Whooli Chen Familiar but far-out scenes from the Taiwanese illustrator

Cover Image - Whooli Chen

Do you know the hazy limbo state-of-mind you sometimes experience right before you wake up from a dream? In that moment you’re vaguely aware of your surroundings, but you morph them seamlessly with your imagination. And it’s only when you’ve fully woken up that you’re able to separate out these different strands into something resembling coherency.

Now, take a look at the illustrations of Whooli Chen and see if what I just described feels familar. Whooli grows or shrinks everyday objects into impossible sizes and puts them in imaginary worlds. As in a dream, objects are removed from their normal context and given a new meaning. “I like adding elements of surrealism in my works because it represents more room for interpretation” she explains. It is these new relations between objects that give you clues as to how to look at her work.

After finishing her masters’ degree in illustration in London, Whooli returned to Taipei, Taiwan. She merges these two influences in her artistic approach but she takes creative cues from various places, including formal visual styles like the Vienna Secession and Art & Crafts movements.

You can see this in the role flora and fauna play in her work. “I like plants, animals –nature in general – and I also love to draw it. Sometimes they represent certain meanings, like with my Blindness Inner Garden project. The flowers represent vivid and copious thoughts in one’s head.”

Although Whooli uses pencil for drawing and then adds in digital coloring techniques, her works appear as if they are created with watercolor. This effect, together with the palette she uses, creates a softness in her work that reminds me of sunrise-dappled morning dew.

With its disproportionate objects, and prominent use of animals, her work is not unlike a modern Alice in Wonderland story. The dream-like scenarios make you unsure if what you’re seeing is what you’re really seeing, but they do come together to create some kind of story.