Brady Walker: Can you please introduce yourself to our readers?
I am Gina Choy, a painter, an author, and a PhD scholar of art and neuroscience. My work is a visual fusion of East and West, drawing together philosophies and practices of traditional Chinese Painting with Western Modernism.
BW: Tell me about the piece you’re bringing to Miami with MakersPlace & Transient Labs.
Oneness II is a 5ft x 6 ft acrylic painting on canvas that took a year to complete. It is meticulously hand-painted in a state of meditative concentration. In the work, color fields are overlayed with Chinese calligraphic strokes.
The painting explores the idea of Oneness, a Buddhist concept that challenges the sense of our singularity and separateness. The work at first was a form in isolation, surrounded by space, but it grew to become something greatly interconnected. Creating it reminded me of the power of human connection and how the exchange of energy within a like-minded community can enliven us and bring joy. I realized that Oneness can be found as a state of wholeness, but it can also be discovered in plurality.
BW: Is there anything special about this piece in the context of your body of work?
Oneness II is the first of my physical paintings that have been linked on the Blockchain with its NFT twin. Transient Labs’ new T.R.A.C.E hardware offered the perfect way to aggregate the digital and the physical through this third element. This is perfectly fitting with the theme of this piece which speaks of the wholeness of plurality.
A physical painting with a sister NFT challenges the values and ideals attached to concepts in traditional art of “originality,” “uniqueness,” and “singularity” and presents an artwork as being potentially multifaceted, multi-temporal, and possessing a plurality that can enrich its value rather than depreciate it, as tradition has previously dictated.
BW: Can you share any specific rituals or practices that help you maintain your creative momentum?
I am intrinsically motivated to create. One could say that I eat, sleep, and breathe art. However, I have come to understand that while my motivation comes from the pleasure of creating and a constant source of inspiration, my momentum is rooted in the maintenance of my ch’i (or life-force as it is often translated). The importance of an artist’s ch’i and its relevance to one’s practice is communicated in the ancient instructional texts of Chinese painter-critics.
A great deal of my rituals around my creative work relate to the maintenance of my health, the strengthening of my ch’i. Without health and vital energy, the creative outputs of my work and research aren’t possible.
My rituals orient around maintaining my nervous system and blood sugar levels by feeding my body and blood regularly with nutrient-dense food. I bring movement and regulation to my body and stillness to my mind with daily yoga, breathwork, walks in nature, and plenty of solitude and silence. Let’s just say, there is a lot of touching grass going on in my daily rituals!
Within the ancient tradition that I draw from, painting is a form of ritual practice as is the preparation for it. In this way, my whole life is ritual and preparation for painting. Everything I do is becoming part of and reflective of my discipline of art.
BW: How much planning or preliminary thought goes into each painting?
I can’t say I plan my work or think about my paintings much before I start them. However, I do think a lot about my process and practice and the philosophies that underpin them. The research that I do as part of my creative work is highly concrete, cognitive, and logical. But when I come to paint, I attempt to surrender that cognitive part of myself and work from a place of no-mind, generating a state of flow where I concentrate on my method. This involves my breath, posture, and the maintenance of vigilant attention to the moment through a heightened state of self-awareness in the aesthetic experience.
Sometimes my paintings are an outcome of musing on philosophy. This manifests visually, like a flash of insight, with the idea for an image very clearly in my mind and I set about painting it. Most of the time the work is more of a Koan. A Koan is used in Zen Buddhism, it is often referred to as a riddle or an unanswerable question used to demonstrate the inadequacy of logic and reasoning to provoke enlightenment. I will set my mind on a question asked — usually as a randomized code or set of self-imposed rules relating to the combination of calligraphic strokes and color — and through the meditative act of painting, the work presents itself as a response and often with it, some insight.
I spend a lot of time in the company of my paintings. They are not painted in a state of rush nor completed in this manner. They rest in the peripherals of my attention as both an idea, a work in process, and a completed painting. I dwell with the work a lot and savour its slow development. I often find they are still bringing new insight to me many years after I have painted them.
BW: How would you describe how your work is currently evolving?
My work has come to explore the spaces between seeming opposites — Eastern and Western; traditional and contemporary; digital and physical; scientific and creative. I find it is in the liminal spaces between things that new knowledge and insight emerge.
When something opposing is held up against another thing it creates an empty space in-between. This makes both of those individual things multi-dimensional and capable of being greatly expanded. This is like when two separate synapses try to reach for each other, they grow toward each other, and a new pathway is formed. When they join, bam! It is electric! A new trajectory for thought is created.
I perceive art can be a form of experiential medicine for both the artist and audience. My practice and process of painting has evolved alongside my growing understanding of the bio-mechanical function of the brain and the body and relevant studies in neuroscience exploring aesthetic experience, cognition, and the autonomic nervous system. This is deepened by my study of traditional Chinese painting practices which were traditionally believed to be self-cultivating. I have found, when brought together, one body of knowledge expands the other.
BW: What do you hope people feel when they look at your art?
When you place two guitars face to face and pluck the string of one, the same string on the other vibrates. This is known as sympathetic resonance.
When people look at my art, I hope there is a resonance of the spirit or ch’i-yun as it is referred to in traditional Chinese connoisseurship. I want my work to act as an instrument of co-regulation for my audience. This is in keeping with the Chinese painting tradition, which asserts that art can transport the viewer into a state of mind wandering, and in doing so the ch’i of the artist is transmitted to the viewer.
I only paint unless I am in a regulated state of calm, my mind is free of worry, and my ch’i is strong and vital. The state of the painter is incredibly important in the tradition of Chinese painting. The mood, energy, and state of mind is seen to be transmitted into the artwork and as such is known as a mind-print or seal of the heart. The painting is an artifact of the painter’s experience. It can leave Yün, (an overtone or resonance), as a lingering trace of the work in the viewer. I hope that if I can maintain the right state when I paint the resulting painting can create an aesthetic experience that anchors the viewer into a sympathetic resonance of calm and peace.
BW: What role does physical art play in the broader web3 art ecosystem?
Web3 as an ecosystem represents the oscillation between digital and physical realities, the intangible and tangible, the human and the technological. Just as we communicate largely with each other through technology, we as a community still seek out experiences of IRL connection through a growing compliment of global conferences and exhibitions. These physical experiences of each other deepen our connection to our digital reality and bring another layer of detail to it through the engagement of all of our senses. The physicality of life, its soma, is something we need at a very human level.
Physical art offers the opportunity to experience a form of creative expression that engages the brain and body in a different way. We are becoming ever more digitally native, and this is allowing the world to open up to us in incredible ways. In this evolutionary and technological shift, I believe our connection with traditional technologies, materials and rituals become a vitally important element to the balance and enrichment of our brains and our bodies.
I love being in a space where one can travel between digital and physical realities. An NFT that holds a physical twin offers two very different ways to experience an art form. Both mediums of experience augment the other in our consciousness through the variation of our sensory perception of them. We are largely becoming more at home experiencing the world through a digital lens, but on occasion, we need to step out of that and into the body and touch something.
Collecting art has always been a luxury, but now, more than ever, physical art, and the capacity to display, store, transport, and insure it, represents another layer of luxury for patrons. I can see physical experiences, like those in nature, within our communities, and in art, as becoming ever increasingly nouveau lux. It seems to me, that just as NFTs have democratized art acquisition, the collection of both the NFT with its physical presents another level of decadence and lavishness to the patronage of art.
BW: Who or what else excites you in the art world (web3 or trad) right now?
Quite simply I believe that here in the ecosystem of web3, cryptocurrency, and blockchain technology, we are amid the next great movement in art history. Its impact will reverberate through time, art, culture, and human consciousness.
While it remains to be coined, I perceive this movement to be a global, more democratized, great melting pot of art and culture that is electrified with new technology, science, diverse modalities, and philosophies. It is driven by the innovation, discontent, and curiosity of an insanely eclectic community with an insatiable desire to connect and I am here for it.