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Meet the Artist: Hammer Chen (Printmaking)

One of the talented emerging Chinese artists we’ll be exhibiting at November’s Asian Art in London show is Hammer Chen, whose creative life bounces between Shanghai and London. Hammer is a printmaker, an artist and illustrator whose work, as she puts it, stems from an interest in using marks and textures to express sensations and emotions. Since 2013, she has had several exhibitions in London and, in 2016, graduated with an MA in Illustration from Camberwell College of Arts. She won the Gwen May Award from the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers (RE) in 2016 as well and was selected to be a member artist of the RE in the same year.

From 2016, Hammer began to run a printmaking art studio called Wait and Roll in Shanghai in an effort to increase access to printmaking in China. Services of her studio include printmaking workshops, printmaking publication, print service, open space and an artist residency. The photos throughout this post were all taken at Wait and Roll.

Hammer’s series of prints that we’ll have on display in the ArtChina booth at Asian Art in London is from her degree project.They’re much darker than the work in the images here, and run deep into the psychology of being. They revolve around the topic of Maladaptive Daydreaming, which she defines in our interview below. Read on to find out more.

ARTCHINA UK: Tell us about the work you made for your MA project.
HAMMER CHEN: My subject is Maladaptive Daydreaming. “Maladaptive daydreaming is a psychological concept to describe an extensive fantasy activity that replaces human interaction and interferes with academic, interpersonal, or vocational functioning.” So the series of works is exploring fantasy, struggle, disconnect between mind, body and self.

ARTCHINA UK: What inspired you to make your final piece?
HAMMER CHEN: The main reason that I chose the subject is that I realised I’ve developed Maladaptive Daydreaming in the last two years and therefore felt the need to explore this in my work. Also, I realised lots of people are suffering from this but they don’t want to share the bad experience of daydreaming because they are afraid of incomprehension. I do feel it’s necessary to let people know that this problem exists and we should pay attention to it.

ARTCHINA UK: How did you start this project? If you’d like you can make it as a step by step explanation.

HAMMER CHEN: I recalled a lot my previous experience to begin the sketches. It was hard in the beginning, but after I started to open myself up and express my real feelings, it became a process of self-curing. I made many sketches before I began etching. Even while I was in the etching stage, I still kept doing sketches. I picked the ideas which are most expressive then made them into etching pieces.

ARTCHINA UK: What technique did you choose to make your final piece and why?
HAMMER CHEN: I chose to do etching for the final project. Before I started printmaking, my works went through several different stages. They pretty much all stemmed from my interest in making marks and textures.The reason I am so keen on working with textures is that they can give an image a strong atmosphere, provide a different quality and build space for sensations and for the imagination to run wild. When I got into the printmaking studio, I realised that this is an ideal way to produce works with great quality which, at same time, can still be narrative.

ARTCHINA UK: Tell us about any difficulties or challenges you found while making your final piece.
HAMMER CHEN: The challenge might be the uncertainty of the final results and the long process. Sometimes you won’t know what is going to happen on your plate until the last minutes before you see the prints. But actually, I really enjoyed the waiting and appreciated all the failures and surprises that happened in my works throughout the process.

To see Hammer’s work in person, visit the ArtChina booth at the upcoming Asian Art in London exhibition or the Woolwich Contemporary Art Fair, both in November 2018, where we will have her prints on display and for sale.