


"HSIN-HSI CHEN Ms. Chen's work - 15 light boxes with pencil drawings backlit on the inside and her large pencil-on-paper panels - draws the viewer in with its remarkable display of originality and virtuosity. Each the product of two months labor with only pencil (and eraser), her large panels shimmer like the surface of a lake at night.

It is almost as if she embroidered the paper with her pencil point to achieve the exquisite grey shadows in the corners of her rooms. With their textured perfection, these panels bring to mind the canvases of the Argentine master Julio LeParc, and they evoke the same uplifted sense of wonder and mystery.

Both the process of creation and the picture's content quicken the imagination of the viewer: How was this done? What is being said? The arc of light boxes tells a story of shifting perspectives - anonymous rooms and doorways and halls and shadows and light all seen from quickly rotating perspectives.

Light pours through a doorway or a window, and seems to round off the hard angles formed by edges and corners. The subtle contrasts she achieves between shadow and light hypnotize the viewer with their depth. The way she radically alters the viewer's perception produces a curious sensation - the body in space, detached, free-floating, released from such quotidian concerns as gravity, now able to consider reality from new angles.

One would never guess that her favorite painter is Lautrec - a more likely candidate would seem to be Escher or perhaps the graphic novelist Frank Miller. Chen's preference for light boxes over conventional framing seems to operate on two levels: first, as an ironic commentary on the hot box of television, and also as an indication of her desire to create art that is three-dimensional. She has experimented, with limited success, with turning her smaller drawings into wall-hangings. In this instance, despite the fascination of these miniatures, in the future, larger works along these lines will intensify the visual impact.

Chen's focus is already quite sharp. Her method and visual vocabulary aim at nothing less than the forceful manipulation of one's perception, and she succeeds."


43. Harmony Hall Regional Center/Arts, "The 10th Annual Drawing and Redefining Drawing: Selections and Invitations", by Valerie Watson, December 1998 - January 1999.

"... An unusual wall installation by Hsin-Hsi Chen consists of sixteen boxes, each containinng a tiny three-dimensional pencil drawing..."

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44. Articulate, "ArtSites 98: High Definition" by Suzanne S. Summers, Visual Arts, Issue 29, October 1998.

Circle - detail

"... In material: the vulnerable, crushable little paper rooms of Hsin-Hsi Chen... in presentation: Chen forces us to peer into light boxes at her micro-worlds...

... Another transformer of images, artist Hsin-Hsi Chen reduces architectural space into folded paper forms resembling pint size milk cartons. In 7 of 101, they are precariously pinned to the wall, balloon-like interiors blowing in the wind. In an installation called Circle the miniature rooms are inverted inside light boxes; one can peer into a claustrophobic world where plays of shadow and light resemble corners, windows and doors. As Chen manipulates images of interiors space..."


45. The Baltimore Sun, "Formidable Skill" by John Dorsey, Today, D2, Fine Arts, September 8, 1998.

"The drawings of Hsin-Hsi Chen at Grimaldis reveal an artist of formidable skill. A native of Taiwan and recent graduate of the University of Maryland, she here shows a series of pencils with identical subject matters: light entering an empty room through doorways and windows.

She shows a remarkable ability to create light and to explore the spectrum and nuances of light and shadow, from the blinding white of an open window to the deep gray of a dark corner. And she's equally comfortable through a wide range of scales and formats here, from a single sheet, to drawings on three-dimensional surfaces resembling irregular boxes, to a huge four-part work 8 feet tall and 16 feet long..."


46. Washington Review, Special ArtSites 98' Edition, "High Definition" by Kristen Hileman, Vol.XXIV, No.1, P.8-9, June/July 1998.

"... Physical mystery and ambiguity are shaped in Hsin-Hsi Chen's tiny three-dimensional drawings. Chen's careful gradations of gray, her bottomless darks, and veiled lights, are shaded either on the interior or exterior of folded paper boxes. The artist typically constructs all but one side of each box, leaving incomplete the side attached to the gallery wall or facing the viewer. In her installation Circle, Chen's drawings parallel this structure: empty three-cornered rooms are drawn within open-ended glowing boxes. The artist has given space a shadowy physical definition that makes it impossible to render fully the fourth wall and final corners. Viewers are left intimately aware of the mystery of what is left undefined - the drama of the incompletely contained void.

... Hsin-Hsi Chen manipulates space and materials in order that viewers experience a physical reality. Ultimately, the definition that artists bring to ideas involves aesthetic form and shape. It is the viewer's response which completes an artist's formal definition with personal meaning."

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47. Sun Weekly, "'ArtSites' Offers Enjoyable Show at AAC" by Christina Taylor, P.11, June 18, 1998.

"... Hsin-Hsi Chen had definite goals to her artwork... Chen studies spatial perceptions in her work. In "Circle", Chen views a room from different angles. "This piece is about fate," she said..."


48. Arlington Arts Center, "Artsites 98 At The ACC: High Definition" edited by Kristen Hileman, May - August 1998.

"... Hsin-Hsi Chen shapes space in mysterious ways with her three-dimensional drawings..."


49. The New York Times, "Spotlighting Two Shows: A Medley, and Drawings" by Vivien Raynor, Art, P.26, October 19, 1997.

"... At the other extreme is the eccentric of the show, Hsin-Hsi Chen, who likens life to an endless film but works in three dimensions; that is, she makes immaculate pencil drawings of upholstered furniture, then folds them so that they protrude from the wall like solid objects..."

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50. Art & Antiques, "Capital Collecting" by Katie Ziglar, The Traveling Collector, P.37-41, May 1997.

"... an exquisite pencil drawing of an imaginary place with tantalizing architectural details by young Chinese-American artist Hsin-Hsi Chen..."


51. Articulate, "Paula Crawford and Hsin-Hsi Chen" by Julie Nelson, Visual Arts, Issue 7, Vol.2, October 1996.

Limpid series - detail

"... the diminutive drawings of Hsin-Hsi Chen involve numerous variations on a single theme. Chen invents sparse, unpeopled interior spaces where bright shafts of light cut through the dim and tree shadows creep across floors and walls. In her separate way, has established self-imposed parameters within which to explore a chosen focus.

... Chen's drawings are poetry. With an economy of vocabulary and a limited number of syllables, Chen crafts visual haiku using only graphite and paper. The drawings have the tonal richness of an aquatint, achieving a velvety atmospheric quality. The artist takes as her subject a room. Empty of its normal contents (furniture and people), it is repeated over and over: at first glance the same, yet upon closer inspection different in each case. A meditation on identity, this room represents the self as Freud's dream symbolism equates house with self. The room itself is almost primitive in its simplicity. It appears constructed from clay or mud, with smooth, blocky walls whose joints slant idiosyncratically, not ever at right angles with floor or ceiling. Inside this space, I feel I am let in on a secret - as if I have been led into the cool, sheltering interior of one of Georgia O'Keeffe's small pueblo dwelling paintings. Shafts of light stream in through apertures (door/window) and contain shadows of objects outside the room, playing across surfaces as if across the wall of Plato's cave.

In Roaming through the Still, one of Chen's larger drawings, five rooms are depicted running horizontally across a single sheet of paper as if viewed through a fisheye lens. The progression of rooms reads from left to right, as a text, and is distinctly narrative despite the absence of human "actors". The eye wends its way through this series of rooms, mentally entering and exiting doors and windows to reach the final door. Each room is a unique configuration of elements which shift to new positions in each successive film still: doors, windows, light, shadow. The shadows of trees, clouds and a chair appear and disappear, symbols of growth, floatingness, rest. The walls flex in and out over the course of the series - concave/convex - as if breathing. Bright sunshine streams in through shutterless windows and doorless portals. The mood is spacious, breezy, but contemplative, as if a hermit dwells here.

Similarly, Chen's unusual series of small three-dimensional box drawings narrates a progression from room to room. Entitled Limpid (I-V), these grouped boxes are small, averaging about 3" to 11". They are mounted side by side on the wall, low enough to let the viewer peek around and see the five exposed faces of each box. In comparison to Crawford's monumental paintings in the front rooms, these are intimate pieces. Chen first constructs the boxes from paper and then draws images on each of the sides, carefully planning the two and three-dimensional aspects of the composition to work together. The images are sometimes multiple perspectives on the same room and sometimes multiple rooms where the floor of one room blends seamlessly into the ceiling of another.

These rooms are animated. Not in the Disney sense, but as derived from the Latin anima, or "soul". Chen's Eastern origins are evident in her conception of space as "presence" and not as "absence". As Leonard Koren puts it in his discussion of the Japanese aesthetic wabi-sabi, "And nothingness itself - instead of being empty space, as in the West - is alive with possibility." The Eastern concept of space is "pregnant with potential" and in this sense, "full". It is not understood as void or negation. These rooms are a vessel containing the self, which is by nature formless, fluid, always shifting, always becoming. Shadows (influences) may be cast into the self by forms external to it, but the self remains essentially a space (unfixed) and not a form."


52. The Washington Post, "Around Town, Sweeping Beauty" by Ferdinand Protzman, Style, C2, September 14, 1996.

"East meets West in Hsin-Hsi Chen's drawing "Reflection".

... A different and equally striking aesthetic vision can be found in the gallery's back room, where a group of drawings by Hsin-Hsi Chen are being shown. It is the first gallery show for the 27-year-old artist and ranks as an auspicious debut. Working only with graphite and paper, Chen has created drawings that combine stylistic elements of Western artistic tradition with techniques and traditions of China. She is a native of Taiwan and in May received a master's in fine arts from the University of Maryland.

To capture the flowing feeling of Chinese scroll painting in her drawings, Chen folded paper into a small cube, stuffed it with tissue and held it in her hand; on the sides of the cube she drew interior scenes of barren rooms with doors and windows through which shadows of trees or shapes fall. Then she sprayed the works with fixative so that they can be handled without smudging.

"I wanted to create a three-dimensional drawing that could be viewed from different angles," she said. "To me, all of life is like a film that goes on and on, and I wanted to capture that feeling. That is also why I didn't put any of my works in a frame. A frame would separate the viewer from the work, and I wanted people to really go inside the drawings."

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53. Troyer Fitzpatrick Lassman Gallery, "HSIN-HSI CHEN Drawing" by Vivienne Lassman, August 27, 1996.

"... Hsin-Hsi Chen reflects an innovative imagination both in the dimensional aspect of her graphite boxes and the monumental scale of her drawings. Chen's drawings are both whimsical and elusive in their mysterious environment. Her drawings of interiors possess a surreal quality, which contributes to the contemplative quality of her work and its intensity."


54. Scene Magazine, "Brilliant Flashes" by John DeVault, Issue 53, Vol.2, P.26, September 29 - October 5, 1995.

Spell-15 More

"... Hsin-Hsi Chen's beautiful pencil drawings of a repeated, subtly changing empty room were a little hard to appreciate with a flashlight (I went back in the daylight hours for a second look)..."


55. College Park Magazine, "Finding Her Path" by Dianne Burch, Impressions, Vol.7, No.1, P.64, Fall, 1995.

Roam In The Roll - II

"This pencil on paper drawing (1994) is one in a series, which Hsin-Hsi Chen describes as a visual diary of her life. Of the high-back chair, a frequently seen image in her artwork, Chen says, "That's me."

Hsin-Hsi Chen's drawings integrate Eastern and Western symbolic form and styles..."


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