Arthur Huang, From ‘Daily Drawings’ (2016)

Nick West: For some, drawing is simply a means of getting things down on paper, for others, it’s a way to explore a subject in its own right. How do you think of drawing? 
Arthur Huang: Drawing is a medium of its own. Drawing is not limited to making marks on paper, but rather it is a process in which thoughts, ideas, and expressions are put almost immediately to a substrate. It is about capturing the moment in which something is born and making it tangible in some form.
Drawing was also integral to your Memory Walks Project. How would you describe this project?
In 2012, I started the Memory Walks Project as a way to map my everyday walks. This body of work came about after doing background reading about place cells for my work as a research associate in a neuroscience lab. Place cells are specialized neurons in the hippocampus that are part of a network responsible for spatial memory in animals and humans. They act as a GPS system telling us whether we have been in a particular place before or if it is a new place.
The concept of the place cells was the starting point for thinking about every day routines. I started making these drawings on paper as a way to access the memory rather than the act.

Arthur Huang, A detail from ‘Memory Walks’ (2015). Each eggshell represents one day of walks.


Using eggshells is a deliberate choice of material. Why eggshells?
In drawing the walks, I often hit the edge of the paper and had to resume on the opposite side. Also, since I had a bird’s eye view of the drawing process and that led me to make adjustments to the length and direction of the drawn line. Both of these observations made the connection between my memory and the drawn line weaker, so I started looking at spherical forms.
The surface of the eggshell is a perfect match for permanent markers. While drawing, where I am simultaneously rotating the eggshell as I am remembering the walks, allows a more direct connection between my memory and the drawn line. As I can only see a small portion of the surface at a time, I am not making adjustments based on what I see but what I remember.
Also, the fragility of the eggshell also speaks to the pliability of memory. Memory is not fixed; each time we recall something, the memory becomes susceptible to being altered and then stored in that altered form. The notion that an eggshell could easily break and would need to be drawn speaks to that memory’s dynamic state.

Arthur Huang, From ‘Daily Drawings’ (2016)


More recently, you’ve been moving away from the Memory Walks but drawing is still very much a critical part of your practice. Could you describe your Daily Drawings Project?
The Daily Drawings Project came out of my desire to maintain a daily drawing practice for myself.  Since completing graduate school in 2001, I have wanted to make drawings on a daily basis.  Unfortunately, most attempts to maintain the practice usually lasted just a few weeks. Then in the spring of 2015, an artist whose work I admired, Lisa Espenmiller, was posting drawings with the hashtag #100daysinmysketchbookproject. The idea behind this hashtag was to make drawings everyday for 100 days and post at least one of the drawings from each day on Instagram.
So, I started making drawings in some notebooks I had lying around the studio. The compactness of the notebooks allowed me to make the drawings during my train commute to work and other places. The drawings are in the moment, that is to say, I have no preconception of what I want to or am going to draw. The first mark I make dictates the next one, and so on and so on.
After 100 days of doing this and finding my commuting time to be an ideal space of time, I have incorporated this practice into my everyday life – making drawings during commutes and other idle times.

Arthur Huang, From ‘Daily Drawings’ (2016)

How do your Daily Drawings differ from your Memory Walks?
As it turns out, the Daily Drawings have become an interesting counterpoint to my Memory Walks. The Memory Walks are about trying to access memories of my everyday walks – a direct tapping into my memory. The Daily Drawings are almost the opposite or, at the very least, a different kind of memory access. My initial idea about the Daily Drawings was that it was accessing unconscious memories, but the more I think about it, the Daily Drawings are a manifestation of my everyday experiences that indicate both conscious and unconscious memory.
What relationship does your work have to order and to archiving?
Archiving has been the basis of my studio practice since graduate school. The archives that I keep are the sources from where I derive my work. The materials in my archives have evolved over the years, but the archiving practice is a mainstay in my process.
Structure has also been and continues to be important in my studio practice. In the years after graduate school, I would strictly adhere to structural rules that I would create for myself such as a fixed time period, the grid, ascending/descending order, etc. In the last few years, I have been trying to break free from following my rules so closely.
One example would be my installation of 2016 Memory Walks Forever at Jill d’Art Gallery. Previous iterations of the Memory Walks have always been shaped and organized by time (morning to evening, etc.) For this particular installation, I took one year’s worth of Memory Walk Drawings and arranged them intuitively by color and line density. Normally I would map the pattern on each eggshell, but I thought of this as an opportunity to move towards a more subjective approach.

Arthur Huang, From ‘Memory Walks – Is This The Way I Went?’ (2016) Installation at Hagiso Gallery, Tokyo.

In the past you have installed works in various different forms; suspended, spiralling, on mirrored surfaces and more. How do you see the presentation process in your work’s production? 
Studio space has always been at a premium for me. Outside of residencies, all the work I make has been at a desk in my apartment. As a result of this, I have always worked modularly, making individual pieces which are generally small in size and easy to store. Put together as a whole, these multiple parts allow me to create works that exceed my limited workspace many times over.
I often use exhibition opportunities as a way to experiment with different forms that I would otherwise not be able to try in the studio. With each new form, I also gain useful information about what works and does work with that particular form. So even beyond the finished work, I also use the exhibition opportunities to open the way for future projects.

Arthur Huang, ‘Daily Drawings Network’ (2017) Installation preparations for the Nakanojo Biennale 2017 at Sawatari Gallery.

Speaking of which, you are currently working towards an installation for Nakanojo Biennale 2017 in September. How have you approached making a work for this context?
When I received word that I would be included in the Nakanojo Biennale 2017, I made sure that I would have a relatively open schedule in the months leading up to the festival. I wanted to spend a good amount of time up in my exhibition space in Nakanojo so that I could create a work could incorporate my current studio practice with the site-specificity of the actual space itself.
Since the middle of May, I have been going up to Nakanojo every two weeks and spending four days at a time working in Sawatari Gallery. These brief, but intense residency periods allow me to focus on the project as well as living in the environment where the exhibition will take place. After three visits, I have been able to refine and evolve the idea for my project to the point where I am ready to begin production of the pieces. I have enjoyed having a period of time to let ideas ebb and flow, materialize and dissolve without having the pressure of a deadline in clear sight. It has offered me the chance to discover ideas that would not otherwise have come to light.
My installation is titled “Daily Drawings Network”. For this installation, I am transforming all my Daily Drawings from January 2017 through June 2017 into cell-like forms which will be installed on the floor of the Sawatari Gallery. The idea for this installation is to begin exploring relationships in my Daily Drawings. I am hoping that the studio work and installing this work will help me to make discoveries about my drawing practice as it relations to my daily life. I am sorting the drawings by color, motif, month, location, day of the week, and background music/sound to name just a few variables. For viewers of the Daily Drawings Network, it will be an opportunity for them to immerse themselves in my daily practice of drawing and make their own interpretations of what these drawings are and their relationships to each other.
Artist’s website: arthurjhuang.com

Arthur Huang, ‘Daily Drawings Network’ (2017) Installation preparations for the Nakanojo Biennale 2017 at Sawatari Gallery.

Nakanojo Biennale 2017: nakanojo-biennale.com