Julie Hsieh is a Taiwanese-American artist. Throughout her life, she immersed herself in different forms of art and creativity, from the art of vocal performance, to the art of medicine, and finally to visual arts.
Her vocal performance spanned two decades with performances across Taiwan, the United States, and on television. Her singing is emotive and powerful, with listeners positively affected by her rich mezzo-soprano voice. She likens visual art to her performances as they are both mediums through which she expresses herself to others, providing a window to her inspirations, feelings, and the culmination of her diverse experiences.
Although Julie's first career was in medicine as a family physician—receiving a Bachelor of Arts from Stanford University and a medical doctorate from Baylor College of Medicine—creative arts has always played a significant role in her identity. After residing in the United States for 30 years, she moved back to her hometown of Taipei, Taiwan in 2014 to pursue creative arts full-time.
Julie’s artwork is abstract, inspired by her diverse backgrounds in music and medicine, as well as her surroundings. She seeks freedom while creating, engaging in a dialogue with her medium, a mutual feed back loop until she finds its final form. She uses mediums such as acrylic, oil, pastels, charcoal, watercolor and ink. For Julie, art is an escape from the routine, sameness, and predictability.
Julie feels that “Art is an expression of our humanity with unlimited potential to connect people from different backgrounds and nationalities. Art transcends boundaries and has the powerful capacity to heal, empathize, connect and inspire. The heavens is truly the limit and I feel fortunate to ride on the wings of art’s journey.”
Julie Hsieh Constructs a New Grammar for Ink
“Everything flocked to the rapids and flocked to the shackles of desire.”
-Marguerite Duras, The Lover
For a person who has lived in the United States for three decades since childhood, the lines of the ink brush may appear pedestrian and with unclear passion. But even after being fully immersed in Western thought, Chinese ink still runs in Julie Hsieh’s veins, and it provides her with a window into the aesthetics of the East.
The art of ink is forced to respond to the contemporary and the traditional. It has been transformed through cross-cultural thought—it is no longer solely dominated by the ideas of the past but has opened to embrace its own style. Ink has become a device of conceptual expression—both extending the traditional ink-and-wash awareness and bringing about essential changes to the medium. The modern abstract ink style developed in the 1950s and 1960s brought about by many new ideas and thinking due to the evolution of those times. There was revolutions in the allegory of politics, reflection of human values, concerns about societal and environmental issues, and the simple exploration of artists of their own intrinsic artistic value. Julie Hsieh is an extension of these times and the continuing movement within the abstract ink movement.
After the modern ink abstract expression universe
If we only look at time, Julie Hsieh has been creating art for the last three to five years. Her process has no teacher. at first, she simply picked up the brush and filled the canvas with a trickle of color; but her intrinsic creative passion was quickly dissatisfied with this. To the conveyance of her mind through the brush she added the direct delivery of her message with her body. In her series entitled “Abstract Feeling,” we can see the natural appearance of her emotions after applying the pigment with her hand; or in “Dredging Love,” which interacts with the large brush by wielding a scraper that cannot be fully controlled. Her heart presents a vision that is both realistic and ambiguous, in accordance with her creative techniques, her violence is still romantic, meaning that she operates at the real level of survival.
Julie Hsieh’s aesthetics is not like that of Eastern students. She was not “introduced to Western thoughts” and “the selected classics” to create her art but her daily life integrated these western ideas into her being. In the face of relative first-hand contact with these ideals, she attempts to satisfy her pursuit of consciousness. Her artistic value is self-love. Therefore, after experiencing abstract painting, she transferred this passion to the creation of ink on paper. Facing the pen and ink that only uses black and white, she believed that the "refining" characteristics of this medium could magnify and strengthen her every creative moment. The smallest of her choices in this medium are impactful and important in conveying her emotions.
The "Ink Collection" series, as a label for people to recognize Julie Hsieh’s ink artwork, have recently achieved good publicity at the “Ink Now” art fair. She pulled a handmade mop on rice paper in a flowing writing action, not only with her own simultaneously discrete feelings and breathing, but also with reconstructed discrete memories of her diaspora in line with her cultural translation and cross-cultural learnings to achieve a type of “flexible energy.” When we examine the way Julie Hsieh creates her art, we see that her ink reflects the personal heartfelt voice in a certain cultural environment. Every time her heart and mind are all agglutinating the inheritance and criticism of history, she finds a new understanding of life and the embrace of the future. What's more, Julie Hsieh’s purpose is to find a way to connect the world by boldly urging one another to talk t each other—beyond the system of connotation and harmony—to see more possibilities by pointing out the exaggeration of chaos and expand our understanding of the universe.
Reviewing the nature of ink
Standing in this vein, looking back at Julie Hsieh’s work, it is undoubtably that in the definition of “tradition” and “other” reflected in the cultivation of her own culture, she is seeking a way out, and even an (inclusive) dialogue as feedback for her contemporary art by moving from the old-style vocabulary to a new grammar in an attempt to describe the world anew. In her series of “Ink Collection,” Julie Hsieh adheres to the principle of “can't look back, can only continue,” and is compatible with the figurative ink and the abstract deconstructive temperament of this traditional style. Trajectory is the artist's breath after breath, and appeals to the recourse of the moment, emphasizing the present: if you look at the results, you will see the eternal. Under its black and white structure, her ink fully demonstrates her power to highlight the correctness of existence. But like the yin and yang of Tai Chi, this black and white is clearly different: the viewer moves past the view of stars to an alternative interpretation of black and white—that black ink is like a strong white beam, breaking through the dark sky.
In contrast, Gossamer displays Julie Hsieh’s custom of constant aesthetics. Her early abstract pieces accumulated a delicate perspective of the details of her work: a mottled corner, a moving window with rain falling on transparent glass, a dancing girl with a spinning skirt, and an old windswept tree . . . that only slightly changed the viewing path the distance from the object. The figurative scenery that is looming is not only in the abstract ink of Julie Hsieh, but also in the universal landscape that she interprets. Gossamer, as the name suggests, focuses not on the thick lines of ink, but on the strands surrounding the air: the drips of ink and flinging specks. In this way, the heavy black ink that dominates the paper hesitates for the unclear whites to show the Western view wrapped in an Eastern skin. Otherwise it is a momentary change that overlaps a viewer’s traditional understanding that is full of unspeakable mystery and spiritual sustenance that leads to an implicit allure. What is clearly visible is her deep concern and blessing for all things. Through this natural world recreated by Julie Hsieh, she allows the viewer to gain comfort and strength.
The language of the painting conveys Julie Hsieh’s inexhaustible creative desire and curiosity about the world. It has the effect of changing everything in a moment, and yet nothing has changed. Even if the viewer forgets the looks and names of all things in the world, she will remember the heartbeat of this art for a lifetime.
The great swirl of ink: Julie Hsieh creating with a sense of rhythm
Kejun Xia, Associate Professor, Renmin University of China
How big is the potential of modern ink? Classic ink started from a rich tradition of individual expressions of calligraphy and scenic representation, and in modern times moved to a larger, individualized expression. But how did that happen? The modern art of ink incorporates the elements of performance and action. Stylized after the drip-action paintings of Jackson Pollock, this style provides ink with opportunities to show the energy aesthetics of physical performance. Jackson Pollock's drip paintings, it should be noted, also show the influence of the traditions of Chinese ink splash techniques.
In modern art, many Chinese and western artists started to use the performance and action of Chinese ink, such as the art of the Experimental Ink and Wash movement that prevailed in Mainland China in the 1990s. Also, in places like Taiwan and France, artists used these techniques in combination with other existing mediums and materials.
When we view the ink paintings of Julie Hsieh over the last two years, we see a female artist who did not study art but studied music since childhood. And the way she enters the art world of ink is still so direct and charming. A simple musicality is injected into the breath of her ink works, which makes ink, this kind of simple material, accompany a musical rhythm that has never been seen before. She exhibits a rare calligraphic style of “yùn huà”: rhythm.
Julie Hsieh’s performance is quite moving. She uses a soft and handmade brush like a mop to directly drag the ink on large rice paper. In fact, her brush reminds me of her soft feminine hair. We can infer that Julie Hsieh is perceptive about women themselves, and her creation method is implicitly compatible with the principle of Chinese calligraphy of “bǐ ruǎn zé qíguài shēng yān”: the various forms of paintings can be drawn by a soft and flexible brush. The contemporary calligraphy artists always have their own particular tools. Inoue Yuichi, a famous Japanese calligraphy artist, is one such case. The tool should correspond with the artist’s hand and her feelings and breath.
Secondly, the action of her sliding brush on the surface of paper is free and has the feel of creation itself. She applies her vortex brushstrokes on the rice paper, like the traces of free walking and gliding. Explosive, like a whirlwind and a dazzling dance, it appears as a momentary projection of the huge cyclone in the universe as captured by the artist. This is also a dance style of painting. Sometimes, Julie Hsieh draws directly with her fingers to produce subtle marks. This is a continuation of the ancient finger-painting technique and the direct participation of her individual actions.
Thirdly, these two types of traces contrast to form the defining linguistic features of Julie Hsieh’s paintings. On the one hand, she forms fine gossamers lines by the swift movement of her brush across the paper. What Julie Hsieh consciously pursues are thin lines that can breathe, like a woman’s hair. It is like the natural reverberation of the Chinese ancient technique of “yóu sīxiàn”: the carving of curves as thin as gossamers on jade. It is conveyed, however, by action painting rather than calligraphy. These thin lines seem to be still breathing and yelling as they run in on their own swirls and reverberation. They echo to each other like the soul’s calling as if the viewer was pulled into the painting to feel its mood and meaning. On the other hand, there is the gravity of the thick ink, which focuses on its explosive power and force. This type of stroke seems to make the picture sound, as if you can hear the ink explosions. The remaining sputtered ink dots are like the seeds left in the original explosion of the universe, which are the particles of life that continue to germinate the universe.
The explosive point of gravity and the swirling feelings of the filament in her artworks are like the contrast between pureness and musical tension. Between lightness and gravity, fragment and heaviness, concentration and scatter, her art seems to echo with the endless power and sound waves from the initial explosion. This is the swirling of the rhythm and the perfect connection between both senses of vision and hearing.
In Julie Hsieh’s artworks, this contrast is extremely harmonious, which reflects her unique control and sense of rhythm. We can see this characteristic clearly in her previous abstract works of oil paintings, which are like the melody of music. Only a person who has had music drilled into them for decades can create this instantaneous explosive force to form artworks with such musical rhythm.
The ink paintings of Julie Hsieh are the paintings of life’s dance, rich black-and-white blooms as well as the vivid and majestic contemporary expression of black-and-white art. This painting style emphasizes the painter’s movement in the process of creating. It expresses the artist’s emotions and spirit. It is also a great energy-transforming painting. It is through this that her paintings acquire a graceful and majestic life.