How does one capture the experience of anonymously watching a young woman taking her lunch break in a makeshift office in the back of a Taiwanese 7-11?
Of voyeuristically observing someone as they themselves observe surveillance footage of their own employees working up front, or make the schedule for the following week, or frantically fix their hair into a ponytail and start in on a pixelated, dusty rose colored cake they probably get as a perk of the job?
Of slowly taking in the walls of this space they’ve hastily created for themselves, featuring a mix of personal touches like Hello Kitty Thermoses and children’s drawings as well as mandatory tools like hefty, outdated fax machines and beige thermostats?
How do you capture the thrill of knowing you’re observing someone completely unaware of being observed, of not knowing whether a mundane scene might suddenly become a heated argument with a coworker, a robbery, a nervous breakdown behind closed doors, or a candid moment of human connection?
I don’t think you really can unless you’re the person watching it live – second by second. But I made this painting as a way to crystallize the emotions I felt while being that person – a placeholder for the real thing infused with observations and connections made during the painting process.
I love incongruity in artwork. Seeing a grey office at a boring job paired with electric colors and various symbols of escapism (personal accoutrements, sugary food, exotic landscape image on computer desktop, etc.) hits me hard. It all felt so perfectly descriptive of the typical lives we lead and the ways in which we try to escape them – only heightened by the once in effect global lockdown.
While working on paintings like this, it’s easy to get fixated on including specific details like Mandarin Chinese text on the wall or a 7-11 logo somewhere for context, but I had to forgo most of these as they served only to flatten and distract from the core of the piece. That core, for me, was a snapshot of the human animal coursing with nervous energy in a confined space, doing her job and trying to keep herself sane with the help of daily, self-imposed distractions.
This is obviously a made up narrative – I have no idea who this person is or what they’re thinking – but like everyone else, I make up my own stories based on my own experiences. Please feel free to share with me what stories you might see here.