Tell us about yourself, your background and your work?
I was born in Shandong, China. I started to learn traditional Chinese painting when I was 12. Then I began my practice of art in the system of the academy and conventional art school for ten years. During my years in college, I focused mainly on sketching, oil painting and print-making. Now I’m mainly working in the fields of sculpting and animation.
What set you off as an artist?
It’s because of my personality. I’m not good at expressing myself through words and my culture doesn’t require me to say much about myself. But there is still a secretive voice inside me screaming all the time. That’s where I found the art-making as a portal for my emotions. My work is dealing with things I don’t know how to say or things I don’t have the courage to say. I have been studying painting for many years, yet I have never considered myself an artist. I thought I was just escaping instead of creating. But this was changed after I came to the United States. It never occurred to me that there are so many people like me. I feel comfortable and warm around them. We’ve been encouraging and appreciating each other. That makes me think maybe it’s not a such big deal to call myself an artist. So yeah, I’m an artist now.
Tell us about the themes you pursue in your work
My work is expressing fears. Fears come from violence, sex, or loneliness. My previous works focus on the loneliness and confusion of youth. My generation, most families only have one kid due to the one-child policy since 80s. Parents tend to put too many eggs in one basket. Their concerns, expectations and blind love cause an excessive amount of confidence and doubt to their children.
My current works don’t only pay attention to internal feelings, but also try to find out how the society causes fears to people, such as the impact of the test-oriented education system on students and the inequality between men and women.
I’ve been asked many times why do I have so many sex elements in my works. Due to the conservative culture, sex has been greatly oppressed through thousands of years in my country. It’s still inappropriate for girls to talk about sex in public while men can make all the jokes about sex. I hope that my work can bring a new perspective to the audience and invite them to a healthy conversation about sex.
I do think women are more vulnerable in many situations in society. The sensitivity and vulnerability they represent is the main topic I want to explore in my works.
What art do you most identify with? any specific influences or research areas?
Surrealism works have always been a great inspiration to me. I like the depictions of dreams and fantasies. I enjoyed watching Hayao Miyazaki, Satoshi Kon's works. The manga of Yuko Saeki, Kago Shitaro, and Takato Yamamoto led me into the world of Japanese culture. Tim Burton's works also inspired me to make puppets, and later Leonora Carrinton, Ray Man, Max Earst also have a big influence on my composition.
Is there something you couldn't live without in your studio? what is your most essential tool?
A display area of my previous works, such as a model on a shelf or a painting on the wall. I like to see my previous works when I’m making something new. My favorite tool should be a pencil. I like the feeling and sound of a pencil scratching on paper. It’s all where everything started.
Tell us how you organize, plan, and priorities your work
I always take a pocketbook to jog down thoughts and sketches when I have something in mind. Then I will develop them into a more polished work. I also use Pinterest a lot for my sculpture ideas. It’s like a small creative library of my own, which provides me with stimulating elements of images. From those images, I would gather a clearer thought on creating my sculpture pieces.
How do you navigate the art world?
The subject I portray is often related to violence and sex. It’s easy to lose track when playing with those elements because the shock value within them can excite you without a real need. Of course I want my works to be shocking, but more importantly, to leave the viewer a profound meaning after the excitement.
Describe the trajectory of your career as an artist so far
Now I mainly focus on small sculptures and paintings as well as animation. Later, I plan to work with some galleries or institutions to have large installations once I have more exhibition experience.
Professionally, what is your goal?
Takashi Murakami is my role model. I hope I can somehow find a way to walk between the two worlds of paintings and animations.
Are there any upcoming exhibitions or projects in the works?
I am preparing my solo exhibition in LA. It is a body of work about social news in China. In China, everyone uses a social software called "Weibo", which is equivalent to Twitter. Sometimes people use Weibo as a platform to share or expose peculiar social events. This kind of news shows me that people are angry and afraid due to a lack of moral and legal supports. I want to dig deeper into that fear and anger.