The imaginative universe that Ryo Hsu has crafted is wonderfully eccentric, a surreal world with astronauts exploring a strange stretch of outer space that’s populated with mysterious shapes and floating popsicles. Despite boasting an impressive body of work, the Shanghai-based illustrator and graphic designer has never received a formal art education and has been completely self-taught. Hsu originally worked as a professional hair stylist but never quite felt creatively fulfilled in the role. His ongoing love of illustration and design, combined with his dedication and fearlessness to experiment, eventually led him to take a leap of faith and pursue his creative interests full-time. Recently, we had the chance to speak to this multifaceted autodidact to find out about some of the underlying concepts in his work and what inspires him.
Neocha: Can you tell us about how you got started with design and illustration?
Ryo Hsu: I think it stems from my childhood infatuation with manga and comics. I’ve never stopped drawing, and eventually, I was introduced to digital software, which led to me to experiment with new approaches. In the beginning, I had trouble finding an aesthetic that would translate what I envisioned into a visual format, so I just kept experimenting and trying out different mediums.
Ryo Hsu: 可能是源自我小时候喜欢画漫画的经历。画画在我的成长中一直没有停止过，直到我接触到数字软件后，开始新的尝试。但一开始并没有找到能将内心所想完全表达出来的风格，各种喜欢的类型都会去尝试一些。
Neocha: Who or what do you consider to be your biggest influences?
Ryo Hsu: Aside from visual influences, music is the most impactful factor for me. I’ve loved rock music since I was a young kid, and I played in a band. It’s been ten years now, and bandmates come and go; I often just jam by myself. Music is an abstract art to me – it’s intangible. You can’t see it or touch it. Comprehension is completely dependent on an inner level. My artwork is often the result of imagery that pops up in my head from when I would listen to music. Even though I love rock music, I listen to a bit of everything. When I’m working, I most often listen to post-rock, dream-pop, and so on; these genres aren’t convoluted by the presence of vocals or lyrics, so a lot of it is up to my own imagination. As for influences of other artists, Tadanori Yokoo and Dali probably influence me the most. I’m also quite interested in astronomy, sci-fi, surrealism, and I buy a lot of books related to these matters. My artistic style came about naturally. It’s a combination of all of these interests.
Ryo Hsu: 除了视觉，对我创作影响最大的恐怕是音乐，因为我从小很喜欢摇滚乐，然后就开始玩乐队，现在算来也有10年了，只是乐队分分合合，大多时候都是自己在玩。音乐本身是一种抽象的艺术，看不见，摸不到，必须完全靠精神去领悟。所以我的作品往往来源于我在听到某些音乐时脑海里所产生的画面感。虽然喜欢摇滚乐，但基本上什么都听，而创作时常听Post-rock、Dream-pop之类的音乐，因为这类曲子没有过多人声和歌词干扰，也就给我带来很多想像的空间。说起艺术家的话，横尾忠则和达利对我的影响是很大的。另外我也对天文、科幻、超现实主义非常感兴趣，会买很多关于天文类的书籍，所以当有一天我开始试着将我所听到的音乐与这些结合起来便是目前的风格。
Neocha: Space is a prevalent theme in your surreal and abstract illustrations. Can you tell us more about that? What is your fascination with space and what does space mean to you?
Ryo Hsu: I’m pretty obsessed with astronomy. I have a lot of astronomy-related books at my house. On clear nights, I like to observe constellations and ponder about the life forms that may exist in distant galaxies or if we’re the only living organisms out there.
Ryo Hsu: 我对天文类的内容非常着迷，家中有天文图鉴和相关知识的书籍，也常常喜欢在晴朗的夜空辨识星座和行星，去猜测离我们遥远的星系有着怎样的生命，还是我们只是宇宙中唯一有生命的群体。
Neocha: What are some recent projects that you’re working on?
Ryo Hsu: Besides my professional work, I like to doodle and sketch in my free time. I recently published a small zine with Bananafish with all the random daily drawings I’ve accumulated. Also, I was fortunate enough to have my work selected for the Chinese version of the Japanese sci-fi novel The Next Continent.
Ryo Hsu: 除了正式作品外，我只要有时间，平时都会画点小插画，最近把自己累积的一些日常插画与香蕉鱼合作出了一套小豆本，同时自己的插画也有幸被选中作为日本硬科幻小说《第六大陆》中国版的封面。
Neocha: What is the message that you intend to communicate through your personal work?
Ryo Hsu: In the world as we know it now, humans seem to be the masters. But looking outwards, we’re just a tiny blue planet in the solar system. Even beyond that, there are so many unknown mysteries in the universe and places that we probably won’t be able to reach in many lifetimes. But the pioneers of our world are always endlessly looking to further the exploration of extraterrestrial knowledge. My work aims to express the loneliness between people, the sense of isolation between us the rest of the universe, and the longing to understand the unknown. The universe is deep and infinite. There is so much that we don’t know and so much more for us to explore.
Ryo Hsu: 在我们目前已知世界中，人类仿佛成为了主宰，但放眼望去，我们不过是太阳系中的蓝色小小星球，在这之外还有更多未知的世界，也许我们几辈子都无法到达更远的地方，但我们的先驱者总是不懈地去探索地外文明。我的画作中一方面会表达人与人之间的孤独感，人类与之宇宙的孤独感，另一方面也有着对未知世界的憧憬。宇宙深邃无穷，总有各种未知等待我们去探索。