Interviews | December 30, 2023 |

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Image courtesy of Liu Zhanjiang

Interview: Liu Zhanjiang
Luca Curci talks with Liu Zhanjiang during the 13th edition of CONTEMPORARY VENICE 2023, at Palazzo Albrizzi-Capello.

Zhanjiang Liu is a passionate, bold, and always smiling London-based designer and illustrator who operates in the fields of art, culture, and commerce. He loves illustration as a vehicle for addressing difficult subjects beyond the realm of truth and imagination. He consistently maintains a level of curiosity about his surroundings and desperately tries to capture ordinary occurrences into illustrations in just a few colours with simple marks and shapes. He finds satisfaction in the accessibility of the work he made, providing a bit of humour in its flaws and beauty, on top of reacting to family, fear, anxiety, confusion, fairness, uncertainty, and glimpses of hope. The drawings that he creates with his bare hands also act as a “reminder that maybe it doesn’t have to be so perfect.”

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Image courtesy of Liu Zhanjiang

Luca Curci – What’s your background? What is the experience that has influenced your work the most?
Liu Zhanjiang –
I was born in the sparsely populated Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in northern China, where I studied art when I was a little boy and started my career in a design studio after graduating from art college. Prior to my art career, I worked as a creative art director at advertising agencies for many years and have been involved in a lot of commercials. My aesthetics and my commitment to morality have been shaped by these years of commercial experience, and I place a high value on illustration for both its artistic expression and functionality. Relocating to different cities has had a significant influence on my perspective and outlook as an illustrator. My artistic endeavours have been greatly inspired by every place I have visited, especially London as a melting point in the UK. I find myself drawn to the intricate interplay of elements like east-west cultural shock, history, cultural diversity, ethnic diversity, and the urban landscape.

LC – Which subject are you working on?
LZ –
I’ve recently been continuing a project I’ve done previously about the current state of minorities, particularly black and Asian people, in the world of classical ballet. Although ballet as a dancing form dates back to the 17th century, until today it still celebrates pale princesses and fair swans, and darker-skinned dancers do not always feel welcome. So I would like to understand the logic behind it.

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Image courtesy of Liu Zhanjiang

LC – What is the most challenging part about creating your artworks?
LZ –
Drawing is at the centre of my practice and offers constant reflection and understanding of the world. I consistently maintain a level of curiosity about my surroundings, and I am desperately trying to turn everyday moments into illustrations in just a few colours with simple marks and shapes. If I’m lucky, they’re the right strokes in the right places, but in a lot of cases, I’ve completely screwed up a drawing. Unpredictability is a big challenge for me, but sometimes this chaos translates itself into images that are full of energy and movement.

LC – How is your creative process?
LZ –
Insight and inspiration that stimulate the beginning of a project. Thorough planning and research are always the first steps in my creative process, which is then followed by material experimentation and exploration. Before moving onto the final piece, I use tones of sketches to work out different ideas. I remain open to new concepts and fresh ideas as they arise.

LC – Are your artworks focused on a specific theme?
LZ –
My artistic passions usually emerge naturally in response to new encounters and observations. I enjoy illustration as a vehicle for addressing difficult subjects. Giving people a visual gateway into complex subjects. My main concerns are social, familial, and racial. Because those are very serious issues that we are currently facing, I hope to share my perspective on them through my illustrations to convey my point of view. What I want to do is inject more humanity into the illustration and communicate in a witty way. Despite the fact that my subjects are frequently more brutal, I still wanted to present them in a subtle and humorous way. Don’t take ourselves too seriously when it comes to artistic expression, please.

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Image courtesy of Liu Zhanjiang

LC – What is the message linked to the artwork you have shown in this event? How is it connected to the theme of the entire exhibition?
LZ –
My artwork showcased in this exhibition is entitled “Whose Childhood Is Lost.” It’s one of a body of works I’ve made last year that rooted in my boarding school life since I was eight years old. The inspiration for the artwork came from my unhappy childhood memories. This unpleasant experience shaped my perception of the world and profoundly impacted my personality, and it has become one of the integral themes of my work. The work depicts a few abandoned toys coated in a very surreal pool-like blue colour; the colour yellow is like sunlight shimmering on the water. I don’t simply perceive the world as a passive receptor; rather, I’m constantly in the process of constructing the meaning of the world around me as well as my social identity. In this process of self-discovery, the past has influenced how I perceive myself now. For this reason, the artwork fits the “Contemporary Venice—13th Edition” exhibition theme of Mixing Identity.

LC – We were attracted by your last artistic production, has the artwork presented been created for the exhibition or as a part of preexisting works?
LZ –
I created this series of works last year; this is a departure from my usual style, and from both an artistic and a thematic perspective, it is in line with this exhibition, so I sent it over to be seen by a larger audience.

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Image courtesy of Liu Zhanjiang

LC – Do you think ITSLIQUID GROUP can represent an opportunity for artists?
LZ –
Definitely. ITSLIQUID GROUP provides a valuable opportunity for artists to present their work and connect with a broader audience. It also provides artists with a chance to seek a community. Your assistance may have a significant impact.

LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
LZ –
Certainly, it has undoubtedly been an incredible experience to exhibit my work in Venice. The whole process was very enjoyable, from the start of preparing for the show to having to change my work halfway through because it was already collected by someone, Giulia was very helpful throughout the process.I look forward to exploring future opportunities and fostering more collaborations.

LC – What do you think about ITSLIQUID Platform?
LZ –
Your platform is well-organised and highly professional! It is an important international platform that allows more talented individuals to be seen on an even larger global scale.

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Image courtesy of Liu Zhanjiang

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