In the Studio with Juno Shen

In the studio with Juno Shen, a New York based artist who primarily explores the ways in which light permeates through every element of the human experience. We met with Juno to tell us more about their practice and light as one of the essential elements on this planet.

Paint us a picture of your artistic journey. What inspired you to first pursue, and then continue to practice, artistic work? Was there a pivotal moment when you felt you were on the right track? 

I think a pivotal element of my upbringing was my independence. From a young age, I was asked to make pivotal life choices on my own and that has taught me to accept the responsibility of taking care of myself. It’s that ability to care for myself that originally brought me to seek out a cure for a bout of seasonal depression I was experiencing. My first instinct when I realized I was depressed, was to seek therapy through art. I signed up for a glass bending course near my house and almost instantly fell in love with the flame. The physicality of bending glass and the light from the flame was exceptionally therapeutic and I found myself completely enamored with the art form. 

As a beginner, my technique was not up to par but I quickly formed a relationship with the glass and the flame that felt authentic to me and what came out of it was the tortured style of glass bending that you now see in my neon work. It’s a very visceral and direct expression of the meditations and emotions that I go through when I’m making a piece and it’s extremely therapeutic for me to see the finished work lit up. It’s almost like a diary of my emotions.

What’s the message of your work? How would you describe your aesthetic? 

I’m interested in the gap between human technological advancement and human evolution, particularly how it pertains to light and its effect on humans. My works use different lighting technologies to explore the different effects each one has upon us and am personally quite enamored with neon gas lighting and the raw energy that it showcases. I find it intriguing how lighting can be seen as both a source of pollution and therapy, it’s this vast expanse that I am exploring through my work. 

To me, my works are all experiments in human interaction with light. My intention is always to create opportunities for people to experience light in ways they don’t normally have the opportunity to. To entice people to observe light more closely and to form a more intimate relationship with light. 

Who/what are your greatest influences? 

James Turrell

Olafur Eliasson

Donald Judd 

What do you want people to take from your work when they view it? Do you have the audience consciously in mind when you are creating?

Light is an essential element on this planet and my work seeks to enrich the relationship and connections we have with it. I believe light is a form of nourishment and when people experience my work, they are consuming light and all its energies. 

I make art for people to interact with so each piece is always an invitation to the audience, welcoming them to explore and interact with light in ways I find interesting. 

What events in your life have mobilised change in your practise/aesthetic? How has your art evolved? Do you experiment? 

I am continually exploring new interactions and ways of playing with light. Most of my work to date has been focused on the medium of neon gas lighting and I have a number of experimental techniques I am currently developing. 

Something in the future you hope to explore?

I’m currently exploring new ways to contain neon gas.