Solitary figures, short pencil strokes, and a muted palette give a touch of melancholy to the works of Taiwanese illustrator and animator Pei-Hsin Cho. Cho, who graduated in 2019 from the Visual Communications department of London’s Royal Academy of Arts, describes herself as a shy, introverted person. She finds creative material in her own feelings as she seeks a better understanding of herself through her art.
“In the culture and environment I grew up in, I had the strong sense that physical health was much more important than mental well-being. Emotions deemed negative, such as sorrow, anger, jealousy, were especially avoided,” says Cho. Through her creativity, she works through these emotional snags, harnessing the thoughts and feelings that lead to self-hatred as something motivational. These conversations with herself have led to real changes in her life.
Like many of her works, the series Shoegaze Into is a study in metaphor. A figure fluttering in the air at the mercy of the wind, or a rock that opens up to reveal teeming activity, serve as visual manifestations of her negative emotions. Cho believes that art can do more than allow an artist to vent their feelings. It can offer real catharsis, and lead to changes in their life.
Since Cho sees art as both a means of expression and a path to healing, she wants her drawings to give viewers a similarly emotionally beneficial effect. “I’ve gradually become convinced that so-called negative feelings are messages from our body, misinterpreted by our minds, to alert and assist us when something important is happening,” she says. “And I increasingly think that such feelings should be faced squarely. I hope my works can convey them.”
Since she can’t change the environment or the culture she grew up in, Cho hopes her drawings and animations can nudge viewers into a conversation with themselves about negative feelings. “Hopefully it can give viewers a sort of ‘band-aid’ for their lives, a reminder that these wounds are there and need to be tended, not ignored. And I hope that after viewers realize this, they can subtly and profoundly understand the emotions in their lives. I hope people learn how to feel better by embracing the bad feelings.”