Interviews | April 11, 2023 |

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Image courtesy of Xuanlin Ye

Interview: Xuanlin Ye
Luca Curci talks with Xuanlin Ye during the 7th Edition of ROME INTERNATIONAL ART FAIR, at Medina Art Gallery.

Xuanlin Ye is a Chicago-based artist who has established his career and residence in the city. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, which he obtained in 2017. In 2020, Xuanlin completed his Master of Fine Arts degree from the Hoffberger School of Painting at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Additionally, he pursued a Master of Arts in Art History from the University of Chicago, successfully graduating in 2022. During his academic pursuits, Xuanlin worked on his thesis under the guidance of the esteemed art historian Wu Hung. His exceptional talent and dedication were recognized through various accolades, including the prestigious Hoffberger Fellowship and the inclusion of his work in the MFA Juried Exhibition in Print by New American Painting, featured in issue #159.”

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Image courtesy of Xuanlin Ye

Luca Curci – How did you get to your current artistic practice?
Xuanlin Ye – My current artistic practice has evolved through a harmonious blend of academic training in art history and my hands-on experience as a studio artist. The fusion of these two aspects has played a pivotal role in shaping my approach to art. The knowledge I have gained in art history has been instrumental in deciphering and interpreting images, profoundly influencing the content and style of my artwork. It has not only deepened my understanding of art but has also enriched my creative process and thinking. As a result, my art carries a profound sense of meaning and possesses a distinctive, individualistic quality. The interplay between my art historical expertise and my artistic production has engendered a reciprocal relationship, molding my present artistic practice into what it is today.

LC – What are the three hashtags essential to define your poetics that you could not give up?
XY – #AsianAmericanArt #DeconstructingTraditions #CulturalIntersections

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Image courtesy of Xuanlin Ye

LC – How much has the city/country in which you grew up/born affected your work as an artist?
XY – My present artistic practice is deeply rooted in a culmination of personal experiences and reflections that have shaped my artistic journey. It is a result of my upbringing in Wenzhou, a small town in China, and my subsequent relocation to the United States. Recently, a conversation with my partner provided a profound revelation about the essence of my paintings. They serve as a means of self-construction, allowing me to collage my experiences within the two-dimensional space.

This process of collaging experiences finds resonance in the shared narrative of the Wenzhounese, the people from my hometown. Wenzhou, situated in the southern part of China near the sea, is characterized by its hilly and mountainous terrain, rendering it unsuitable for agriculture. Consequently, the people of Wenzhou have historically been encouraged to seek opportunities elsewhere, resulting in a significant number of my family members and relatives relocating to other cities or even living abroad. The act of leaving one’s birthplace in search of a better life has become a shared experience across generations in Wenzhou.

My own journey began when I arrived in the United States at the age of 19. I attended high school in Pennsylvania before moving to Ohio, then Chicago, and finally settling in Baltimore. The process of constantly moving and adapting required a means for me to construct my own experiences and identity through my artwork. Thus, my current artistic practice serves as a vessel for me to explore and convey the intricacies of my upbringing and the process of forging my own path. It allows me to reflect upon the fusion of my Chinese roots and my experiences in the United States, creating a tapestry of identity within my work.

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Image courtesy of Xuanlin Ye

LC – What issues do you intend to deal with in the future?
XY – Moving forward, my artistic trajectory will be dedicated to delving into and addressing themes centered around Asian identity, cultural hybridity, and the intricate nature of transnational relationships. I am committed to exploring the multifaceted dynamics that emerge when various cultures intersect with social and political structures, as well as art history. By delving into these intersections, I aim to challenge stereotypes, invite critical engagement, and provoke thoughtful reflection.

One area of focus in my future artistic endeavors will be the exploration of the interplay between history, aesthetics, and sociocultural dynamics. I seek to unravel the complex layers of meaning embedded within these elements, bringing forth a deeper understanding of the cultural and historical context in which art is created. Through this exploration, I aim to challenge established narratives and shed light on lesser-known perspectives, providing a platform for marginalized voices and underrepresented histories.

In addressing these themes, my goal is to create thought-provoking and visually compelling artwork that sparks dialogue and invites viewers to engage with the intricacies of cultural identity and social dynamics. I envision my art as a catalyst for conversation, enabling viewers to reexamine preconceived notions and expand their perspectives.

As I continue my artistic journey, I aspire to contribute to a broader discourse on cultural hybridity, transnational experiences, and the complex tapestry of identities that shape our world. By pushing boundaries and exploring the intersections of culture, history, and society, I aim to foster a greater appreciation for diversity and cultivate a more inclusive artistic landscape.

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Image courtesy of Xuanlin Ye

LC – Where do you find your inspiration?
XY – My artistic inspiration is a tapestry woven from diverse sources, reflecting my deep engagement with diasporic objects in Western museums, art history, personal experiences, and the complexities of Asian diasporic identity. These sources fuel my creative process and shape the conceptual framework of my work.

One significant source of inspiration lies in the exploration of diasporic objects found within Western museums. I am captivated by the stories embedded within these artifacts, which have been displaced from their original contexts. The process of recontextualizing and interrogating these objects becomes a source of creative energy, allowing me to challenge prevailing narratives and provoke critical thought.

Art history also plays a crucial role in inspiring my practice. The study of art history provides a rich tapestry of references, styles, and visual languages that inform my artistic endeavors. It enables me to engage in conversations with artistic traditions and reconfigure them within contemporary contexts. I find inspiration in unraveling the complexities of art history, deconstructing and reconstructing elements to forge new meanings and narratives.

Personal experiences are another wellspring of inspiration for me. The exploration of my own journey as an individual within the Asian diaspora serves as a powerful source of creative fuel. It allows me to reflect on questions of identity, belonging, and cultural hybridity, infusing my work with a sense of authenticity and personal narrative.

Moreover, I find inspiration in the act of challenging and subverting traditional Asian tropes. Employing humor and playfulness, I dismantle stereotypes, inviting viewers to question their assumptions and biases. This process of reclaiming and reimagining cultural symbols provides fertile ground for creative exploration.

In addition to these sources, my creative process itself becomes an ongoing inspiration. The relationship between image origin, historical context, and artistic visual language continually fascinates me. The interplay between these elements sparks new ideas, pushing me to experiment with different techniques, materials, and approaches.

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Image courtesy of Xuanlin Ye

LC – Do you agree with our vision of art, and what do you think about the theme of the exhibition?
XY – I deeply connect with your artistic vision, especially its focus on fostering critical engagement, questioning established narratives, and delving into the intricate cultural implications. The overarching theme of the exhibition resonates with my artistic approach as it offers an opportunity to unravel the deep-rooted layers of colonial heritage and redefine the contextual meaning of cultural content. I firmly believe in the transformative power of art to initiate meaningful dialogues, break down stereotypes, and provide profound commentary on historical aesthetics and the complexities of modern society.

LC – In which way the artwork presented in our exhibition is connected with the exhibition’s theme?
XY – The artworks showcased in the exhibition are intricately linked to the theme as they delve into the intertwined realms of history, aesthetics, and sociocultural dynamics. Through the subversion of established visual tropes and the incorporation of humor and playfulness, my creations actively challenge prevailing narratives, urging viewers to critically engage with the profound cultural implications embedded within the imagery. These paintings provide a powerful platform to reframe and question traditional Asian tropes, offering a visual commentary that explores the intricate complexities of Asian American identity and the enduring impact of colonial legacies.

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Image courtesy of Xuanlin Ye

LC – What do you think about the ITSLIQUID Platform?
XY – In my opinion, the ITSLIQUID Platform serves as a valuable venue for artists to exhibit their work and connect with a diverse range of individuals. It provides a meaningful space for dialogue and facilitates exposure within the vibrant art community. The platform’s dedication to promoting contemporary art and its artistic vision resonate with my own creative values and aspirations.

LC – Would you suggest a collaboration with us? What do you think about our services?
XY – I strongly recommend collaborating with the ITSLIQUID team. Based on my personal experience, their support and partnership have been exceptional, enabling my artwork to transcend geographical boundaries and resonate with diverse audiences across the globe. Their international reach and dedication to promoting artists make them an invaluable platform for expanding artistic horizons.

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Image courtesy of Xuanlin Ye
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Image courtesy of Xuanlin Ye

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