We had the good fortune of connecting with Li Anne Liew and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Li Anne, let’s start by talking about what inspires you?
Whether “mundane” or a part of some “Top 10 Places to Visit” list, I find myself consistently inspired by different places. I’ve been inspired by the sights of driving by mountains at night, walking in a foreign city with a friend, and exploring the history of the country I grew up in. I like finding places that become special to me. I don’t care too much about “creatively invigorating” places.
I find myself having a very fleeting amount of time, to which I am afraid that I have not done or seen enough of the place that I am in. It almost feels as if it were the end of the world, which is a recurring theme in my images. As a photographer, I often try to capture and remember the places I’ve been to as accurately as I can but it never really works out. Lately, in the post-production/editing process, I find myself altering my images, sometimes very slightly, sometimes more dramatically with less naturalism. I re-interpret these places to encapsulate how I felt in the moment I captured it, and at the time I am creating the final image.
As a filmmaker, I center a lot of narratives around specific places. To me, a film’s location has its own identity and I’m more inspired to write about my feelings of a place, rather than how it looked to me. I write and draw a lot about the places I’ve said goodbye to my friends and family; the places I’m afraid of spending the rest of my life in; and the places I’ve always dreamt and thought about but have yet to experience.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I think of my art style as reinterpreting the ordinary and creating something that oozes comfort, a sense of relief. For example, I most recently finished a project where I animated over a hundred famous paintings to create a short film narrative about the emotions of being alive, which I am both very excited and nervous about! I’ve been capturing ordinary places and making it seem fantastical, perhaps even creating a world I’d rather be in.
I try not to set myself in a box of a specific style, which might not be the best case. But I spent years trying to find a specific style, to which I feel erased my artistic visions. I think my biggest challenges were rooted in my worries about not being “original” or good enough, often seeing other artists as competition. Finding my personal voice took years (and I am still developing it!) but it greatly helped me to understand the themes, stories, and images I wanted to create, as well as appreciating the works of other artists. I am still plagued with the anxieties of not being good enough, but I don’t think that it will ever go away.
I also see a lot of beauty in hidden figures – people whose faces we don’t really see; obstructed bodies; framing people through walls. There’s a story in there, an identity that I can superimpose on a stranger. I think this is a theme that I’ve carried with throughout my entire photo and film experience. I grew up doing street photography but I was deeply afraid of exposing people’s entire faces. This soon translated into my personal work as I found my portrayal of hidden figures much more fascinating and mysterious. It strangely allowed me to better identify with the portraits of my photos.
I’ve been finding myself delving in creating a lot of personal work lately. I’m always looking to create something that portrays how I feel, which range from conflicting thoughts of identity to being afraid of the end of the world. I find it difficult to churn out art in constant motion and I often only feel compelled to create when I need to get something out about the state of my mind. I grew up enjoying photography but I never really emotionally connected with the the medium of my own photos until very recently.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I have yet to show any of my close friends or family the area I currently live in, and I can’t wait to bring them around.
Much of the itinerary would revolve around food.
– I’d probably start with visiting Smorgasburg at The Row in DTLA. So much to eat and drink there.
– Do a little tour of the many free art galleries in the arts district.
– LACMA, MOCA, The Broad, The Getty, Bradbury Building.
– Watch a movie/go for a concert at the Hollywood Forever Cemetary.
– Go to Vista Hermosa Natural Park and the Venice Canals to see the sunset.
– Find a rooftop somewhere in DTLA.
– Get some good sashimi somewhere, go to K-Town for KBBQ, get Vietnamese food in Westminster.
– Take trips up and down PCH to Santa Barbara and San Diego.
– Visit the Trona Pinnacles, Bristol Lake, and Amboy Crater in the Mojave Desert. Maybe go to Bombay Beach. Watch the sunset at Keys View in Joshua Tree.
– Walk around in the suburbs I live in. Most/all of my close friends and family have never visited the US before. Could be nice.
– Obligatory go to the beach, maybe somewhere with a cliff. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My mother and my cat.