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In central London, from the 20th to the 30th of September, the works of talented Artist Skyler Chen come together to portray the pull between conventions and desires in a series of paintings.

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Originally from Taiwan, Rotterdam-based artist Skyler Chen has created a marking series. The paintings in ‘Do Ask, Do Tell’, created during lockdown, tell the domestic intimate narrative of coming to terms with, developing and finding one’s identity as a queer person in a conservative environment. 

The series reveals this with a delicate powerful beauty in Eve Leibe Gallery’s current exhibition. 

It is an extremely personal perspective that we get through earthly colours and warm tones. The soft shades create a cosy environment – it feels as if we were entering one’s home or a bedroom. The works are true. We must engage and relate to them, confronting and understanding how sexuality and identity can be lived.

 

Skyler Chen, Only Fans Creator, 2021, Courtesy of Eve Leibe Gallery.

 

The nomadic Eve Leibe Gallery and director Selena Cerami highlight the internal nature of the emotions in the warm setting in central London. The display is simple letting the echoes of a house resonate a homely past, suggested by the humble unpretentious environment.

The building gives signs of an everyday life - like that of the figures in Skyler’s works. It is truthful, modest and natural.

From the title to the setting, everything compliments and values the artist’s message, language and visual vocabulary. Built from a strong exploration, in the face of undiagnosed Dyslexia, the artist’s visual language is convincing, contemporarily resulting delicate and hostile.

The warm colours draw us in. But we perceive a certain tension and suspense from the objects. They are frozen and result striking – even surreal at times.

Drawing from his own experience, growing up and being part of the Mormon Community, Skyler lets us enter his emotional world. How do desires, objects and our ties with others pull us in diverging directions? The display creates an open dialogue with the intimacy of the works. On the whole, this invites us to connect to the struggles of the figures.

 

Skyler Chen, Honey, Would You Set The Table, 2021, Courtesy of Eve Leibe Gallery.

 

The name of series is a direct reference to the U.S. policy ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ (DADT), in place from 1994 to 2011. It prohibited military personnel from discriminating or questioning the sexuality of those who were not openly gay, lesbian or bisexual – at the same time banning and excluding the very same people from joining the armed forces. This caused suspicion, forcing people to live a hidden life of silence and secrecy in a traditional conservative world.

The series ‘Do Tell, Do Ask’ places that secret, hidden and unaccepted identity at the centre. Imagery, shades and tones translate the feelings of the artist and the figures. Objects and physical tensions develop in the frozen scenes. 

The paintings show us what is really happening in the mind, emotionally and viscerally for the returning anonymous figures. The simple traits make them relatable – it could be you, me or anybody.

Thanks to the cutting shadows, soft colours and details in the objects laying in plain sight on the table, we are drawn in. It is a world were objects, nature and people intertwine, bringing different tensions into play. 

 

Skyler Chen, Begging a Bird, not to tell, 2021, Courtesy of Eve Leibe Gallery.

 

The paintings develop around the details – drawing us towards the symbolic power of the items. A bitten peach, a half-full glass, magazines and traditional Taiwanese steamed dishes (such as xiaolongbao) – are the returning items on which our gaze falls. 

A bird fleetingly moves from work to work, like the visitors in the gallery. It is an echo of Taiwanese iconography - a subtle image of freedom which can look, observe and freely let its curious nature lead it to the suggestive objects. 

Suspended, inclined, curious and fixed - we perceive a sense of timelessness. Still, tense, rigid and framed – there is a sexual tension in the air. A slight absurdity, surrealness and the anonymity of silence affect the domestic realities of common objects. 

The lonely bird is frozen mid-flight, while an interplay between the anonymous figures is captured. Like the bird looking at these objects and the scenes, we get a glance of very intimate precious desires. They are obvious, in plain sight – undisputed but surrounded by personal relationships and cultural conventions.

The apparently emotionless figures are actually expanded in the objects, as their meanings and the multiple layers of symbols, feelings and iconography mix. The passions of these figures are echoed in the objects and nature around them, creating a sense of an individual’s reality.

However, the clues are quiet as if they were private glimpses of an internal struggle.

It is truthfully exposed – a sincere view of the influence of strict doctrines and conservative perspectives on the life, desires and world of one person. 

What a privilege to be welcomed into this home. What an honour to be invited to look and relate to such intimacy in the modest delicate space of the Eve Leibe Gallery in 12 Connaught Street.

 

Skyler Chen, Night After Night, 2021, Courtesy of Eve Leibe Gallery.

 

Discover more about Eve Leibe Gallery on Kooness.

Cover image: Skyler Chen, Simple Little Things to Cherish in Life, 2021, Courtesy of Eve Leibe Gallery.

Written by Zoë Rivas Zanello

 

Stay Tuned on Kooness magazine for more exciting news from the art world.

 

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