“My works are often composed of anatomical fragments of limbs, which is an intentional way of representing ideal beauty while creating interest and absurdity.”
As a contemporary artist, Bryan goes beyond the boundaries of traditional media and explores the co-existance between analogue and digital technologies. In a world driven and dominated by automation and technological innovations, Bryan is intrigued by its power. In his view, not only technology hurts us, but it also helps us.
Bryan often spent hours on his computer ideating and conceptualising his art before the production process began. His work is a result of both computational process and artistic creativity. In his attempt to create a symbiotic relationship between the digital and the artistic, Bryan often uses anatomical fragments in liminal spaces to showcase the juxtaposition created with the agnostic settings attributed to the textures and colours of the canvas.
Q. You studied fine arts at RMIT. What did you specialise and how do you think your educational background influenced your artistic approach today?
I specialised in painting during my studies at RMIT, though I’d say I spent just as much time on my computer ideating and conceptualising as I did in the studio space. Art school taught me the importance of absorbing influences from other artists while staying true to what my art represents. My approach since has become less methodical, requiring moving between artworks quickly rather than fixating on a single idea. I find myself constantly experimenting with old and new techniques through both pragmatic and theoretical research. I also studied information technology and design before attending art school, which has led me to believe that an artist can play various roles – one being ‘technologist’ which I feel resonates with the digital visual culture today.
Q. Could you share with us how you get started in the art scene? Have you been passionate about it since you were a kid?
My mother used to send me to participate in all types of hobbies: the local soccer club, saxophone and jazz ensemble, Chinese poetry, you name it — but the one thing that I never gave up on was drawing lessons. I started painting at the age of 14 and fell in love with studying paragons of figurative artists such as Caravaggio and Michelangelo. I was intrigued by their perfection of proportion and the beautiful use of light and shadow, so I would practice every day after school emulating their paintings. You can see clearly with my body of work in secondary school - centered around the transposition of Caravaggio’s subjects with computer screens and cyborgs - that I was an early adopter of art’s progression in the age of the technological revolution. I wasn’t just passionate about art but was intrigued with how much it would change in this century.
Bryan's early works around the transposition of Caravaggio’s subjects
Q. Your work explores the co-existence of the digital and analogue eras. How did you arrive at this concept, and how did it develop over time?
I attended art school as a mature student after a few years of digital design experience in the industry under my belt. In comparison to my peers that had their paint studios filled with paper experiments, clay sculptures and tactile creations, my personal way of creative authorship and documentation was replaced by digital files, desktop folders and experiments created on my computer. I was conscious that as a painter, the artist’s physical hand is not only highly valued but tremendously rewarding. However, looking at the rapid rise of digital art and data as a new medium in the past few years - especially after seeing Refik Anadol’s work at the NGV Triennial in 2020 — these new innovations in technology have revolutionised art in a way that keeps me fascinated and wanting more. Since I believe there needs to be a balance, my view is that whilst technology hurts us, it helps us more.
As I was dancing between the two, I attempted to create works that co-mingle digital and analogue techniques in a way that embraces digital and machine aesthetics while retaining traditional methods of painting. With AI and machine learning becoming more ubiquitous and constantly redefining the meaning of ‘art’, who knows if I can purposefully and perpetually dance with both?
Q. Could you share with us your process of creating each artwork?
My latest creations are initiated by feeding a curated data set drawn from my figurative paintings into an algorithm driven by artificial intelligence. Based on the input data I provide and through a recursive iteration, the output is a vast collection of AI-generated images and collages that resemble surreal and mechanised versions of reality. The collection is then used as a visual baseline to return to analogue forms through the act of painting, as well as to create unique digital stills and animations.
Q. The subject of your work is mostly human bodies. Does this serve any symbolic or representational meaning?
Figuration, to me, is perpetually interesting. It allows me to create a version of reality while reflecting on the human condition. I always feel intellectual and technically mature through the experience of figure painting. It’s complex because there’s so much you can’t get away with. People can immediately see something as incorrect, awkward, imbalanced, or disproportionate. We are all masters of anatomy by being human. My works are often composed of anatomical fragments of limbs, which is an intentional way of representing ideal beauty while creating interest and absurdity.
Coupling with the use of technology and computational programs in my creative process, the human bodies in my work reflect my fascination with trans-humanism and post-human ideologies, evident in how technology can disrupt and enhance our physical and physiological structures. These outcomes aim to reveal the impacts of scientific and technological advancements on what it means to be human, including the augmentation of our physical bodies, human sensory reception, emotive and cognitive capacities.
Q. The background of your paintings is mostly very transitional instead of contextual. Is this an intentional approach, and what is the rationale behind it?
In an attempt to speculate and provide foresight into how humans will live in the future, the anatomical fragments in my paintings live in a liminal non-space, agnostic of time or place. This transitional state is deliberately marked by ambiguous diffused backgrounds of colour and texture and juxtaposed with incomprehensible projections of shadows and light sources. Due to rapid technological acceleration, a prediction can be made that in the distant future, we will perhaps be merely by-products of scientific advancements manifested in a liminal space that is neither an enclosed space nor an infinite illusionary realm. One can say that it could potentially be a hybrid of both. Movement is also a core theme I try to induce in the subject of my paintings — the arm is about to twist, the weight is starting to shift, and the next reaction of the body is about to come to life. By reducing the background of each work to an unrecognisable context, the movement of the body and subject on a two-dimensional plane is emphasised.
Q. You are also working as a UX designer, which is closely related to the digital realm. Do you think this involvement of yours influences your art or your opinions on the subject matter that you try to address with your work?
Most certainly! Working as a digital user interface designer by day, I am constantly growing as an artist from being exposed to cutting-edge technology and new digital processes of making. My job as a designer has pushed, conceptually and technically, my world of painting in fascinating new directions. In particular, I have been spending a lot of time recently producing beautiful data visualisations, which has ultimately sparked my interest in how data and paint can coalesce into a new contemporary medium. It’s quite evident my paintings carry with them traits of balance, proportion, and minimalism – core principles in design that I have carried across my entire art practice. UX design is often precise, and calculated and involves mathematical and scientific research. I now see that my art sits somewhere between the calculable precision of design, and the intuitive/arbitrary nature of art driven by chance and emotion.
Q. Are you inspired by any other form of artistic or creative discipline/s?
I’ve recently moved to Japan, and what they do really well here are light and optical installations. From interior architectural lighting to the likes of art installations by Ryoji Ikeda and Dumb Type, lighting can completely shift our sense and perception of our environment. Dance is another form of art I’m intrigued by, as you can see in some of my paintings — the stretching and contraction of limbs, the distortion of the body, with a sense of movement and rhythm.
Q. Currently, you are focusing on technologies such as AI and machine learning. Do you see yourself exploring other emerging technologies in the future too? Which ones do you already have in mind?
As Erich Fischl said “If you’re a painter, you’re a painter.” It’s your particular relationship to the process, and materials, the way you organise information, the way you see the world, and express feelings towards the way you see. So to me, I will continuously be looking at emerging technologies that will specifically allow me to retain my painting practice. That being said, I’ve recently been interested in moving into three-dimensional space, including 3D rendering, real-time animation and additive printing. I’m excited to continue discovering ways to embed painting and analogue techniques in these emerging technologies and processes.
Q. Do you have a proudest piece of artwork to share?
My proudest piece would be ‘Hyperbolic Tension’, painted in 2021. This was my first piece of work that was shortlisted for an art prize at the National Capital Art Prize in Canberra. The painting was inspired by the mathematical equation of a hyperbola residing in a liminal space – the anatomical fragments are on the precipice of connecting with its reflection but never physically touch, resembling two infinite bows that are perpetually bounded by an unknown force and threshold. It was also one of the pieces sold in a Melbourne exhibition coming out of the pandemic lockdown — so it was a huge confidence booster for me!
Q. Could you describe your work in 3 words?
Balanced, post-human, liminal