We had the good fortune of connecting with SEIL LIEN and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi SEIL LIEN, is there something you can share with us that those outside of the industry might not be aware of?
I think there is a general misconception of what success actually is.
I belong to two industries/ or communities as I’d prefer to see them; music and art and depending on what era you were born into success in the arts is measured by the outside world differently. In Mozart’s day perhaps it was how many high brow commissions you acquired, or how they were reviewed by the upper classes?
In the 60 – 80’s it was about what tv, radio and paper coverage you received or now, how many followers you have.
In the art world your success lies heavily in the support of galleries, those who critique you and if you’re even worth critiquing.
But hey, I think we can all look at Van Gogh and whole heatedly say – what a load of BS.
So, what does success actually look like to an artist?
I’m sure that’s as subjective as the art/ music itself so I can only talk from my perspective.
For me sure, having work talked about in magazines, played on TV/ radio… I can’t lie, there is a certain amount of human desire for this sort of validity. But is this success?
The bones of success are sustainability and the capacity to connect with those around us through the obligation of expression as an artist.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I mainly paint with oils. I try not to harbour visual pre conceptions with the intention of channelling pure expression; excavating the thought before it’s formed. I centre my practice on creating a state of internal silence as to extract what’s already inside in the most honest way I can. I find the only way I can do it is to really empty myself of thought and intention.
Was the path here easy? Hmm.. It depends on what you define as easy.
I’ve noticed that the path of a creative life is rarely a straight one. The lesson I’ve learned is this; Your life is different to my life yet a women with her feet on the African desert can have a common experience with a women on the edge of the Irish Sea.
The key to this commonality is truth; the bare, butt naked truth.
If you engineer the creative output and try hard to connect with that women on the other side of the world – well, that’s a really difficult win. However if you reach down scraping the truth of your humanity from the underbelly of your existence you’ll express something that transcends, time, culture, faith and the rest. Truth is the key and one can spend their life being told other wise – Be more this, do more that , express like this, resonate with that. Ultimately the lesson is to be only you.
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 love when people come visit, it reminds me of all the things I love about living here. The insane art collections, the theatres, the markets, the dim sum and cocktails in China Town – There is endless joy to be had! I’m local to Londons famous Portobello Road, but as the chain coffee shops arrived and general high street homogenisation creeps upon it I would recommend Golborne Rd, and that top end of Portobello to experience that more authentic glorious hodgepodge that London’s famous for. Under the love or hate brutalist building Trellick Tower you’ll find the Panella, the best Sicilian joint in town and after get a traditional Portuguese nata from Lisboa – to die for! Happy times.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
A creative turning point for me was watching Patti Smith’s Dream of Life documentary, until that moment I was always a bit embarrassed that I pursued different artistic expressions. It was kind of frowned upon, like I wasn’t really committed to one or the other. I just didn’t see it that way, for me it’s all just expression and when I watched Dream of Life and saw Patti so unapologetically dive between her art, music and poetry – that was such a revelation! After that, the shame melted away and I just started owning it. That felt really good. Thanks Patti!
My first real bandmate, Scottish/ Icelandic percussionist and drummer Signy Jakobsdottir – God, she taught me a lot and gave me a lot – a lot of love, a lot of advise, a lot of strength and a lot of awesome home made biscuits. There is so much there I wouldn’t really know where to start. She’s my sister from another mister that’s for sure.
My sister, Laurie is my Theo (Van Gogh’s ridiculously tolerant and loving bro). I often credit her as Theo in publications.
Over the years her support has been a true lifeline whether that be love or money. My parents were also ridiculously supportive.
My husband, Matt White is a musician also, he believes in me in ways I’ve never experienced in a relationship before. I don’t know how he does it but he genuinely inspires me to be a better artist, better soulmate and an altogether better human – I think I just really admire him and feel like I need to level up lol! I’m a seriously lucky human!
Main pic – Samantha Johnston 3 of 8 – Bernie O’Hare 8 of 8 – Samantha Johnston