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Meet: Xiuching Tsay

Studio with some of Xiuching's work in the background
Studio with some of Xiuching's work in the background

Written by
Eleanor Harvey
Published date
25 March 2020

Xiuching Tsay graduated from BA Fashion Illustration at London College of Fashion (LCF) in 2016. She was 1 of 6 UAL alumni who took part in the Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2019 exhibition earlier this year. New Contemporaries is the leading organisation supporting emergent art practice and is celebrating its 70 anniversary this year. We spoke to Xiuching to find out more about her work and how it felt to be showing with such a well-respected organisation.

Why did you choose to study LCF?

Before my realisation of becoming a fine artist, I used to dream of getting into a fashion school. In high school during my science and math classes, I would be at the back of the class, drawing people and designing strange outfits for them.  I loved that I could explore my creativity through fashion drawing. I spoke with my parents and they suggested I study abroad in London. I got in touch with Mentor, an agent who gives advice on studying in the UK, and that’s how  I found out about what a great, creative school LCF is.

Painting by Xiuching
Image courtesy of Xiuching Tsay

What are your memories of your time at LCF?

LCF was like an incubator for me. When I first arrived in London, I couldn’t speak English very well, and I only had Thai friends and we came to LCF together. Over many years in the University, I became much better at communicating in English, probably because I overcome my fear of presenting my work in front of people. I still remember that my first presentation was awful; I was so afraid that the audience might not understand what I had tried to convey because of my weak accent. But I appreciate the skills that these experiences at LCF gave me because now I am a lot more confident when I give artist talks.

Painting by Xiuching
Image courtesy of Xiuching Tsay

What have you done since graduating?

After graduating from LCF, I took a year off to find myself and find my real passion. I found that painting is my strongest passion, so I decided to enrol in the MA Painting course at Royal College of Art, with my portfolio from my final year at LCF. And recently, I just graduated from RCA!

I am currently facing the real art world where there are no more tutorials or regular advice from tutors. Post-graduate life is much harder compared to life at art school; I need to decide quickly and precisely on the exhibitions that I want to be involved in, and I need to be better at my time management when doing exhibitions with other people. I have to be very responsible at my jobs.

After graduating, I had a few group shows, a solo show in 2019 and I was part of the Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2019. I have a few shows lined up in London and internationally, and maybe a project in Thailand. So, I have made a schedule, which I am working my best to follow. That’s so that I can have extra time for travelling and exploring the world outside, which is very important for my practice too.

My painting style depends on my instinct, so I can never guarantee when a painting will be finished; sometimes it takes 3 days, sometimes it can be  over a week. So, I have to organise my time to suit my style of studio working too.

Studio with some of Xiuching's work in the background
Image courtesy of Xiuching Tsay

Can you talk us through your practice? What are your inspirations?

My work usually comes from my personal visions towards objects that I have been experienced in the past, and their obscured images reside in my consciousness. They’re recurring images that won’t go away. These repeat themselves as a form with a limited meaning at first, until my curiosity questions their existence. In my practice, therefore, I want to reconnect with those images by accessing their inner world. The way I paint is to develop my relationship with these images and learn their traits. During the process of painting, I can then rediscover their hidden characters, and as well as my unconscious thoughts on these images.

Moreover, in my painting practice, I adopt the concept of hallucinatory fluidity to unleash my perception towards the objects that I portray, to become more liberal. Fluidity like water has the power to melt a solid form into an ambiguous form. This ambiguous form then allows me to experience different possibilities in narrative painting.

In term of inspirations, I guess this is a broad term for me. Everything that I have been experienced can be a great inspiration, it can be an object I found in a museum or a personal circumstance or my friends’ stories. I think it depends on what matters to me at that particular time then I would pick that in my work.

Xiuching's work mounted on the wall
Image courtesy of Xiuching Tsay

How did it feel to be part of Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2019?

I feel really happy because this is my first time showing my works in such great spaces, South London Gallery and Leeds Art Gallery. The galleries regularly have many visitors and it has been good feedbacks because the curation is very well done and the show includes many new, interesting emerging artists.

To be part of New Contemporaries has opened many new opportunities for me too. Recently, I felt like my work has become more recognizable than before, and there are more people in the art world who are interested in understanding the context of my practice. I like to talk to people about my work too and it is beneficial for me to explain in order to construct an artist statement or understand the work myself.

Bright painting by Xiuching Tsay
Image courtesy of Xiuching Tsay

What is next for you?

I am a recent grad and still at the beginning stage of my artistic career, so there’s a lot more for me to explore and have fun within my work. Explorations can be from both the world outside and inside the studio,  however, I want my work to give a sense of harmony between mystical spirituals and contemporary contexts. I plan to travel a lot this year and record all the thoughts that come to me during the journey, which I will adopt in my work.

I also want to challenge myself more,  so aside from painting in my studio, a friend and I are planning to do a documentary project that we’ll present in an art form, in an experimental space in Thailand.

Fluro painting by Xiuching
Image courtesy of Xiuching Tsay