Jimi Wen: Ink, Emotions, and Experimentation
"It is the role of the artist to experiment with ideas, by giving them form through mediums and by bringing them to life through action."
Hey there! Welcome to another edition of Behind The Keys.
If you didn’t know, I am collaborating with wovn, a platform that helps creators manage all their collectors regardless of where they have minted their work. I am writing guest posts for them, and they are sharing them on their account and website.
This means that most weeks I’ll be sharing two interviews with you, one on Thursday and one on Sunday. Think of Sunday ones as if they were special editions, as I do not share them as mine on my Twitter account.
Anyways, here is Jimi’s interview. I hope you enjoy it!
And as always, thank you for reading. It truly means a lot.
WhoTF is Jimi Wen?
Jimi Wen is a creative coder, ink artist, and sculptor from Taiwan.
After what he describes as a mediocre passing through school, burning all the cash in his startup, and touring with the top rock band Mayday, Jimi felt none of the existing industries or mediums resonated with him or allowed him to fully express himself, let alone transcend his limitations.
After participating in Genuary 2022, Jimi started dropping his collections, which he started minting out just months after. He finally felt fully in charge of his creative impulses.
Jimi believes that the most precious pigments are the talents of youth using the world as their canvas. Today, he has created a fund with half the proceeds from his Genesis collection where the mission is to support graduate-level students by giving them more exposure to their artworks, and teaching different tools while inspiring the creative curiosity of middle school kids.
Behind the Keys: Jimi Wen
What is something you wish someone had told you before becoming an artist?
In all honesty, nothing. I became an artist when it felt like it was time. Prior to it, I was playing iPad video games for 6 months. A life coach would have told me to do something productive, but as the Dao-De-Jing mentions in Chapter 48, learning involves addition, whereas the path of Dao involves subtraction.
Perhaps in the process of becoming an artist, I had to reset, and “wasting” time on games allowed me to blend knowledge and foster a creative state.
What does your creating process look like?
The process of abstraction can occur through intentional or accidental experiments, as I feel code is just “the new pigment”. As Pollock would action paint, I action code without a clear end result in mind. I make use of loops and copy-pasting to mix up the code until I reach the completion of my work. Teardrop is a good example.
I sometimes turn to ink and paper to decompress from logical coding and reduce screen time. It is a very interpersonal and analog process, following the one-take nature of the art form, where there are no undos, mirroring the unpredictability of life.
When I get bored with coding in a perfectly structured manner, I look for new mediums to expand the scope of my generative art beyond prints. My first venture was into woven genart, where I discovered a fabric suitable for framing my ink work in an oriental style. Additionally, I have explored fashion clothing lines and I am currently experimenting with interior design, incorporating gen art into IKEA sofas.
Generative art truly eats the world!
What activity do you fall into when you are trying to enhance your creativity?
I try to ride with my emotions, like joy, envy, or gratitude for what I have. Creativity comes from internal intuitive feelings or judgment that is executed into external sensations, felt and critiqued. Interestingly, during the execution process, there is a counter-movement where intuition and sensation reverse their roles, switching between internal and external realms.
Who are 2-3 artists you admire or respect that you think deserve (even) more recognition?
In no particular order, I admire and respect Sen no Rikyu, Duchamp, and Cage. Although all three are well-known, I still consider them to be underrated from my personal perspective.
Sen no Rikyu is someone I find particularly intriguing because he single-handedly defined aesthetics in everyday life, which transcend genre expiration and continuously evolve. His collaborations with different craftsmen have left a lasting impact on their respective crafts, which continues to this day. In a way, there is no other artist as powerful as Rikyu, as his influence became both political and commercial to the point where he was sentenced to death.
I consider Cage to be the first generative or procedural artist, even though his output might not be as immediately recognizable as that of visual forebear generative artists such as Ness, Vera Molnár, and Sol LeWitt. Cage's Music of Changes based on the I-Ching, is, in my opinion, the earliest form of generative art dating back over two millennia. The use of chance (random or pseudo-random) through the I-Ching enables it to narrate the world for us. Isn't that a form of art?
What do you benefit the most when working with NFTs and the blockchain?
It allows me to reduce my reliance on in-person social networking and dealing with galleries or exclusive circles that hold power, whether in terms of financial resources or artistic authority.
In a way, working with NFTs and the blockchain decentralizes art and aesthetics, freeing them from outdated models.
What is one thing you think artists should focus more on, and why?
I believe artists should dedicate more attention to reading and writing. Art is more than pretty images. It’s essential to explore more mediums and evaluate if your art is too narrow or limited.
Art exists and becomes public and tangible only through its medium. Without its medium, it may exist solely as an idea, known only to the artist themselves, whether consciously or subconsciously.
It is the role of the artist to experiment with ideas, by giving them form through mediums and by bringing them to life through action.
What’s the hardest part of being an artist?
The hardest part is to stop becoming one! I was lucky that I entered the market just before the bear market hit. Right now, I have approximately 800 collectors, and it feels amazing.
As of now, I am in the process of raising funds to support university-level students in exhibiting their artwork and maximizing the visibility of artworks, prioritizing exposure over sales.
Additionally, I provide creative classes for middle school students to help them keep up with the rapid pace of technological advancements. All free. I just need to work my ass off to sell my own artwork or secure sponsorships, but it’s all worth it.
What skill should anyone harvest early in their career that will pay off massively for years?
I would not say it’s a skill per se, but I think artists should cultivate an early mindset of openness, curiosity, willingness to learn and listen, and determination to act and create until it becomes a habit.
This will eventually lead to infinite creation.
Why do you create art?
I feel there is an inherent urge and curiosity within me that drives my creative process.
I create art to externalize a range of emotions and knowledge that I wish to express and communicate with the public.
What does success look like to you?
Putting one smile at a time for others and for myself.
What’s a book or an article that has greatly influenced your life?
One book that has had a profound impact on my life is "Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid" by Douglas Hofstadter. The book beautifully weaves together connections between mathematics, art, and music. Although the math was challenging for me (I probably could only understand 30% of the book explicitly), I piled through the book. I probably could only understand 30% of the book explicitly). The exploration of the nature of incompleteness and self-referential phenomena was life-changing.
“The Large, the Small and the Human Mind” by Roger Penrose is also a great read. This book explores the triangular relationship between the physical, platonic, and mental worlds. It offers insights into the similarities and differences between Alan Turing and Kurt Gödel regarding the concept of incompleteness, which represents a boundary between human and machine capabilities. In the current zeitgeist of AI, the theory proves hope in the unique creative abilities of human beings.
Lastly, "In Praise of Shadows" by Jun'ichirō Tanizaki has left a lasting impression on me. It taught me that one's taste can be described in a personal and individual manner. It emphasizes that any sufficiently complex system, such as taste, is inherently incomplete but worthy of exploration and pursuit.
What is your favorite failure?
The ones that I gave 110%, even if the result is out of my control.
What are you willing to struggle for?
If the struggle is subtraction, and success is addition, the Jimi sequence of struggle and success will converge to zero.
If you could ask yourself one question every day to set yourself up for success, which one would it be?
“Am I dreaming or dreaming that I am dreaming?”
What is one strong opinion you have?
I think blockchain technology will have a greater impact on GDP than weak AI. In particular, I believe in the concept I coined as GDAP, although I cannot really define or measure otherwise I would win the Nobel Prize for economics (jk).
The "A" in GDAP represents aesthetics, and the emergence of Web3 and the liberation of IP contribute to a collective movement among artists and consumers towards self-actualization and even transcendence.
This shift embodies a distributed intrapersonal taste rather than a centralized, top-down interpersonal taste.
Which of your past experiences/learnings have set you up for success in the present?
I am the sum of all my past experiences, not a single moment more or less.
What would you say to your 25-year-old self?
Absolutely nothing! That would spoil the good and bad surprises which makes reality real.
Learn more from Jimi
Something to read: His Medium articles