Everyday experiences and activities serve as a starting point for her creations. Sara Chyan interviewed by Art Habens

Interview  /  Artists   BehindTheScenes   Research
Published: 27.08.2019
Sarah Chyan Sarah Chyan
Dario Rutigliano
Edited by:
Art Habens
Edited at:
Edited on:
Sara Chyan. Piece: The Straight Line | arm, 2013. Acrylic board, 925 sterling silver, magnet.. Photo by: A Chun Chan. Sara Chyan
Piece: The Straight Line | arm, 2013
Acrylic board, 925 sterling silver, magnet.
Photo by: A Chun Chan
© By the author. Read Copyright.

Sara Chyan graduated from the renowned Royal College of Art’s M.A. Jewellery & Metal, London, in 2017. Sara is now based in London and has established an eponymous jewellery brand. Sara reckons jewellery is an object that carries more than just an intrinsic significance, for it is not merely an ornament but also a medium for expressing one’s individuality. Her works adopt a minimalistic and conceptual approach, she draws on a wide range of subjects in a multi-layered manner and likes to involve the viewer in a way that is physical at times. She believes in the notion that her works respond directly to the human body and the surrounding environment, and the way in which the wearer engages with it is integral to her art form. As an artist, Sara’s everyday experiences and activities serve as a starting point for her creations. Click here to view the original interview with ART Habens (from page 180).
Piece: The Straight Line / Hand, 2013. Material: acrylic board. Size: 110 x 135 x 10 mm. Photographer: John McGrath. Model: Diana Azalea Jeanette

1. Hello Sara and welcome to ART Habens: we would start this interview with a couple of introductory questions. You have solid formal training and you hold an M.A. in Jewellery and Metal, that you received from the prestigious Royal College of Art, in London: how did those formative years influence your evolution as an artist and help you to develop your attitude to experiment with different media? Moreover, how does your cultural substratum direct the trajectory of your current artistic research?

During my two years at the Royal College of Art, I was fortunate to be amongst an amazing student body of talented designers and artists, who were very supportive to each other’s artistic journey. I’ve learnt a lot from them. RCA is a liberal institution that motivates students like me to challenge the framework and encourages us to think outside the box. Therefore, in RCA students' works often make viewers unable to identify which department the students belong to. RCA offered me an opportunity to escape the stereotype atmosphere and gave me the courage to experiment with new materials and to explore ways of expression and ideas. These experiences instil courage and motivation in my creations.

In addition to RCA’s liberal approach towards originality, London is a city full of creativity and literary atmosphere. It is surrounded by the latest information and technology. It also has a long heritage of history and culture and is renowned for its wide range of exhibitions, lectures, and events. There is never enough time to quench my thirst for art. London’s flourishing arts sector made me feel safe to be myself, for I won’t be classified nor labelled, and I don't have to worry about whether I am doing something that is too eccentric or difficult to procreate. In London, I feel my work can find its place and the resources needed to deliver it. It is here in London where I found art has no limits. I can play to the fullest and express everything I could possibly think of.

I can see how London and RCA’s liberal attitudes toward art influenced my journey as an artist. The most obvious change was I became braver in experimenting with experimental works. Because of the open-minded atmosphere here, even a fairly experimental or avant-garde work will have a place. Once I stepped outside my comfort zone and started doing experimental avant-garde work, I couldn't go back. I often want to use novel materials or techniques to create, the more eccentric the better!  I found myself enjoying this exploring process. These are experiences I have not had before.

Bangle: Materiality, 2017. Material: bismuth, 925 sterling silver.

2. Before starting to elaborate on your artistic production we would like to invite our readers to visit in order to get a wide idea about your artistic production. What has at once captured our attention of your unconventional style it's the way it allows you to condense in a single work of art such a coherent combination between intuition and a rigorous aesthetics: when walking our readers through your usual workflow and process, we would like to ask you if you think that there is a central idea that connects all your works.

My creations mainly revolve around the proposition of body curves and emotions. Although each time the angles of each proposition vary, there are obvious connections between my creations. Reviewing these connections often helps me learn about myself and discover what kind of creator I am. For me, creation is like a record of self-development, reflecting the things and values I care about at that moment. What I hope to give to the creation is the spirit of innovation, and exploring how the new materials and expressions can be related to the audience.

Cutlery: Materiatility, 2017. Material: bismuth, stainless steel.

Bowl: Memories Bowl 2, 2018. Material: bismuth, tin, silver, copper. Size: 10 x 10 x 4 cm.

3. For this special edition of ART Habens we have selected The Straight Lines, an interesting project that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. What has at once impressed us of your insightful exploration of the notion of line as a basic element of art that directs where the eyes move is the way it invites the viewers to question their perceptual process, providing them with a multilayered visual experience: would you tell us something about the genesis of The Straight Lines? In particular, how did you develop this project on the technical aspect, in order to achieve such brilliant results?

I first began the project with making moulds of different body parts. Once I had all the moulds ready with me, I cut all of them into half and studied the positive and negative spaces of the body. Based on my observations, I then used AI to outline all the shapes and saw the beautiful landscapes created by our body.  After many times of trials and errors using laser to cut the perfect shapes, this project finally achieved to direct audiences to question our body lines.

Object: Materiality Paranoidism | Spoon, 2017. Material: bismuth, stainless steel. Photographer: Gene Chen.

Bangle: Materiality Paranoidism | Bangle, 2017. Material: bismuth, stainless steel. Photographer: Gene Chen.

Rings: Materiality Paranoidism | Rings, 2017. Material: bismuth, stainless steel. Photographer: Gene Chen.

4. In The Straight Lines, you also questioned your relationship with your body: lots of artists express the ideas that they explore by using their own bodies and through representations of the body and in their creative processes. German visual artist Gerhard Richter once stated that "it is always only a matter of seeing: the physical act is unavoidable": how do you consider the relation between the abstract feature of the ideas you aim to communicate and the physical act of creating your artworks?

I started to create body lines and spaces related works because I was intrigued at the time. Gradually this interest became the core of my creation and the perspective of things, so my works began to focus on the body-related axis. Initially developing from the physical part of the body line to the sensuous part related to recollection, my graduation collection was also inspired by my paranoia of heat, which is closer to the spiritual level and more inner-self. As self-searching plays a role in my creative process, I feel the current creation of the main axis has changed to self-related. However, my creative style is very diverse, and the source of inspiration is extensive. Although there is a central axis of creation, I still often do some small works according to intuition, trying a variety of things and materials, and some of the tried works would return to the origin. The context of development revolves around the main axis, but some will not. I don’t limit myself to the inspiration, the context of creation and the relationship between abstract ideas and creations. Inspiration may come from my own experience, an exhibition, a song, a book, or even a street scene or a conversation with others. There are a variety of sources for inspirations, and when I have inspiration, I can make small works and sometimes the works become a new series.

Clavicle piece, 2014. Material: 925 sterling silver. Photo by Andrew Lau.

5. We have appreciated the way Extension of Sensory provides the audience with a special touching experience. We sometimes tend to ignore the fact that a work of art is a three-dimensional, physical, artefact: how do you consider the relation between the abstract nature of the concepts that you explore in your artistic research and the physical aspect of your daily practice as an artist?

The two notions, abstract and physical, are complementary aspects of my works. I must understand the abstract concepts I want to express in order to create works that can accentuate each other. So before I enter the making stage, I will spend some time understanding the motives, contexts, techniques and language of creation, and so on. I view the concept as a way of expression or a way of speaking and use this as a benchmark to think about what direction I should go to communicate with the audience or enter the audience's expression. This helps to have a refreshing feeling, so I like this mixture of the abstract nature of the concepts and the physical aspect of the daily practice as an artist.

Bangle: Materiality Paranoidism | Bangle, 2017. Material: bismuth, stainless steel. Photographer: Gene Chen.

6. You often work with materials rarely seen in our day to day life, as gallium and bismuth: what were the properties that you are searching for in the materials that you include in your works?

When I am sourcing materials for my projects, I don’t necessarily select them based on their characteristics, I tend to focus more on what inspires me. Since I was very young I have always had a passion for combining different materials together in the chance that I might like the end result. This has become a habit of mine through my career and consequently, I feel I am fairly flexible in my approach to the resources and supplies that I utilise in my work and owing to this my work really benefits and inspires me further. I was fortunate enough to attend the RCA (The Royal College of Art) exhibition two years ago which was a fantastic opportunity to preview and experience some of the very best emerging contemporary design and art. At the exhibition I was privy to an exhibit from a colleague I had studied with, she had pushed the boundaries of using traditional materials in an abstract and powerful way. She had smashed feathers into a diverse range of materials, in order to reduce the weight whilst allowing increased strength. I felt this was avant-garde and unique; it really motivated me to want to try this technique myself in future creations.

Earcuff: Ear Pinna Piece, 2012. Material: 925 sterling silver.

7. Marked out with a powerful narrative drive, your artistic practice seems to invite the viewers to question the idea of perception look inside of what appears to be seen, rather than its surface, urging the spectatorship to see beyond the surface of the work of art. How important is for you to invite the viewers to elaborate personal meaning? And in particular, how open would you like your artworks to be understood?

My belief is that it is crucial for the viewers of my work to be able to elaborate meaning. For me art is essentially personal, there is no right or wrong it is all about individual perception. If someone can take a more profound enjoyment and understanding from my work by reflecting their own personal context to the work then this is how it should be enjoyed and appreciated. Ideally, I would like my works to resonate with my audience and with me, as an artist and a person because ultimately my work and my creations are an extension of me. Having people not only appreciate your designs but actually connecting with them and comprehending them, not only appraises my art but makes me feel appreciated and valued as an individual.

Ring: Extension of Sensory - finger, 2016. Material: goat hair, foundation, brass, 925 sterling silver. This collection is a collaboration with RCA Visual Communication student: Gene Chen.

8. We like the stimulating abstract quality that marks out your artworks: due to the lack of figurative references, geometric abstraction has a universal quality, in the sense that it can be appreciated by audience regardless of their cultural background. What do you think are the advantages and limitations of working in this style?

To all intents, art, for me is for everyone. I believe it should be accessible for all and not selective or regarded as elite. By working in the way that I do, it leaves an opportunity for the viewer to use their imagination, rather than being directed or shown what to think or feel. The viewer should be able to digest and absorb what is before them and interpret this is their own way. Working in this style, for me, is the best approach; it is open, adaptable and accessible for all, so for me, there are no limitations.

Foot piece: Extension of Sensory - feet, 2016. Material: pumice, acrylic, foundation, plastic. This collection is a collaboration with RCA Visual Communication student: Gene Chen

9. Over the years your artworks have been extensively showcased and you are regularly participating in the international exhibition: how do you consider the nature of your relationship with your audience? And what do you hope your audience takes away from your artworks?

I have been very fortunate to have been able to exhibit my work so frequently and so widely but I do this for the feedback and satisfaction I gain from seeing my audience appreciate and enjoy my work. Yes, art is my passion, but engaging your viewers also becomes part of that passion. The connection between my work and the audience is in essence, the connection between I, myself and the audience, it comes hand in hand. My work is a part of me, even when it leaves me; it is still my extension, an avatar if you like. I want this extension of me to bring satisfaction and happiness to the audience once it leaves me. I adore hearing people’s praise of my work and relish hearing their personal feedback.

As I progress and advance into international exhibitions, my aspiration is for the audience to begin to understand the affiliation between our bodies and jewellery. My designs are not just built around the concept of jewellery and wearing it as an object, it is, for me, how the piece of art interacts with the body.

My design process is not envisaged by working on the jewellery as a separate entity, it has to be connected and united with the body, this is critical for me. The body signifies the central axis of my designs and so it has great significance to my work, I do not class them as separate articles. I try to remember the example that there is a difference between seeing the story and experiencing the story, therefore I allow the audience to observe the body itself through the actual, physical movements, as it interacts with the jewellery. This implies to the audience that they too can share this same experience when they wear the jewellery. When you experience something for yourself, the whole five senses are engaged and consequently, the memory resonates, this is the most profound way of experiencing.

Neckpiece: Fall in Line, 2016. Material: 925 sterling silver. Photo by John McGrath.

10. We have really appreciated the multifaceted nature of your artistic research and before leaving this stimulating conversation we would like to thank you for chatting with us and for sharing your thoughts, Sara. What projects are you currently working on, and what are some of the ideas that you hope to explore in the future?

Thanks so much for the interview, it has been an amazing opportunity to share my creations. Currently, I am working on a material that can constantly change its forms according to the temperature.  I hope to explore artworks related to gravity in the future.  Please stay tuned!