Press > Q&A: Tianzhuo Chen - Wawadoll is Xmas Data

Q&A: Tianzhuo Chen - Wawadoll is Xmas Data

A huge smiley inflatable doll has sprung up at K11 Art Mall in TST. It’s the work of contemporary artist Tianzhuo Chen, who opens his first solo show in Hong Kong this month, Wawadoll is Xmas Data. He tells Time Out about his influences, the interconnectedness of the art world and ‘that’ doll... 

Tianzhuo, what inspired you to create the Wawadoll character from outer space?

I was trying to create a figure that relates to consumer culture. I pulled a story from outer space from my usual work. I put the two things together – consumer culture and alien-like symbols – and combined them with the Christmas theme. I believe Christmas has nothing to do with religion. It’s more about consumerism and shopping.

Have you worked with curator Robin Peckham before?
This is the second time we’ve collaborated. It was a really good chance to break away from the gallery and to bring my work into the public space. I’ve never done any large-scale public installations before. I make the art and, as the curator, he created the presentation of the show, rather than having separate pieces of work hanging from the ceiling.

You seem to play a lot with outer space and aliens in your work. What were your otherworldly influences and how did they affect you?
I’m normally influenced by weird stuff and subculture. A lot of my work features drag queens and their performances, and also street art and steampunk. I try to bring these different references of influence together to create a fictional religion that relates to fetish ideas, and to the idea of immortality and the fragility of our lives.

You were born in Beijing but studied in London. How have these places affected your own sense of place and belonging, as well as your work?
In the subculture part of my work, most of the influence comes from London. But because I’m Buddhist, I keep influences from Asian traditions and my time in Beijing. I don’t think the territory
is so important for artists today. You can take influence from different places – art is travelling around different cities. All information and influence is pretty open for artists’ interpretations. Amanda Sheppard