“Animation for me, is so powerful that it could break the border of reality and surreality,” says Berlin-based animator Cheng-Hsu Chung. “It transforms normality into abnormality, deconstructs people’s concepts about how things should perform, and allows them to construct their own perspectives of the world.” Prior to making this assessment, Cheng began experimenting with the medium during his studies at Taipei National University of the Arts, only to find his style of work “didn’t fit in with the traditional animation methods” being taught at the time.
Drawing influence from experimental directors such as Jan Švankmajer, Wong Ping and Pritt Pärn, he started to develop his own characters, as well as “weird performances” that didn’t “necessarily follow how things should move” in the traditional sense. Cheng went onto develop his unique style at the RCA, creating his signature character who is a gender-fluid human, “always performing in a quirky way that people cannot experience in reality.” For Cheng, the art of illustration goes hand in hand with his animation practice. He freely sketches out imaginative thoughts and concepts, which often forms the basis of an animatic; while simultaneously the image works as a piece of illustration in itself.
“I love drawing the wild compositions and character poses that are accidentally created in my sketchbook,” he tells It’s Nice That. “Both my illustration and animation work is about people that travel in gender freedom and how they question relationships of love and fantasise about different bodies.” His drawings are a way of capturing instantaneous emotions while Cheng’s animations are a way to expand on these narratives in the form of immersive film; adding the audience’s own subjective experiences to the film’s storyline.
As well as his personal work, Cheng also works on commissions. Most recently, he worked on the Adidas Recode Running campaign, directed by Daniel Kaufman. “This is one of the most fun commissions I’ve worked on this year,” adds the animator. His stop motion, hand-painted animations weave between live action sequences exploring running groups across Asia, Europe and America. The project proved to be an especially enjoyable experience, he explains, as the project encompassed a “close and collaborative relationship” between Cheng and the client.
“They had a very clear vision of what they wanted the world to be,” says Cheng, who came on board to help deliver this multi-disciplinary storyline with delicacy. Cheng’s animations add another dimension of personality through hand-painted tones, depicting digital scenes like screenshots and texts through analogue paintings. It is an example of Cheng’s versatility as an animation artist and illustrator – his work can be applied to commercial projects to add artistry and originality to a major corporation while maintaining a signature style throughout.
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.