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Exploring order and nature

Interview with Keyi Liu

1.      Please tell us something about your background and your art journey so far.

I’m a multimedia artist and illustrator. Currently, I am based in London for my art activities. I have explored many mediums, such as illustration, generative art, 3D art, installation art, and so on. My current projects are primarily focused on 3D art and illustration.

Since I was young, my dream is to be an artist. I dreamt every day, and when I woke up, I could vividly remember everything that happened in my dreams. Compared to reality, the world in my dreams looks twisted and chaotic. This is where my art creation began. The world is multidimensional. Humans and fantastical creatures coexist, which leads me to fantasize about it. Another factor that influenced me was the education system I experienced. The education system before college was rigorous and oppressive.

Schools required students to have the same hairstyle, wear the same clothes, etc. When everyone stood together, you couldn’t tell them apart because they all looked the same. 

This experience has also changed my perspective on artistic creation. Before this, I thought artistic creation was simply about depicting scenes from my imagination. However, afterward, I realized that art is a metaphorical language that can express my attitudes toward society and life. This made me even more determined to become an artist. Then, I began to put my emotions and thoughts about life and culture into my artwork, which set the form for the inspiration I would find in my subsequent creations. 

After that, I officially started my art studies. I received a BFA degree in Illustration major from the School of Visual Arts and a March degree in Design for Performance and Interaction from University College London. During this time, I explored many different mediums and developed the ability to think, which has significantly improved my work in terms of both concept and artistic expression. At this stage, my main focus is on 3D art, using this artistic form to explore some social themes. 

2.      Describe what a normal day looks like as an artist.

I usually get up in the morning and go to the cafe for breakfast. Then, I reply to new emails while enjoying breakfast and sunshine. In the first half of the day, I usually work on the visual designs for my start-up brand. In the second half of the day, I'll be working on my art projects (illustrations/3D art, etc.). Evenings are my relaxation time; I'll have dinner with friends, then go home and listen to songs and do some tattoo practice.

3.      Can you tell us more about the theme in your art and your inspiration?

"Order" has always been a topic I explore in my work. Art requires a medium used to convey the artist's attitude. "Nature" is the medium I choose, and these two aspects are consistent in most of my works. Whether it's plants or animals, although nature's way is also based on order, it is simpler and freer than human society. The natural order resembles a system born of primitive desires. In my series "Poem of Wood," I express my reverence for trees. They are resilient but mysterious. The “Poem of the Wood” describes the tree elves, the time passes, the scenery keeps changing, but they always embrace all the possibilities born in the world with a calm heart. Good and bad, pleasure and pain, birth and death, they do not pursue cause and effect; all those serious topics become a quiet existence in their eyes. They form a romantic nature poem.

The illustration series "The Last Dream" is an extension of my exploration of this theme. In this series, I designed various fantasy creatures and environments, creating an entirely new world order. In this illusionary world, rules are broken, and time and space are intertwined chaotically. I do an imagination, if we break free from the strict order and grant utmost freedom to natural objects, can we attain a romantic hallucinatory space?

Turning to my latest VR project, “Heavenly”, my exploration of the topic of “order” continues unabated. In this project, I create a virtual space set in the future. The inspiration for this project is the popular topic ‘consciousness uploading’. People believe that the physical body limits their abilities. So, they imagine the infinite world of consciousness as a utopia. But order and limitations do not disappear with changes in social forms; as Jorge Luis Borges writes in his poem “The Instant”, “Between dawn and night there is an abyss, don't expect another abyss, don't expect another Heaven, nor another Hell".

I enjoy experimenting with different art forms because they can exhibit varying powers. Through diverse art creations, I always discover new surprises.

4.      How does your art life impact other parts of your life?

Art is the driving motivation of my life. It is not simply a hobby or a career for me but rather the core of what keeps my life going. I can transform my emotions and insights about society and life into artistic expressions and communicate with others, thereby sharing my emotions and stress. In this way, my life will become happier and more positive.

5.      Could you share any difficulties and hardships you had to face in life and how or if you managed/overcame them?

Art is a very challenging career. Artists should learn to get along with themselves and with others.

For me, the difficulties I face in art creation are also the difficulties I face in life. This journey is a challenging road. Every stage of art creation brings new bottlenecks and challenges, and this process is complicated. However, enduring through this period will lead to a noticeable improvement. This is something every artist continuously experiences in their studies and creations.

6.      Share your worst experience in the art world.

The art world is a joy for me most of the time, but there are also some complex situations. For example, people's different understandings of the concept of copy and whether artists and galleries can maintain mutual respect are all very important for the creation and development of artists. But the above problems are only occasional situations. Most of the time, the art world is interesting and happy.

7.      What practical advice can you give to fellow artists?

Artistic creation is a journey of self-discovery. Artists' viewpoints, whether they are expressions of personal emotions or discussions on social issues, are based on their values. Therefore, understanding oneself is crucial, as it helps artists develop a unique artistic style.

Additionally, many artists are perfectionists in their artistic creations. They always expect their work to be as perfect as possible before presenting it to galleries or audiences. But in fact, it is hard to reach an ideal moment, which will cause artists to miss the opportunities to show their work. Artworks possess their unique charm at each stage of development. Emotions are phases, and when we pass through a certain period, things become different, and it is difficult for us to get back to the original emotions and feelings. That’s why artmaking is fascinating and unique at all stages. We should record them confidently and present them to the audience.

8.      Is the artist life lonely? Please share your thoughts and experiences.

Art creation is a process of dialogue between artists and themselves, so artists will definitely experience loneliness. But this state can be balanced through life, such as having dinner with friends, working on collaborative projects with other artists, or chatting with people from different industries. These can balance the loneliness of artists. Loneliness can help artists have a deeper dialogue with their souls and promote good creations, but they should not be immersed in this emotion. Appropriate external social interaction can help artists better balance the relationship between their feelings and life.

9.  What are you working on at the moment and are there any upcoming events you would like to talk about?

I've been interested in making interactive installations. Since most of my works are presented as print or screen, ranging from illustrations to generative arts to 3D animations, I've realised the importance of 'narrativity' and 'environmental space' throughout their creation process. This got me thinking about interactive installations.

At this stage, I'm making this an essential point in my artistic exploration. I plan to build interactive installations based on visual design to create a narrative space and provide a multi-sensory interactive experience for audiences.


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