Young Artists 2021

Doreen Chan Opens Her Private Life For Discussion

Kat Herriman

Doreen Chan
Doreen Chan. Self-portrait, courtesy of artist.

Doreen Chan suffered from imposter syndrome for longer than you might expect, given her rocket-fueled trajectory in the Hong Kong art scene. Since her prominent solo exhibition at Lianzhou Foto Festival in 2013, Chan’s career has continued to snowball past her wildest expectations, she tells me over FaceTime. “I never thought I was an artist. I just thought I was a girl who liked to take pictures and keep memories and notes,” Chan says. “When I got started, I couldn’t see what I was doing, I was too close—I didn’t know so much of artmaking was just daily life.”

Having finally come to terms with her success, including several well-reviewed institutional solo shows, Chan believes it is her responsibility to use her cultural and ecological footprint as an installation artist to help as many people as possible. This meant moving to Chicago to seek a master’s degree in education. “As an artist, I have to ask myself what value I am bringing,” Chan says. “Art has always been an avenue for expression, but also a method to heal myself and refresh the way I look at the intimate relationships in my life. I want my work to do that for others as well.”

A romantic in the vein of Bunny Rogers and Nan Goldin, Chan often cuts open her private life to make room for others to discuss the things that are taboo. For example, “Hard Cream,” her show with Para Site curator Qu Chang at HB Station in Guangzhou, retraced the wounds of a past relationship, while “How to Close a Window” at Charbon Art Space delved into her father’s sudden passing. For the foreseeable future, Chan will be at work on a five-year project that came to her in December of 2019, during the first Hong Kong uprising. The premise is a social network through which people from all over can find other individuals experiencing the same dreams at night. “I’m not a data scientist, but I love the idea of helping people find their dream soulmates,” Chan says. “There is so much in the world showing us we are alone. I want to create an alternative image.”