artwork > Text

I am a multi-disciplinary conceptual artist who works in print media and performance, hand papermaking, book, fiber, and installation art.

Environment I explore and examine the physical environment and environmental issues, as well as my childhood environment of American popular culture. These projects take the form of works on paper and installation art.

Experience I create works to combine my thoughts into a form that shares my experiences and views with others. My telling is of being an Asian American woman in this time frame, and how the influences of the past and questions of the future affect how I live. Some personal experience has been in the form of artist books and solo performance.

Ephemera My work investigates the forces that are the basis of our everyday world. I am interested in patterns and natural phenomena in the cosmic order, like growth and decay: things that are in the movement of evolving from or devolving toward nothingness. Or things that are temporary. These projects are in the forms of small sculpture, works on paper, and artist books.

by Irene Chan

"Outside is form; inside is thought; deepest is the soul."
The Chinese character for 'book' is an open mouth with a brush: a story telling with text and images. I create artist books to combine my thoughts into a form that shares my experiences and views with others. My telling is of being an Asian American woman in this time frame, and how the influences of the past and question of the future affect how I live. It is also a reflection of the philosophy that I follow and how the natural flow of my life intersects and interacts with our ever-changing and "unnatural' environment. In books, I wish to share my particular kind of culture in the context of personal ideas and viewpoints.

"...color to words, form to writing..."
The artist book is a complete artistic statement. All elements, images, text, and structure/form are part of the expression and are integral to the theme of the book. I particularly like that the book can be physically configured in different ways to "read" in infinite directions. It can be sculptural and use space, and be sequenced, unfolding, expanding, then contracting, ending or be ready to begin a new cycle.
The book's tactility is one of the attractions. The book can be sensual, make sounds, have various textures and weight. I love to work with materials such as making the paper, images, printing, using found and natural materials, putting them into one container and creating how the piece will unfold and move.

"The sound stops short; the sense flows on."
The artist book transforms the reader to a different plane and keeps he or she in that place for a period of time. It is an intimate, sometimes slow and quiet journey. When the physical reading is finished, that experience will continue, the impression having been made into memory.

Irene Chan was born in Chinatown, San Francisco in a bright pagoda-shaped hospital. In the days before bilingual or ESL programs, she bounced around many city public schools with a thick speaking accent, misunderstood and sometimes placed in "special" classes. During her undergraduate study in architecture, she put the final finish on the accent by friends training her to “drawl” her words more slowly. While waiting for an architecture job to start in London, she traveled to the Orkney Islands, Scotland. By chance, during a rainstorm she walked onto a small square tidal island of a Viking ruin. The island was floating close to the surface of the water. Soon afterwards, she awoke one morning with the desire to return home, take art classes, and learn etching not knowing what that was. Later in art graduate school as she was brushing bubbles in an etching bath with a feather, she recognized the tidal island as an etching plate. While listening to an interview on NPR (National Public Radio), she became conscious that she had been cultivating the Chinese philosophy Taoism throughout her life and continues to do so through performative art works. After a dangerous encounter with an aggressive racist stranger, she started to make personal works about growing up and living as an Asian American. She established Ch'An (ch’ahn) Press and with these influences, she creates work that is process, experience, and identity in print media and works with printmaking, papermaking, photography, book arts, installation, and performance.

Artist Statement