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Terry Tsu

"Did I do that?" —Urkel

Sometimes my body takes over and I don't know where the painting is coming from. Best to let it flow and figure it out later.

I don’t usually plan the piece. I like to start out in ‘play’ mode, not thinking too much and welcoming the unexpected. At some point in the process, though, I switch to problem solving mode. It’s a constant back-and-forth between the two. In the end, I hope my work has both energy and balance and that I’ve learned something about what makes me tick.

"My art is an exploration of materials and emotion"


I paint how I feel. Sometimes my paintings are frenzied, full of raw emotion, giving voice to what I can’t always articulate in words. Other times, I slow myself down and use painting as a sort of meditation. My artwork changes as I go through moods or as I experiment with materials; working large vs. working small, painting on canvas vs. painting on wood, using oil vs. acrylic.

I don’t usually plan the piece. I like to start out in ‘play’ mode, not thinking too much and welcoming the unexpected. At some point in the process, though, I switch to problem solving mode. It’s a constant back-and-forth between the two. In the end, I hope my work has both energy and balance and that I’ve learned something about what makes me tick.

2020 was emotionally draining and I was angsty. I needed to feel in control, so I decided to start this series of smaller work with simple shapes and defined edges. I wanted to use really bright, saturated colors and pack them into these confined spaces. I was going for a mix of cheeriness and optimism with undertones of claustrophobia and impending doom. (What can I say? I'm cheerful by nature, but also super angsty!)

By the time the series neared completion (and Joe Biden had become President) my mood had shifted. I felt a great deal of gratitude, nostalgia and hope. I named each piece after dear friends and fond childhood memories.

How did your upbringing effect your art?

I grew up in the Philippines. We had a very happy childhood, although at the time, I didn’t appreciate what unique experience it was. In those early days, the Philippines was still a developing country. There were no department stores. That meant, if we needed clothes or furniture, it had to be custom made. I loved watching the seamstresses and carpenters at work. I think that's when "maker" seeds were sown. My mother, who was very creative herself, recognized and encouraged my interest. Of the 3 siblings, I was the "artistic one" and had "clever hands."

My mother was accomplished at classical Chinese brush painting. When I was about 8 or 9, my "job" was to grind the ink stick on her ink stone. She would let me paint along side her. Many of my gestural marks today are reminiscent of Chinese calligraphy.

We lived in the suburbs outside Manila, one of the most densely populated cities in the world. I think a little of that chaotic, frenetic, urban energy shows up in my work. I like a bit of rawness and grittiness.

Biography

Terry Tsu is a multi-faceted artist primarily focused on abstract painting. 

She was born in NY, but spent her formative years in the Philippines. She returned to the United States for college and graduate school at Stanford University, settling in the San Francisco Bay Area. Tsu lives and works in Menlo Park, CA.

Her work has been exhibited in multiple national juried shows and appears in private collections throughout the US and Asia. 

Terry Tsu lives and works in Menlo Park, California