In Conversation with Min Liu
Exploring Creative Shifts: Min Liu on Artistic Evolution and Transition
Transition, a time of blurred lines and greater ideas that require such vast changes. A time to question, to discover and to focus so deeply. We talk about such transitions with Min Liu, an animation artist who turned to tattoo art and design, and is currently based in New York. Min opens up about the necessities of change, understanding new mediums and the perils of social media as an artist.
BISKIT: Min, so let’s start by telling me a bit about yourself.
MIN LIU: I’ve been working in animation since 2013, so I consider myself as an animation artist more than a motion design artist. I started with motion design, then animation and right now I am more geared towards multimedia. I also started doing tattoos about five years ago, as a way to be closer to what satisfies my heart. With animation, it requires a massive team and a lot of money for every project, whether it’s a film or a short still, so even if I have a great vision, it’s harder in a logistics format. I also only work with my own designs and don’t necessarily deviate styles for clients, so I find that the medium of tattoo work satisfies what I enjoy doing at the moment.
Min Liu in our Spinal Cord Tunic
BISKIT: Around the time you started doing tattoo work, you also did a few animation pieces for Biskit. Can you tell me more about those and how your work has transformed in any ways after that collaboration?
MIN: So Harsha sent me a few photos of the Biskit website with some of the shoots they did, and using that as a baseline, I created some animations that encapsulated the space and multi-dimensionality of Biskit. I used a lot of texture to play around with the existing images and tried out a lot of different brush strokes to tie in the interactiveness between animation and image. I found that after that collaboration with Biskit, I began to incorporate many more textures throughout my work.
Min's collaboration with Biskit
BISKIT: That’s so cool to see very transformative aspects in your work! I wanted to go back to what you were saying about tattoos; what drew you to tattoo work in particular, any sort of kickstart point?
MIN: I have always loved tattoos, and I remember starting to get tattoos when I was 19. The idea for tattoos started with an exhibition of mine in Dumbo in 2018, where I wanted to create more animations just to exhibit, so I created a series called Tangible. I made that series with three different animations with no optical illusions, and then I created a tattoo with a filter, so the tattoo could be animated with the help of the filter. At that point though, I didn’t know how to tattoo myself and I knew that I had to learn instead of taking the designs to a tattoo artist, because it started costing more money. So I started with handpokes and moved up from there. After handpoking, I started using a machine and got into it after two years, where I tattooed my friends or anyone who wanted one. I opened my studio in Bushwick, early 2020, so the timing sucked a little but we’re coming back. I find my style of tattooing leans towards a contemporary, abstract and Bauhaus style that I find a lot in Berlin, and I find that the style I deviate towards isn’t as popular in the US.
Some of Min's tattoo work
BISKIT: Do you think the tattoo styles in the US are shifting though, through various communities or subcultures?
MIN: I haven’t been around to other cities in the state, and I’m the kind of person to fly to cities to get tattoos, like going to Berlin every other year, or London. So I haven’t seen as much just because I decided to go out into different cities, but I think an evolution in styles is something that’s probably coming up. I just haven’t followed it as much.
BISKIT: So shifting back to animation, what drew you to the medium in particular? Beyond that, how do you think you have worked to create a relationship between the analog and the digital in your work?
MIN: When I started grad school, I started with motion graphics and then shifted into animation. I didn’t want to go into stop motion animation because it was too tedious, so I went into computer animation. I found computer animation to still be organic where I can draw everything, even if it's created digitally. With this form of animation, I find the contrast to be the most appealing, where even if it is created with a computer, it is still a work that is hand drawn and organic. When it comes to the relationship between tattoos and animation, it’s the contrast with both mediums, where one medium dives into the most analog of formats, which is my skin. For me, all relationships between the digital and analog come down to contrast.
BISKIT: Does a theme for a project come first or the medium come first?
MIN: I always have an idea first, and then I’ll figure out what mediums are accessible to me at that moment. If I need to learn a specific medium, I need to understand the steps that come along with that. Whatever else comes up in the future, will come up.
BISKIT: Is there any medium that you want to explore in the future?
MIN: I think I am waiting to see what comes up. Even with animation, I started with graphic design and then started to animate, because I find it more powerful to communicate my projects. So I’ll see where life takes me.
Min walking around New York wearing Biskit's Spinal Cord Tunic
BISKIT: How do you bring in your personal style of work with all the distinct clients you work with?
MIN: This is a very difficult aspect of my job, and because of that I am very picky with my clients. Every client has something about the project that’s very set in stone and there’s a lot that needs to be negotiated. The industry is still very commercial, so it’s a matter finding this very weird balance of not losing personality with my own work. I still keep time aside for myself to do personal projects so I have something just for myself, and then set the line apart from jobs so that I feel a little more balanced. When there’s no such balance it definitely becomes really hard to survive in the industry.
Min in her New York studio with her artwork
BISKIT: So what comes next, what do you want to focus your energy on?
MIN: I want to switch my focus completely to tattoos because there’s more freedom to explore more avenues. With animation, I feel like there’s a pressure that my life depends on it and then social media only increases the pressure. There’s too much information being put out there on social media and I find it to be too overwhelming and obstructing to create.
BISKIT: I find that you are actually one of the few creatives that I have met that’s talking about how detrimental social media can be.
MIN: Yeah, I post once or twice just to put my work out there, but I find the amount of information to be crazy.
The way Instagram operates now is just an avenue to be fed an insane amount of content from other artists and creatives, to the point where I don’t follow other artists online because I am worried if I am going to be subconsciously influenced by what I see online.
A trend is just a trend, but my personal style is going to come from the street, or a concert, or museums, not a scroll through my phone.
Interview by Sahana Srinivasan
Images by Suchitha
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