Coming to Chelsea from Guangzhou, China, MA Textile Design student Suirong Chen tells us about his work for the final show, how the tutors and classmates on the MA helped him to solve problems with his work and how video became an integral aspect of his creative process.

Describe your experience at Chelsea in 3 words
Ground-breaking, inspiring, enjoyable

Please tell us about your work over the last year
It was such a challenging year. To be honest, the main purpose of this course, textile environment design (TED), is kind of a new thing to me. In the past few years, I just did textiles for expressing an idea and aesthetic. On the MA I was asked to bring sustainability to my work and it was not that easy to get there at first. However, during the research process I realised that sustainability is a broad concept which was not just about recycling, as I had thought before. In my project, I used rose fibre and banana yarn which are bio-degradable and reproducible so it’s completely vegan and eco-friendly.

During the MA I was exploring the topic of gender and combining different textile techniques into making artwork. The process was quite tortuous as I tried to express a lot yet the experiment outcomes didn’t always work effectively. Fortunately, my tutors and classmates gave me lots of suggestions which helped to develop my idea much further. For example, I found the best way to take my textile work to the next level was by adding a second layer of material on the pure produced textile product, which became an important part of my final work.

Please tell us about your work for the final show
My final work is divided into two sections, the video and textile sculptures. I will use my skill of making a video to express the whole concept of my textile works. The video shows the process of how the ‘femininity’ and ‘masculinity’ elements of the work shaped and finally find their own way to balance each other. And the textile sculptures I will present explore the different status of femininity and masculinity, playing with the form and texture inspired by each feature. I aim to suggest the balanced condition where one can gain most advantages by expressing gender identity in their own way. Meanwhile, I want to show the consequence of the domination by completely feminine or masculine power.

What was your greatest challenge in working towards the degree show?
I think it would be how to control the works between literality and evocation. I don’t want my works to look too realistic but they should arouse some subconscious thought in the mind that the viewer associates with the concept I want to express.

What do you see yourself doing after you graduate, what are your career ambitions?
During the MA I realised that I am more skilled in making videos to express ideas, but I also want to combine all the skills I learned to create art. I aim to work on the position that I can use my video skill to present the artwork.

What have you enjoyed most about studying at Chelsea?
I have to say that studying and life in the studio did trigger a lot of unexpected inspiration, particularly as a result of communicating with other students and helping each other. I took full advantage of that in the final period.

What have you most enjoyed about the area around Chelsea? Any tips?
The Thames river and Tate Britain museum are just next to Chelsea, which can make you fully enjoy the artistic atmosphere of studying in London.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about doing your course? Any advice?
Make good use of the resources at Chelsea, and find out the next step of your life during this year.

Find out more about Suirong’s work

Check out the BA Textile Design course at Chelsea