Depictions of emotions
João Pedro Lau
Macau Artist Crystal Chan wins prestigious art prize in New York
Macau Artist Crystal Chan had her work recognized last month winning first prize at the fourth annual “Will Barnet” show at
the National Arts Club in New York
Crystal Chan’s acrylic paintings are filled with colours of sadness and melancholy, “subtle fragments of feelings that remain over time in a violently disturbing manner,” as the Macau born artist puts it. “My work is an act of grasping the past, to see if I can understand what’s gone and what’s left,” the graduate student in Fine Arts at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York explains.
Last month, Chan’s work was awarded first prize at the fourth annual Will Barnet Student Show presented by the National Arts Club. Every year, the exhibition showcases and awards the work of art students from nine prestigious New York schools.
Crystal’s prize winning work is deeply steeped in nostalgia, an untitled canvas depicting impressionist brushstrokes in acrylic paint，，，，, of two buildings under a gray sky, divided by a muddy street, only illuminated by the soft tones of the early hours of the morning.
“This award has very special meaning for me. As a student from Macau, it was very difficult at first. I didn’t know anyone here in New York or the United States. I had to knock on many doors to see if things could work out. I have to thank my teachers who supported me and helped me gain confidence,” she says.
Chan explains this support was important to help her “understand art”. “Now I’m more confident about what I want to express using my sensitivity and creativity,” she affirms.
Crystal was nominated by the Department of Fine Arts to represent SVA, along with another student, at the annual Will Barnet Student Show. The exhibition, which ran throughout April, featured works by students from the most recognized art schools in New York, including The Art Students League of New York, New York Fashion and Technology Institute, Lehman College, University New York, Parsons - The New School and the Pratt Institute.
In her artist statement, Chan describes using painting as a means of addressing feelings: ‘I do not paint to describe the detail, my painting is about emotions, the ambiguity between tangible and intangible things. I am interested in how emotions remain, how the noise of reality fades into illusion.’
The artist could even write a sweet and pleasant poem, she says, but, “the purpose of painting is different from that of writing. Painting does not have to be rigorous, painting is a gesture, insinuating and illusory like memories.”
Crystal notes that she feels very close to the work of Will Barnet, the man behind the prize and whose work is also filled with feelings and emotions, constituting elements of a universal language. Barnet, a renowned American painter, lived between 1911 and 2012 and was a resident artist of the National Arts Club, founded in 1898 by author and poet Charles De Kay, a literary and art critic with The New York Times.
Crystal’s prize includes US$2,500 in cash and a solo exhibition at The National Arts Club in 2018. While the financial aspect of the prize is helpful given the high cost of living in New York, Crystal claims to be even more excited about the opportunity to showcase her work in a solo exhibition that will hopefully open more doors for her.