Page Tsou is a Taipei-based, award-winning visual artist, and is the founder of AUSPICIOUS design studio. His work is self-described as retrofuturistic art that still retains a contemporary aesthetic. With a background that consists of both Eastern and Western influences, the surreal worlds he creates are ever-changing and filled with a myriad of imaginative imagery, from fishes wearing top hats to a steampunk version of Noah’s Ark where animals are carried away via huge blimps. More than just aesthetically pleasing, his personal body of work is compelling and narrative-driven, putting various overlooked societal issues under the microscope. Through his storyteller’s approach, Page’s intention is to generate much-needed empathy through his art. We recently had the chance to talk to Page about his inspirations and his thoughts on Taiwan’s creative scene.
Neocha: When would you say your interest in visual arts began?
Page: I was about seven years old when I started to fall in love with drawing. At the time, I didn’t really feel like I existed at school, because my grades weren’t very good, and the teachers didn’t pay any attention to me. But painting was my way to get acknowledgement, and it made me feel happy.
Neocha: How have the cities where you’ve lived influenced your work?
Page: I grew up in the suburbs of Fengyuan, near Taichung. The desolation of the semi-industrial landscape there is actually what fueled my desire to make beautiful things. I then spent my high school and college years in the countryside where I practiced traditional ink painting for seven years. Afterwards, I started becoming interested in graphic design. Then, in London, I came to realize that the overall atmosphere of an environment is the key to shaping a beautiful aesthetic. I particularly like the clashing contrasts between the new and the old, and I started paying more attention to details, gaining a more objective understanding of my own culture by observing it from a distance. I came to realize that delivering a message to the audience is much more important than just painting a beautiful painting, and as a result, I gained a more overarching insight into creativity.
Neocha: Where do you draw your inspiration from? How do you feel like these inspirations have shaped your unique aesthetic?
Page: I am influenced by all aspects of life. I like to learn about different narrative techniques from movies, and I pay close attention to how the director controls the atmosphere and transitions between scenes. I appreciate Andy Warhol’s sense of modernity, the serenity of Edward Hopper’s work, the creativity of Damien Hirst, the non-conformity of Banksy, the aesthetic of Dieter Rams, the composition and colors of Wes Anderson’s work, Carlo Scarpa’s attentiveness to spatial details, and Le Corbusier’s scale of proportions. I could actually go on and on. In short, I take all of these artistic qualities that I like, and after internalizing them, it all eventually comes together to become my own personal aesthetic.
Page: 影響我的事物是很全面的，我喜歡從電影裡學習各種敘事的方式，我會特別注意氣氛的掌握和轉場之間的安排。我欣賞Andy Warhol的時代性，Edward Hopper的寧靜，Damien Herst的創意，Banksy的體制之外，Dieter Rams的美感，Wes Anderson的構圖與色彩，Carlo Scarpa的空間細節，Le Corbusier的比例感。其實也講不完，總之就是集結各種喜好與特質，內化之後，就變成屬於自己的美學。
Neocha: What challenges do you feel Taiwanese creatives face in today’s market? Do you currently face or have you faced similar hardships in the past? If so, what advice would you give to these up-and-coming creatives?
Page: It’s hard for a normal Taiwanese person to appreciate the invisible and intangible value of creativity and art. Professional designers and artists often face disrespectful attitudes about their work, and business owners can find it quite hard to communicate with creatives. I consider it a problem of the whole environment. Taiwan just needs more time. As long as creatives remain persistent and continue to create great work, things will eventually change for the better.
Neocha: What kind of effect do you think Taipei being chosen as the 2016 World Design Capital has on Taiwan? What do you think the future holds for Taiwan when it comes to the creative industry?
Page: With World Design Capital taking place in Taipei this year, there have been more design-focused events, which allow more people to participate and gain a deeper understanding of design. The government is gradually discovering the importance of the creative industry, which means that creatives will have more opportunities in the future. Nowadays, with the convenience of the internet, it’s easy for exceptional creatives to connect with the rest of the world.
Neocha: What would you say the most difficult part of doing a commercial project versus a personal project is? From your experience, do you feel like working for Taiwanese brands and international brands are different?
Page: There are more conditions and requirements when it comes to creative work in commercial projects. It’s more restricting because you have to meet the needs of the client while also thinking about the market. It takes time and perseverance to create personal projects. I think that as long as you can maintain a relationship of trust and respect with the client, you can have a degree of freedom, no matter whether it’s an international or a domestic project. The first prerequisite is to be demanding of yourself and make high-quality work. Only then can you start to talk about freedom.
From October 13th to 30th, Visual Taipei, a collaborative exhibition curated by Page Tsou is happening at the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park. The exhibition features artists from around the world and aims to showcase Taipei in a new way through international perspectives.