Skyler Chen Paints Lives of Stylish Alienation

Skyler Chen’s paintings are distinctive for figures that are at once stereotypically stylish and alienated from one another. Their expressions suggest a sense of hopeless detachment. Even the occasionally upbeat composition, like an acrylic titled “Viva La Vida”, places energetic attitudes inside invisible cocoons of isolation. For the most part, however, the paintings bear titles more suggestive of the feelings they evoke — “cold region”, “12:03 unbearable” and “uncertainty.”

We discovered the artist behind these paintings through a blog on his favorite coffee houses. The entries were obviously by someone living in Manhattan and obsessed with good latte. At the same time, their tone and sentence structure suggested a mind that was at once culturally hip yet not native to the English language as used by Americans.

This acrylic on canvas painting (2010) by Skyler Chen is titled “Morning Kitchen”.

We emailed Skyler Chen and learned that he was born August 19, 1982 in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan. His father was a businessman who traveled constantly between Taiwan and Japan. His mother was a housewife who devoted her energies to a busy social life. His parents’ absence and childhood dyslexia led to feelings of isolation for Skyler.

“I didn’t speak to anyone until the 4th grade,” he recalls. “Drawing and painting were the only things that made me feel alive, since I wasn’t good at anything else. It was the only way for me to express my feeling as a boy. I was mainly living in pictures, not in words.”

His life turned around when he began attending a fine arts high school.

“I was very good with all the artistic kids,” Chen recalls. “The teachers really opened up our minds about art. They had a big impact on my life.”

Chen has been living in the U.S. since 2000, but is currently in Shanghai at work on a new project focusing on that city.

Goldsea: Who are your favorite painters?
Skyler Chen: Henry Darger, Marcel Dzama,  Julian Schnabel, Jean- Michel Basquiat, Bernard Buffet, Balthus.

GS: What are your most important sources of inspiration?
SC: I read everything around me. Books, news, magazine. Also my own feeling with my childhood, family, friends. And music. I listen a lot of Indie folk such as Ray Lamontagne, The Low Anthem, Joshua Radin, Great lake swimmers, and Blind Pilot. Next

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