A garden oasis and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River

Maybe Like This: An Interview with Artist Julian Chams

2015 Van Lier Artist Fellow Julian Chams will discuss his creative process and the concepts behind his solo project at a Meet-the-Artist on Saturday, October 24 at 1:30PM in Glyndor Gallery. Lush assemblages of various documented flora and fauna from the artist’s travels transform the Sunroom into an otherworldly, greenhouse space. In advance of the artist’s talk, Danni Shen, Wave  Hill’s Curatorial Fellow in Visual Arts, interviewed Chams to get a further glimpse into the practice and process behind his photo-collaged, soft-sculpture and ready-made installations. Installation-shot

Danni Shen: Can you talk about the title of this exhibition, Maybe Like This?

Julian Chams: The title presents the work in the exhibition as a proposal. It refers to how I am deconstructing previous structures and recombining them in a new way, reactivating forgotten, lost, and disregarded parts by placing them in a new context, a system that is my own.

DS: Is there a relationship between the various imagery—from Wave Hill’s grounds, from upstate New York, Missouri, Colombia, France and the United Kingdom? What drew you to these locations? 

JC: The only link between these places is that I ended up spending time in them for one reason or another. I was born in Colombia, studied in Missouri and the UK, visited family in France and live in New York. So it all happened spontaneously. The oldest photos are from about seven years ago, which is long enough for an unintentional build-up of images. I then felt the need to put them together to create a picture of my mental landscape, a combination of all these different places that I visited and now live in me, all mingled together.Obstacles

DS: Why do you choose to print your photographs on fabric? 

JC: On a practical level, fabric is more malleable and allows the photos to exist in relation to us, not solely as a window into another place. I want to make objects that occupy space as much as they themselves depict a space; it’s a fascinating contradiction. I am also interested in the comforting and oneiric connotations of soft, plush objects. These days, we are presented with an overwhelming amount of contradicting information that can be hard to reconcile. My work is about dealing with that sense of incongruity. I am sorting large amounts of material and data to create new structures that make sense. Even if parts of these self-contained systems break their own logic, they also present a certain comfort and an alternate space or reality.

DS: How did you decide to work with/respond to the Wave Hill site spatially?

JC: When I was spending time in the Sunroom, I kept thinking the windows were overpowering. They are so large and beautiful and the view behind them can sometimes be exuberant and awe-inspiring. I wanted to disrupt that sensation and do something that blocked and incorporated the view. I made several collages from remote and past places, and had them overlap and sometimes merge with the actual space behind them—the here and now.

The snow photos on the wall and in the floor pieces were all taken at Wave Hill at a time that isn’t necessarily seen as the most appealing for a visit. I wanted to bring back and highlight that part of the year, which has its own beauty, as a reminder and a counterbalance when visitors are enjoying all the greenery and flowers of the warmer months.

Lastly, for the large collage on the wall I wanted to combine imagery of the Tropical House at Wave Hill, an artificial environment, with imagery from Colombia, a place with an actual tropical climate.Installation-detail-Hagen

DS: What are your inspirations? 

JC: I get excited when I find situations, whether in the natural world or in an urban environment, that display a human sensibility, that reveal a different kind of intelligence or intention, or are simply peculiar or humorous. I’m interested in re-contextualizing those moments so that they acquire new meanings by their groupings.

DS: Where do you see your practice heading? 

JC: I’m going to start making fabric collages that are more intricate and three-dimensional, merging natural, inorganic and bodily imagery. I also want to go back to making large-scale, immersive installations and work more with time-based media.Installation-detail-2

Pictured above, from the top:
Artist Julian Chams, left, installing in the Sunroom. Credit Wave Hill.
Obstacles, 2015, 50” X 35”. Archival inkjet print. Image courtesy of the artist.
Installation detail of Maybe Like This. Photo credit Stefan Hagen.
Installation detail of Maybe Like This.  Photo credit Wave Hill.

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