Interview by Donna Künzler
All images from Christian Neuenschwander
Christian is half-Filipino and half-Swiss. He creates objects, paintings, drawings, and music. We met through his mother Menchu Asuncion Neuenschwander, who is one of my core Filipino friends in Zurich. Last year, I was fortunate enough to attend Christian’s first solo exhibit, “CEAN.” Seeing his work from that exhibit has left me curious, intrigued, and very impressed. Let’s get to know Christian more and see what we can find out.
First things first – What does CEAN mean?
CEAN is my initials. It stands for Christian Eduard Asuncion Neuenschwander.
Now that we have demystified that, please tell me more about yourself.
My name is Christian Neuenschwander, born 1980 in Zürich, Switzerland, son of Menchu Asuncion Neuenschwander and Eduard Neuenschwander. I grew up in an artistic surrounding with my father being a renowned architect and my mother being a fashion icon, an inspiration to many people and a fantastic cook. As far back as I can remember, it always felt natural to work with my imagination and senses. I just love to create and craft things. My professional background is Graphic Design, specialized in branding and illustration. I have worked in several agencies in Zürich and New York and have been running my own studio for the last 13 years. Along the way I have picked up photography and learned how to play and produce music as well. I also started skateboarding as a young kid which kept me moving, and still does. It is a huge part of me, and a great source of inspiration and motivation. Skateboarding and snowboarding opened a lot of doors for me to contribute my design work to. Nowadays I focus on my art where I feel all my experience can come to fruition.
Please tell me about your journey in becoming an artist. Did you always want to be one? Ever since I was a child, I liked using my imagination to create things and I loved drawing because I could turn any phantasy into an image on paper. My parents also inspired me to observe the wonders of nature and to pay attention to its details. I would spend hours looking at for example an insect and then try to capture every little detail of it in a drawing. For me taking a close look at things, was like exploring new places. Then fast forward to being a teenager having to choose a direction for a future career, I went for graphic design.
For some reason becoming an artist never came to mind even though our house was full of art and a lot of family friends were artists. Nobody ever told me “Study fine art, become an artist, do exhibitions". For me an artist was always just this manic person that didn't have the ability or choice other than to express himself through his art and by chance somebody would then discover the genius in the artist's work or not.
So, I stuck with graphic design as "a real job" and only a few years ago I felt the urge to turn inward and explore my true desires and needs and that was to create things again with my hands other than sitting in front of a screen.
At that time, I was working on a corporate design for a Japanese high-end restaurant and my task for the logo was a calligraphy sign, the word "Shin", four brush strokes, simple I thought but the more I indulged in the process, the more I realized how much life, soul and determination was needed to accomplish it. It took me about four hundred sheets of paper full of tries until I got it right. These four “simple” brush strokes opened a whole new world to me, and I knew I wanted to explore this craft of just working with a brush, ink, and paper. Very Zen. I didn't proceed with exploring calligraphy, but I wanted to create something for myself that would teach me about my inner being and at the same time carry my learnings in it. From there on I focused on pure and personal creation which today I finally may feel comfortable to call as "art."
How would you describe your style? What was your inspiration? What’s the story behind it? In the process of exploring Japanese ink on paper, I had all those lines and abstract forms and I felt like, if I'd add something like a face to it, these creations will come to life. Any form or stroke which originated out of my soul or intuition would become a being. It suddenly all made sense to me. It felt like I would breathe life into it. I then added the most minimal gesture to create a face, a simple beak, and a dot as an eye. From there on, again a whole new world of possibilities opened for me. I could explore whatever craft, form or technique and a new being would evolve, I was totally freed from any style, discipline or medium. I would create life!... or at least a representation of it. That excited me a lot and still does! How would you like people to react to your work? What message if any, do you want to convey with your work? I would like to inspire people to look at things unbiased and to pay attention to what emotion, feeling or phantasy appears. If you just see a weird looking bird in my art, you might not be quite there yet. Free yourself.
What’s your creative process like? I like to pick a technique or medium that intrigues me and while exploring it, I try to be led by my intuition and abilities without wanting to master it too much. I want it to be free and spontaneous. Naive in the best case. Another big aspect in the process is to school my intuition in recognizing which work of mine has a quality and which one doesn't.
What surprised you the most in being an artist or the art industry? That people would actually buy my art. My first solo exhibition totally sold out! I was overwhelmed and utterly grateful.
What’s keeping you busy nowadays? Any upcoming shows/exhibits? I'm painting a lot right now and planning to exhibit here in Zürich and in Copenhagen.
Follow Christian on Instagram (@chreegee ) and visit his website: ceanoriginals.com.