Waterhouse Gallery
Hsin-Yao Tseng
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Hsin-Yao Tseng 

This story was featured in the October 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine.

A new show at Waterhouse Gallery this month presents a thoughtful look at modern society and its love affair with technology. The 35 paintings by San Francisco artist Hsin-Yao Tseng often capture urbanites “plugged in” as they amble through city streets, often with headphones cupping their ears. “It is apparent that people check their smartphones and iPads, answer emails, text, log in to Facebook, and post photos on Instagram constantly, day and night,” Tseng says. “A choice to participate in the current mainstream culture creates a sense of control, however, the demand to remain plugged in may control us.”

The show, aptly titled Disconnect, opens with a reception on Saturday, October 10, from 5 to 7 p.m. Tseng’s moody paintings, which sometimes border on abstraction, focus on the figure in the environment. The abstract sensibility is not an accident. Tseng has spent a great deal of time studying works by abstract painters, exploring in depth both their compositions and their “mark-making.”


DISCONNECT, the title piece, depicts two young women who appear captivated by their electronic devices, communicating as they stand back to back. “Here our notions of interconnectedness are challenged by our detachment from our surroundings,” Tseng says. “The headphone cable in this painting seems to connect the two figures, but the emotion and the spirit [of the figures] are separated or disconnected.”

In the painting LISTEN TO THE CITY, a young woman strolls across a San Francisco street with headphones draped around her neck. She is “unplugged” and appears to be paying attention to the actual sounds of the world around her, suggesting that there is a time to forego electronic devices. In yet another painting, Tseng suggests that people need to unplug in even more extreme ways: A lone figure stands in the middle of what seems a nature preserve or ?forest of some kind. It is winter, and the ground is blanketed in snow. “BLUE DECEMBER is a piece trying to guide people away from the city, all the ?stress and technology, and just appreciate the beauty of nature,” Tseng says. —Bonnie Gangelhoff 

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