Nomi Chi is a multidisciplinary visual artist currently residing in Vancouver, Canada. Chi’s primary practice engages with the visual lexicon of illustration and tattoo. Images produced within their painting and drawing practices display a heightened sense of emotive drama, often composing animal and human figures, in varying degrees of fictitious construction, as stand-ins for personal experiences and observations on human nature. Their current focus takes interest in power relations and ontological distinctions between individuals, and between the individual/environment. Multi-breasted, multi-limbed, femme-bodied creatures and figures populate the worlds they create, with the intention of - among other things - calling to question notions of femininity, and by proxy gender as a whole. Interactions between these figures signify Chi’s interests in depicting sexuality, ritual, and the search for identity.
Chi is one of the artists in the Fierce Tidings art exhibition at the Gene Siskel Film Center in conjunction with the FAAIM 22nd Annual Asian American Showcase which runs March 31st through April 12th, 2017. We asked them a few questions about their work and artistic practice!
Does your identity or how you identify yourself inform your work in any way?
Certainly. My drawing style is often described as being markedly 'Asian' - actually, I started drawing because I watched so much anime as a child. To this day, there are notable vestiges of that influence in my work. A lot of my work is concerned with my identity - as a queer person, as a femme-bodied person, as a bi-racial person. As such, I strive for my work to resonate with folks who struggle with similar facets of themselves.
-When making your work, do you have certain expectations or do you aim for a specific reaction in your audience and the viewer? (Do you care about how the message of your work is received?)
Purveying a clear message is not important to me - I like to operate in a space of ambiguity. My work is often prompted by an emotion or a thought, and I aim for my work to be evocative of intense emotion. I find it interesting when viewers bring their own narratives and meaning to the image, even if it strays far from whatever intention I have behind the work.
-Does art serve a purpose for you outside of just beauty or aesthetics?
To me, art and art-consumption is a very necessary and utilitarian part of my life. So, in short: yes.
-How do current events affect your practice?
For a long time, and still even now, I've felt overwhelmed and disheartened. Many of us are asking ourselves: Why bother making art? Can my art be helpful to anyone? How do I channel this frustration/despair into something positive? It's been a struggle to pick up a pencil. However, I've also observed a lot of energy and inspiring backlash against the rise of fascistic political forces, and in particular I've seen a lot of artists rallying around each other and marginalized communities in an attempt to soften the blow. Witnessing this, and also being a part of this, has been uplifting. It has definitely forced me to consider the political implications of the images I make.
-Do you feel you are more reactive or more reflective when you create?
I feel like my most interesting work is made when I am on autopilot, kind of like free association. So, maybe a mix of both.