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Exploring the Journey of Young Artists: Self-Discovery, Experimental Exploration, and Poetic Critique

Interview with Xinyi Yang

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

My journey with art feels like an integral part of my life story. It all started when I was three years old, picking up crayons and brushes to explore the world of drawing. Back then, it was all about simple children's doodles, but even then, I felt a deep connection to art. As I progressed through school, this passion continued to drive me.

It wasn't until I received a traditional Chinese education that I began to delve deeper into the world of art. University and graduate school were pivotal moments for me. Exposure to various art forms and design principles completely transformed my perspective on art. Learning about art history, in particular, opened up new horizons for me. I realized that my artistic journey is an ongoing process of iteration and growth.

For instance, while growing up in China, I was surrounded by local artists' works, mostly through books and local art galleries. However, it wasn't until I traveled to England and Europe during my postgraduate studies that I had the opportunity to witness original Western masterpieces firsthand. The experience was profoundly inspiring. It reignited my passion for painting and compelled me to pick up the brush once again.

Overall, my background and experiences have shaped me into the artist I am today, constantly evolving and seeking new inspirations to express myself through art.

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

Well, a day in the life of an artist is quite fascinating, and I've always envisioned living my ideal artist's lifestyle.

Typically, I start my day by making a cup of coffee, a little ritual that helps me gear up for the day ahead. Then, I dive into my emails, responding to inquiries from various galleries and sorting out any administrative tasks.

Next comes the fun part—getting creative. I spend a good chunk of my day sketching and painting, allowing my imagination to flow freely onto the canvas. It's a process that's both exhilarating and therapeutic. I often lose track of time when I'm fully immersed in my work.

When hunger strikes, I take a break to whip up something in the kitchen. One of the perks of having my studio at home is that I don't have to worry about dining out. A short stroll from my studio to the kitchen is all it takes to satisfy my cravings.

In between painting sessions, I like to unwind by watching some short videos or exploring other artists' works online. It's essential to take these breaks to recharge and gain fresh perspectives.

Towards the end of the day, I might spend some time submitting my artwork to galleries or preparing pieces for upcoming exhibitions. Ultimately, being an artist isn't all that different from being anyone else. We all have our routines, our rituals, and our passions. It's just that for me, creating art is not just a job—it's a way of life.

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

The theme I aim to explore in my paintings revolves around self-identity. It's a journey of self-awareness, reflecting the evolving perceptions of myself and the society around me at different stages of my life. I find myself compelled to capture everything I encounter through my artwork, constantly using my paintings as a means of introspection. However, I've come to realize that sometimes, the act of self-reflection itself doesn't necessarily require a grand narrative. Simply expressing my thoughts authentically, without the need for external validation, has become the theme for me.

While I hail from China, I've been influenced by various cultures. One particular fascination of mine lies in the vibrant and elegant traditional Japanese clothing depicted in ukiyo-e prints. I vividly remember a visit to a Japanese gallery in London, where I was mesmerized by the original ukiyo-e prints. Despite their price tags not aligning with my expectations, I couldn't tear myself away and ended up purchasing one. I've made it a point to visit museums and art galleries, specifically to admire such artworks. They hold a special allure for me. Additionally, I find inspiration in Western art, particularly in the works of Francis Bacon. His portrayal of the human form evokes a profound sense of vulnerability in me.

Moreover, modern artists like Andy Warhol and Henri Matisse have also left a lasting impression on me. While Salvador Dali used to be a personal favorite, his surrealistic paintings opened up a realm of boundless imagination for me.

In essence, my inspiration stems from my personal growth and evolving perceptions. My artistic themes reflect these changes, serving as a visual narrative of my journey through life.

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

Many around me often remark on how fortunate I am to have turned my passion into my profession. I truly believe that being an artist at heart influences my perspective on various aspects of life. It's akin to what Warren Buffett once said about different disciplines offering distinct views of the world.

For instance, when I travel or explore new places, I find myself naturally drawn to observing things through an artistic lens. Whether I'm visiting a museum, exploring a new city, or simply taking a leisurely stroll, I tend to appreciate the beauty and intricacies around me in a unique way. It's as if I'm constantly viewing the world through an elevated, more refined perspective, which I find incredibly enriching and fulfilling.

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

Absolutely, the pursuit of one's dreams often intertwines with the realities and hardships of life, including financial challenges. For me, effective time management has been crucial. Balancing the desire to earn a living while striving for artistic fulfillment requires making sacrifices. In my case, I chose to forego certain opportunities in design that could have provided financial stability, opting instead to invest more time and energy into honing my craft in the pursuit of my artistic dreams.

Moreover, grappling with creative blocks has been another significant challenge. Initially, I assumed that inspiration would flow endlessly, but I faced moments of stagnation where ideas seemed elusive. Overcoming this required a multifaceted approach. Firstly, I turned to literature, delving into the thoughts and perspectives of other artists and philosophers to spark inspiration. Their insights provided a wellspring of ideas, enriching my artistic expression with depth and poetry. Additionally, I learned the importance of not overthinking and instead embracing the act of creation itself. By immersing myself in the process of painting without preconceived notions, I found that a state of flow emerged, allowing fresh ideas to naturally surface.

In essence, navigating through these challenges has been an integral part of my artistic journey, shaping me both personally and creatively. Each obstacle has presented an opportunity for growth, pushing me to explore new avenues of expression and deepen my connection to my art.

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

My practical advice to fellow artists would be to prioritize continuous creation. Whenever inspiration strikes, seize the opportunity to bring your ideas to life. It's through consistent creation that we refine our skills and evolve as artists.

Additionally, don't shy away from embracing new opportunities. Fear of rejection is natural, but it shouldn't hold you back. Rejection is part of the journey and often brings us closer to success. Embrace it as a learning experience and use it to fuel your determination.

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

I don't perceive my life as an artist to be inherently lonely. The richness of my inner world provides me with a sense of fulfillment and connection, negating any feelings of loneliness. Loneliness is often a psychological state that arises from a perceived lack of acceptance or understanding from others. However, when I immerse myself in my creative process and find satisfaction within myself, I don't experience loneliness.

Moreover, finding a supportive community that appreciates my artwork further alleviates any sense of isolation. Loneliness often stems from a lack of connection with others, but when you find a group of like-minded individuals who appreciate your work, that sense of loneliness diminishes.

It's worth noting that artists like Vincent van Gogh may have felt lonely during their lifetimes due to a perceived lack of understanding from society. However, if they found fulfillment in pursuing their inner passions, they may not have experienced loneliness despite solitude.

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

At the moment, I'm focusing on creating a series of watercolor paintings. I've taken a deliberate approach to these pieces, intentionally avoiding the pursuit of perfection. Despite my continuous pursuit of perfection in my artwork, I've come to realize that it's an elusive goal. Therefore, I've decided to create some experimental pieces where I disrupt the conventional composition, akin to the energetic style of my oil paintings.

Additionally, I'm delving into themes of self-awareness and emotional exploration through visual representation. For instance, one ongoing project involves visualizing concepts such as "falling" and "self-awareness" using watercolor as the medium. I'm exploring the unique qualities and effects achievable with watercolors while infusing the pieces with strong emotional content.

This body of work is a continuation and evolution of my previous series, "Who Am I," characterized by vibrant colors and meticulous compositions. I'm striving to push the boundaries of my artistic expression further, experimenting with different techniques and intensifying the emotional impact of my art.

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