New York-based artist-architect Sijie Chen’s latest project ‘Love of Justice and a Poisonous Mushroom’ is an exploration of fictional surreal worlds through the use of poetry and form.

‘Love of Justice and a Poisonous Mushroom’ is a journey through a world of fantasy in which spaces – which Chen calls “architectural whims” – are inhabited by quirky characters with their embodied spirit, memory and history. The result is an abstract dream-like journey through Sijie’s world – beautifully rendered by pencil – in which mysterious characters come alive through accompanying poetry.

“These drawings and writings were done in four months”, explains Sijie, “during which period I had been fully indulged in this other world: I wondered back and forth the so-called reality and the dream land. Eventually, without any aims or guides, the work turned out to be me, but with its own life and soul. It answered itself by the help of my muscles. We are inseparable parts, like two organs breathing together.”

Sijie chose pencil drawings as his method of representing his fantasy world. “Eventually the drawings unveiled a world of architectural whims”, he explains, “with (or without) their inhabitants, which are both idiosyncratic and relational, releasing desire and unconsciousness into symbolic and surrealist forms, characterised architectural elements, and their different interactions”.

But the architecture is only part of the equation. The characters, which come alive in Sijie Chen’s poetry, are the rest. A politician, a nihilist, a paranoid patient,  a drug dealer and even a mushroom are only some of the fictional eccentrics which inhabit Chen’s dream world. Each character is linked to a specific space – which in this world is unique in terms of form, material, structure and spatial relationship at all scales. The spaces and characters exist as individuals, but also speak to each other, intertwining together into a cohesive syntax.

“The drawing paper is the mirror, I was on one side, the world of mushroom and justice was on the other”, explains the artist. “It was abominable to tell who reflects who, who multiplies who. Through drawing and writing, I was looking for a possible and ever-changing answer as to place, memory, dream, subconscious and language, or ambitiously speaking, the humanity.”

Today we are pleased to sample some of Sijie Chen’s work. Welcome to the world of ‘Love of Justice and a Poisonous Mushroom’.


Chapter 1:   A Love Letter



mushroom (with eyes)
justice (has eyes but blind)
moon lake
antenna forest


I am going to leave tomorrow.
Though you have stripped all my clothes,
Cigarettes that I smoke live in the monkeys and skeletons;
I live under the crust of a mushroom.

You love me because you said I’m like a lake.
Moon Lake

I love you because you have rigid edges;
You wanted to grind me

I can see stars, I can dive into lakes,
I have eyes.
Your eyes are fixed on me
But you can’t see me.

You will rise to heaven after you die;
I will fall before I die,
Fall into the twisted root,
I will melt, becoming a leaf.

You will crack, I will disappear;
Your stomach is a square,
I’m a mushroom with eyes

You imprisoned light in columns,
I cried by the moon lake.

I saw stars,
Stars of purple rings

You locked my ash (a leaf)
Into the prison

Everybody sees me:
A leaf,
A tree.



Chapter 4:   Dancing, Waving, Swaying, Folding


mushroom church
justice center
paradox theater
truth tower
two buckets
four back-to-back companions
confronting warriors
group of little creatures (smiling)

lonely rose bud (flying)



It would never be too late to walk into the crowd
where memory began
just as hundreds of drops of water merge into stream.

 Bulin became a statue
washed by rain.

he was remembered by everyone,
a leaf, a door hinge, a brick, a shadow, a move, a twist, a sigh, a pair of leather shoes, a speckle…

 some of which made sound,
some of which were silence,
some of which raised their hands,
some of which fell, sinking down
as if tears fell.

A mushroom died
becoming smoke
wriggling from every fracture

 a smell of mushroom



Chapter 8:   Phantom Theater


floating eyes
falling crystal tulip
bonded stage – birdcage and triangle


Ghost was drunk, his mask broken like a fractured turtle shell.
He is wearing a green shirt, sleeveless.

He jumped onto the stage, putting on a smiling mask.
Faced with a bare wall, he had got only one audience, with his eyes open wide.

Two stages – “Birdcage” and “Triangle”, are bonded by a rope.

The empty hall would always echo your crying. The bitter rose was cut by wall, killed.

Masker, please stop your crazy scream.
That eyes floating besides window, please go away!

Phantom Theater and Sunken Pyramid
are connected by an underground plaza, where lived the Actor, whose life was a performance.

The ground is so quiet, with traces form underworld:
two staircases, a silver pinwheel, an amphitheater with a tall glass leaf, and
a long snaky corridor
Above the surface, Phantom Theater is sitting idly, furling its hair;
Sunken Pyramid is penetrated by a crystal rosebud.

Masker lives right in-between the bright and the dark, the right and the wrong.
Who reflects who?

Where there is rye,
where birds are flying low,
where lacewing flies and apple cores began to wobble,
I should have died there.
Die in a circle, where time is not linear.

The way I hate the world is the same as the way I love the nude.

Masker, the singing masker said,
‘It is all an illusion.’

I gripped a coin, where engraved a ghost, with his green shirt.

I’m flying low, wheat grass touching my cheek
Like kisses of a naughty ghost.

The sun disappeared, whereas the sky is clear
I flew, flew, and flew,
until my mask suddenly broke.


Interested in reading more?

To read all of Sijie Chen’s work and explore the full world of Love of Justice and a Poisonous Mushroom, please click here.


About the Artist:

Originally from China, Sijie Chen is an artist and architect who is living and working in New York City. Currently working at Rafael Vinoly Architects, she graduated from Rhode Island School of Design with a Master of Architecture degree in June 2014. Her work has been exhibited in Cloud Gallery, Holy Apostles Gallery, Providence Convention Center, Rhode Island AIA Office, etc. Her recent exhibitions are featured on major medias in China, including People’s Daily Overseas, Sohu Online, QQ online,, Guangming Online, etc. Working with diverse medias including drawing, writing, digital print and video, her work emphasises comprehension of the doubled condition in contemporary society, oscillating the dichotomy of inner and outer, surface and substance, subject and object, digging for love and intuition and poetic imagination in architectural creation. Through exploring drawing as a way of thinking, hovering around the question of drawing as a way of representation and as a way of being, her work is asking, uttering and echoing the uniqueness of being, inexplicability of image, mysteries of metaphor and chaotic/dreamlike reality, underneath the surface. She hopes to create an architectural language of her own, a possible world that is exotic but deeply relational to the universe where the most trivial thing the living and non-‐‐living, absurd dreams and hallucinations are free to thrive.