Navigating the Tides of Creativity: An Intimate Conversation with Thomas C. Chung

Navigating the Tides of Creativity: An Intimate Conversation with Thomas C. Chung

In the bustling world of contemporary digital art, Thomas C. Chung stands as a beacon of innovation and emotion, weaving visual narratives that resonate deeply with audiences. His latest collection, "As Far As I Could See…", is no exception. Launched in December 2023 at the Chinese European Art Center (CEAC) in Xiamen, China, this collection is a pivotal part of the larger solo exhibition "The Sea That Stands Before Me…". Chung's unique approach to art-making delicately balances visual and auditory elements, creating an immersive experience that transcends conventional boundaries. In this exclusive interview, Chung opens up about his creative journey, from the harmony between visual content and soundtracks to the influence of Xiamen's culture and environment on his work. With each answer, Chung provides a glimpse into the mind of an artist who is as thoughtful in his creations as he is in his reflections on the evolving world of digital art.

Q: How do you find the harmony between visual content and soundtrack during your creation process?

A: It's usually a combination of concept & feeling that I'm after. As you may know, my artistic practice has been split into decade-long chapters to convey the story I have to tell. In this current series, I wanted to create a sense of longing, followed by the visuals of the ocean & seaside. I keep a digital 'mood board' when planning, built up from images, words & sounds I've profusely collected through literature, films, and memories from my travels - these then become the basis for the particular project.  

I have a wonderful friend, Paul Leadbetter, whom I call my 'Hans Zimmer.' He is the musician for the soundtrack that you hear here on Sedition. He's worked with me in recent years, listening attentively to my scope of concept while trusting my ears to filter the process. I have no skills in music, but I do know what it is that I enjoy what sound I'm after & following a few conversations, Paul & I came up with this piece to give the artwork its vibrancy & a sense of life.

Q: Can you share a bit about the evolutionary process of your ideas from initial concept through to production and final output?

A: My initial concept begins with the conceptual narrative I have in place, where my inner child sees the world for the first time, discovering its uniqueness as an untarnished moment. It comes with the perspective I've always cherished from books such as The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, where innocence is inhabited by a wisdom older than their years. The production takes place once I have a project or deadline secured, which gives me the freedom to create, knowing there will be a potential home for what is finished. These days, it's essential to me that each artwork finds a home for someone to value & keep. Without them, I would simply be doing this as a hobby. For that, I'm super grateful to all my collectors for taking the time to find me & for appreciating me.

The final output can take anywhere between 3 months to 5 years. It depends entirely on the opportunities I'm presented with & sometimes that can be a limitation as an artist. Having collaborated with Sedition successfully, I have the trust in our partnership. They allow me to be as I am, anticipating a body of work that has yet to be seen, knowing I will deliver when it is completed.

Q: Having a solo show in Xiamen, China, how does the locality and culture of a place seep into your creative work, if at all?

A: Absolutely. Without that precious combination of space, time & place, an artwork would lose meaning for me. We are what we choose to create as artists & the work will always be a part of who we are. We share this with others as a way of expressing ourselves, yet somehow, it is much more than that...we invite people we don't know into our lives into our work so that it may be enjoyed, shared & discussed. 

Xiamen has been a fantastic experience thus far. And I'm only getting to know the places around me. The air is pristine, the people are direct yet gentle & there is a feeling of calm that feels especially rare here in China. Exhibiting at the Chinese European Art Center, these digital works have a beautiful synchronicity with their environment being close to the water's edge. As an island, Xiamen gathers a different type of culture, a blissfully romantic vibe tinged by futuristic & melancholic neon glows from the city nightlights.  

Q: How do you navigate the blend of technology and art, ensuring one doesn’t overpower the other, maintaining that delicate balance in your work?

A: Before the world fell onto its knees in recent years, I had already thought about creating digitally as a way to feel free to be more nomadic as an artist...so when the opportunity presented itself & Sedition & I met, the chance to be dabbling into new media attracted me. I'm not the most intelligent person, so I ask for technical advice & assistance whenever I need it. Without this help, I couldn't present what you see here. 

With the world speedily racing towards this blend of art & technology, what I try to maintain within my work is a sense of balance, which is rather delicate. What is most important to me is that the audience can arrive at a place where they weren't previously. Giving them an experience while maintaining my integrity as a creative is what I keep at the forefront of my mind. 

Q: What have been the most unexpected challenges you’ve encountered while creating in a digital space?

A: I'm not knowledgeable enough to fully comment on this, but I sense that the digital space is a new frontier for artists & creatives. With that comes the unavoidable influx of work differing vastly in quality. The digital space is a unique opportunity & that can be difficult to navigate when so many new platforms pop up expecting to be 'the next best thing.' The greatest challenge as an artist working within the digital space is finding the right people to trust. Having the right style of presentation is also another factor to take into account. That balance of quality & creativity can be hard to find & personally, this has made working with Sedition such a pleasure - it understands all these concerns & has branded itself as a place to be, collect & create.

Q: How do you hope the viewer perceives and interacts with your work, especially in a digital format?

A: I hope they find something to enjoy, to think about, and to keep. When the moment strikes, they may be curious enough to read an article like this to see what lays the groundwork for these artworks. Digital art can be lost in a world of TikTok, YouTube & NFTs, but given the chance, these artworks will shine in their own right & have their place outside a gallery setting.  

Q: Could you give us a peek into what a day in life looks like during the intensive creation process?

A: This past year, I've concentrated on making sure my body & mind are in shape so that the creative process is much more enjoyable. I love a deadline that I can ease my way into, so having that target helps me feel ready for a measured sense of success. I make it a priority always to stay curious, to stay young at heart & to indulge in anything that inspires me before distilling it into a concept that can be fleshed out for the project. I prefer not to have a set schedule but an interchangeable 'to-do-list' for the day when planning so that things can completed without the stress of running out of time. Having that space to allow for the unexpected - be it a setback, miscommunication, or change in direction - is a constant in my life. Surprises will always happen, so why not just enjoy it?  

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View Thomas C. Chung’s artworks on Sedition

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