Close Up Interview with photographer Jim Chen

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do. 

I am a Chinese-Australian artist living in Sydney. My time is divided between painting and photography. I also do a lot of writing.

Where do you get your inspiration from when you shoot?

I enjoy camping, bush walking and travelling in Australia and overseas. The natural and farmed landscape I see on these trips inspire my work. I can spend hours and days at one location waiting to capture a photo which highlights the beauty of a scene. Light and clouds are important in my work. Clouds change the composition of the picture I am trying to capture. They are very difficult to work with as they are unpredictable and never repeat their form.

Morning at Newnes ~ 纽尼斯的早晨 (mounted on foamboard with hanging system)

Professional pigment print on ILFORD Lustre paper
27.0 x 40.0 cm

I draw on a lifetime of work as an artist. In China I was part of the Great Northern Wilderness artistic movement which is also known as the Great Northern Wilderness Printmaking. During the Cultural Revolution we were sent to a remote province in the north-east of China near Siberia, to turn the harsh natural environment into farms. The landscape in this area was very different to that of the cities we came from. This inspired us to develop a unique style in Chinese art which reflected the environment around us. We worked on our art during the very cold winter months when we could not do much farming work.

What are the five words that people who know you would use to describe you?

Artist, photographer, writer, multi-skilled, art lover.

Coming Rain ~ 山雨欲来 (Print Only)

34.0 x 70.0 cm, Professional pigment print on ILFORD Lustre paper
AUD  195  incl. GST

Tell us about your very first job and what path have you taken since then?

My first job was when I was 16 or 17 in remote north-eastern China. I was part of a unit on a huge collective farm which was responsible for collecting raw materials for building. We would drive a long way in trucks and collect wood or dig sand to deliver to building sites. Later I worked as an irrigation works surveyor. I walked through weeds that were taller than me, wandered through wild bushlands and passed ducks nests from dawn till dusk. The long hours I spent outdoors in rural areas helped me develop my artistic eye.

After the end of the Cultural Revolution I moved to the city of Ningbo close to Shanghai. There I worked as a journalist and art editor. I am responsible for newspaper decoration and did a lot of illustrations as well as news writing.

I arrived in Australia in 1990 and worked in factories. I kept drawing and painting and sold my artwork at Bankstown Market. Then I moved on to work as a graphic designer. Now I am working full-time as an artist.

Autumn Rest ~ 秋息 (mounted on foamboard with hanging system)

Professional pigment print on ILFORD Lustre paper
64.0 x 152.0 cm
AUD  900

How do you usually plan your daily activities?

There is rarely a ‘typical’ day for an artist. I do most of my photography work while travelling. If I have just returned from a trip I will spend most of the days reviewing my photographs and doing minor edits. When I am at home in Sydney I paint and write. This year I have two exhibitions so I am spending a lot of time preparing for them.

As an artist, what is your biggest frustration?

With my photography the greatest frustration is being in the right place under the right conditions for a very good photo. This is more difficult if I am travelling in a place that is not familiar to me.

The Blue Mountain Sky ~ 蓝山的天空 (Print Only)

Professional pigment print on ILFORD Lustre paper
23.0 x 57.0 cm
AUD  150

Tell us about how you prioritise your art?

As I now work full-time on my art, people would think that all my time would be on artistic work. However, as a professional artist there is a lot of other work that I have to do. Currently I am writing a talk for a lecture on photography that I have been asked to deliver and I have been preparing captions, titles and an artist statement for this exhibition. I am also updating my website and making social media posts as well as starting to prepare for my next exhibition which is in China. A lot of non-artistic work is required to prepare for an exhibition but exhibitions are good because they require me to produce more art for them. Travel is important inspiration for my work so by scheduling a trip into my calendar I know that I am scheduling myself artistic time 

At The Cable Beach~凯伯尔海滩 (mounted on foamboard with hanging system)

28.0 x 44.0 cm, Professional pigment print on ILFORD Lustre paper
AUD  195  incl. GST

How do you connect with other artists, and your customers (i.e. how do you network)?

I use Facebook to share my work with Australians who are interested in my work and I use WeChat to connect with other artists who are mostly Chinese. I also have a website where people can see some of my work and learn more about me.

Your advice to artist who are just starting out?

Train your artistic vision – this is the driving force for your photography. Build your artistic sense by visiting galleries and looking at other artist’s photos and paintings. This will help you understand the good and bad of other art forms. Be broad in your appreciation of art. View a broad range of art from different styles and eras. Through all this you will develop your artistic sense which will then benefit your own work.

Ocean of Clouds 云海 (Print Only)

Professional pigment print on ILFORD Lustre paper
40.0 x 76.0 cm
AUD  160

Tell us about your up coming Solo Art exhibition at ArtSHINE Gallery?

My show is called “The Beauty of Stillness”. I take good photographs because my body and mind is still and focussed on the scene before me. My artistic eyes which have been trained over many years of practice and observation enable me to find beauty in even the most ordinary scene. Viewers of the photographs will see how light and clouds make even the most anonymous places beautiful.

Tell us your first impression and experience of ArtSHINE?

The person operating the gallery (Vinh Van Lam) is very professional and helpful. The gallery provides a good opportunity for artists to connect with new audiences.

Misty Mountain ~ 云山雾海 (Print Only)

28.0 x 60.0 cm, Professional pigment print on ILFORD Lustre paper
AUD  95  incl. GST

What is your proudest moment so far?

I had a launch of my book, The art of landscape photography (written in Chinese), in my home city of Ningbo in China. While I was signing the book, I was told that the bookshop had already sold out of it. I was on the local newspaper next day and the day after.

Who do you most want to meet and why?

I prefer to deeply understand a person by reading what they have written and seeing their art.

Green Fingers ~ 绿色的手指 (mounted on foamboard with hanging system)

40.0 x 102.0 cm, Professional pigment print on ILFORD Lustre paper
AUD  240  incl. GST

What is the most important lesson in life that you have learned?

The harsh conditions I lived in while I was a young man working in north-east China near Siberia continues to help me in my art today. I am not deterred by uncomfortable conditions and therefore I can capture photos that other people miss. The hardship that I suffered when I was young was not a handicap – it is now my ability.

What book are you reading right now, and do you have a book you would like to recommend?

A fiction collection from Chinese writer Mu Xing. I like the one called “Shanghai Ode”.

Dancing Guardians ~ 守护天使 (Print Only)

Professional pigment print on ILFORD Lustre paper
30.0 x 76.0 cm
AUD  160

Where do we find you and your products? 

You can find me on Facebook:

My paintings and drawings can be found on my website:

My photography/travel book “Unseen Australia” written in English are stocked by Gleebooks in Sydney:

My books written in Chinese can be found at Kinokuniya in Sydney:

Performance ~ 出场 (mounted on foamboard with hanging system)

30.0 x 102.0 cm, Professional pigment print on ILFORD Lustre paper
AUD  240  incl. GST

About The Author

I am a Business LifeStyle coach who specialises in working with artists, designers, crafters and all creative professionals. Myself and my partner Stuart Horrex are here to help you to achieve your Life & business goal and dreams. We have had over 20 years experience in finance, retail,furniture,food,wine fashion,crafts and hospitality.

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