A Conversation with Tofer Chin
American artist Tofer Chin has put a youth-impacted spin on contemporary painting, photography, sculpture and installation over the past few years. His carefully stylized paintings capture the controlled and the insane with a uniquely identifiable, rainbow-hued aesthetic. We recently caught up with the Los Angeles-based artist for some insight into his life in and outside of art, as well as some other random facts about Mr. Chin. Read below!
Creating a perfect line… is an illusion. It’s magic. What the fuck is perfect anyway? I know I’m not. But we all would like to think we are or at least try to be, right? Trying to create a perfect line goes hand-in-hand with my semi-obsessive compulsive behavior. When I paint or make something, I am striving for my ideal perfection. Even when I think what I’ve done is perfect, I know it’s not. It may appear to be flawless. But it never is. That’s what’s so rad about creating something by hand. Imperfections lead to perfection.
Rainbows… are awesome! Double rainbows are even more awesome!!! These multicolored arcs remind me of the countless stories I’ve heard and footage I’ve seen on Woodstock and The Grateful Dead. Speaking of The Grateful Dead, when I was a teenager tripping on mushrooms in Simi Valley, CA, where the classic movie Little House on the Prairie was filmed, I saw a “Jerry Bear” giggling and dancing across a rainbow in the sky. In 2009, I produced a body of work titled Double Dip (a five-part acid trip) and used the spectrum of a rainbow throughout. When I see a rainbow it triggers sensations of laughing so hard my face feels like it’s melting.
Every morning… I thank the angels above for my health, my friends and my family. I’ve known people that have passed away. I’ve had family members pass away. I’ve never had a best friend pass away until recently. I was on a plane from Rio de Janeiro to São Paulo. As soon as I landed in São Paulo my phone turned on. Phone calls, text messages and emails. One of my best friends of 15 years unexpectedly passed away. Sadness and pain. A prolonged sense of being trapped took over. I didn’t know what to do. I knew what I was feeling was like no other pain I’ve ever felt before. Life is short. Go big like every day is your last. Aaron Pepper went huge! Never looking back.
Traveling has become… an inspirational necessity. When I’m in Los Angeles, I’m in the studio a lot. I purposely give myself an abundance of alone time to gather my thoughts and make work. Days can go by where I don’t physically interact with anybody. I am really fortunate and thankful that I get to travel frequently. I thrive off new sceneries, foreign cultures and the everlasting relationships made doing so.
I come from… a family of doctors. I’m not sure why I didn’t go down that career path. Maybe too much schooling. Maybe I didn’t want so much responsibility. My dad told me one day that he has the utmost respect for me, and all artists alike. He said, “Based on what we do, we completely expose ourselves to public criticism. It takes a really strong, thick-skinned individual to deal with this daily.” I asked him, “But what about you being held responsible for other peoples’ lives?” He said, “What I do is private. It’s straightforward. I keep people alive. As an artist, you are going out on a limb everyday voicing your opinion for the world to see and criticize.”
“Cool” guys… and “cool” girls are individuals that follow and live their dreams with no fear. Built like steel. Nothing can hurt. And nothing can stop them.
Los Angeles is a hotbed for… dreams. LA has perfect weather year-round. The cost of living is extremely affordable compared to most major cities. You can do anything here. I’m a native Angeleno. I’ve seen this place grow. The arts are flourishing out of control here. We have more than a handful of amazing museums and hundreds of art galleries. I’m going to include music in this category too. In my opinion, we have the most access to the best concerts in the world. And LA’s home to the largest outdoor amphitheater in the world. This fucking awesome city isn’t all what the media portrays it to be. LA is a hell of a lot more than actors and models. Take a trip here, see for yourself. Oh and one more thing, you gotta rent a car!
Art and… food. Sex can be thrown into this too. This is life. I think about these three things 24 hours a day. Awake and asleep. Without art and making things I would have no purpose. Without sex? Shit. Really?! Then what’s the point of living? And food, ahhh. I’m obsessed. My friends call me a “skinny fat kid.” I love to eat. I love to cook. I love to watch the Food Network. I love cooking magazines. One goal is to travel around the world and eat whatever I want, whenever I want. Cheap foods. Expensive foods. It doesn’t matter as long as it’s fucking good. When I catch myself obsessively thinking and talking about what I’ve eaten throughout that day and days thereafter, I’ve succeeded.
I’d like to consider myself… to be a good friend. My friends are my family. I am nothing without them.
If I only had $5 in my pocket… I would probably be hungry. Then I would ask myself where could I go get an epic meal that will fill me up for the rest of the day. The first place that comes to my mind is Dino’s on Pico Boulevard in LA. For $5 you can get 1/2 a chicken. Not a 1/4 of a chicken. A 1/2 of a chicken, glazed in this orgasmic orange rotisserie sauce, on top of a bed of french fries. Coleslaw and warm tortillas on the side. The sauce from the chicken drips down onto the fries. Normally I would say I don’t like soggy fries. But this sauce makes these the best and soggiest fries I’ve ever had. Normally I don’t like coleslaw. This coleslaw is the shit. Full and satisfied is an understatement after this meal. Here’s a little side note that my friend who recommended this spot forgot to mention: the orange sauce totally stains your fingers no matter how many times you wash them. You have to wait for your dead skin to fall off to have clean hands again.
Photography: Quam Odunsi