Art chic Gillian Chen

Danik Frazer

February 3, 2020

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Up in the cool cool hills of Manchester, tucked away neatly in one of the many networks of interconnected neighbourhoods, and down a long tree-covered driveway lives artist Gillian Chen. Flair visited Gillian at her home studio where she creates unique prints, paintings, crocheted creatures and cute clays done to order or whenever the inspiration strikes.

Bashfully, Gillian set up her creations on her patio where we could not only enjoy the change in weather (a definite plus) but also take in the scenery of the property and see first-hand how her environs have influenced her. Still, she had another motive for setting up shop outdoors. “My studio is a mess right now, it’s an absolute disaster,” she insisted, keeping us out of her creative space. That was no skin off our backs. Her mom, Debe-Ann Lange, owner and operator of The Cutting Edge Gourmet Catering, watered and fed us so we were happy to oblige.

Gillian started working seriously on her art about three years ago when she created a painting of reggae artiste Protoje from a photo taken by photographer Yannick Reid, which gained the attention of the man himself. “I realised I’m good at this, I could do this seriously,” and so she did and hasn’t stopped since. Gillian attributes her skills to the art teachers of her past who inspired her. It’s not just painting for this creative, Gillian also sells small crafts.

“The crotcheting started about five years ago. I think I get more crotcheting commissions than anything so I’ve gone through about 100 different keychain hardwares now.” Constantly testing new ways to express her art, she started experimenting with polymer clay creations, the current series being little mermaids being pampered and unwittingly made into Japanese cuisine called ‘Spa-shimi’ (get it, spa and sashimi, yum!).

“I know it’s a cliche, but my favourite type of art is whatever I feel like at the moment. Sometimes I just feel like painting and sometimes I feel like doing something really labour intensive.” It’s in that way that all of her creations are not only well thought out but encapsulate completely her quirky, approachable personality. Something which seems to resonate well with her clients as Gillian doesn’t seem to be able to keep inventory. Of course, she’s not crying about that fact “Once they get sold, I don’t think about it anymore,” she joked, waving a hand through the air. Though she’d prefer to sell her creations and take them off of her hands, she doesn’t always sell them, instead sending ones that she particularly loves to her friends and family.

Gillian doesn’t give herself time to relax, expressing that she feels guilty whenever she’s not working, so she’s always coming up with new concepts for new pieces, imagining how she can improve upon her creations and working on commissions. She does have hobbies she hasn’t monetised just yet, of course. You’ve probably seen the concept all over the Internet. Gillian is currently experimenting with little terrariums for her plant babies that she speaks of quite fondly. She’s also always at the beach, her favourite place to be, and no doubt where she gets her mermaid inspiration from. Honestly, the girl is probably a mermaid in disguise, with her gentle energy and easy, bright smile. The natural world is infused in her art as much as it’s infused in her being. A lot of her creations are animal and plant-based. She hopes to add a Jamaican-themed colouring book to her inventory with, you guessed it, stylised Jamaican fruits and vegetables.

“I guess I’ll keep doing new things and adding new things to my repertoire, but hopefully not too much, I’ve got a lot working with right now,” she laughed. You can find Gillian’s work on Instagram at @gilliecee where her ‘spa-shimi’ babes are lounging out.

Story by Danik Frazer

danik.frazer@gleanerjm.com

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Danik Frazer

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