INTERVIEW: YURI YUAN | ITSLIQUID GROUP

INTERVIEW: YURI YUAN

Interviews | March 20, 2021 |

yuri_yuan
Image courtesy of Yuri Yuan

Interview: Yuri Yuan
Luca Curci
talks with Yuri Yuan during THE BODY LANGUAGE 2021 at THE ROOM Contemporary Art Space.

Yuri Yuan is a current Visual Arts MFA candidate at Columbia University School of the Arts. She was born in China, grew up in Singapore, and gained a BFA degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) in 2019. Yuan was recently featured in New American Paintings magazine #147. Yuan’s works have been shown at Make Room Gallery, Los Angeles; ArtForum International (online); Sullivan Galleries, Chicago and Siragusa Gallery at SAIC, Chicago. Yuan was awarded many distinguished awards: Helen Frankenthaler Foundation Institutional Scholarship, Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation Grant, and SAIC Travel Scholarship. Upcoming exhibitions include the First-year show and Thesis exhibition at Lenfest Center for the Arts, Columbia University, Project Gallery V (online).

“My recent works explore themes of longing and grief. I paint scenes from personal memories and dreams to create a contemplative space for tragedy and loss. Through the task of painting, I navigate personal trauma and ask how do we experience and remember physical and emotional pain. In this sentiment of loss and sorrow, I examine the fragility of life and the empathetic emotions paintings can elicit. I often paint figures as a witness of a scene and facing away from the viewer, therefore allowing the viewer to project themselves into the narratives. The solitary figures represent my loneliness of living in a foreign country. They are often stationary, waiting for a climax that may never happen. Using a wet-on-wet technique and thin paints, I create a sense of quiet airiness. Most paintings were made in a day to preserve a sense of freshness and simplicity. I use light and shadow to evoke a metaphor of life and death and highlight alienation and mortality as a human experience”.

yuri_yuan
Image courtesy of Yuri Yuan

Luca Curci – What is art for you?
Yuri Yuan –
As a painter, I would say painting and drawing help me to explore, discover, and challenge myself. It provides a space for me to contemplate my own existence as well as the world around me.

LC – How did you get to your current artistic practice?
YY –
I have always wanted to be an artist since I was a kid. I did art classes in middle and high school and went to an art school for undergraduate. Currently, I am finishing my graduate degree at Columbia University in New York. I have always loved painting, it is the primary medium that I work in.

yuri_yuan
Image courtesy of Yuri Yuan

LC – How do you choose your subjects? Is it a reasoned or an instinctive process?
YY –
I think it is both. Sometimes a particular memory, image, or narrative will come to me when I space out, or in my dream, and I would think “Oh I have to paint this”. This part is quite intuitive because I paint what is in me, subjects that I feel the most strongly about. After having a basic idea of what the painting is about, I move into a more formal/practical process where I think about how the composition and colour should work to tell the narrative. I gather my inspirations from books, films, and other artworks.

LC – What is the most challenging part about creating your artworks?
YY –
A constant self-doubt. When you paint something that is so deeply related to your inner life, it makes you feel very vulnerable. You feel like you are not just showing a painting, you are showing an insecure side of yourself and you have to be open towards criticism. Being in a graduate school, or the general art world, you hear many voices telling you which direction you should go. It is hard to differentiate those voices and learn from them while staying true to yourself. I think that has been the hardest part, trying to make a living as an artist without compromising on your genuine artistic belief.

LC – How do you feel when you see your work completed?
YY –
I feel satisfied and insecure at the same time. I am happy it is done and I can move on to the next painting. At the same time, I think about how others will react to it and if they will like it. It is an unhealthy habit I am trying to get rid of.

yuri_yuan
Image courtesy of Yuri Yuan

LC – Can you explain something about the artwork you have in our exhibition?
YY –
My recent works explore themes of longing and isolation in the Covid-19 pandemic. “Dawn” (2020) is a self-portrait of me watching the sunrise with boredom and helplessness as another day of quarantine began. Sunlight, a traditionally hopeful symbol is confronted by the psychological and emotional struggle I experienced during the pandemic. The painting was completed in a few hours to preserve a sense of freshness and diaristic quality.

LC – What do you think about the concept of this festival? How did it inspire you?
YY –
I think the concept of body language is interesting as it dives deeper into identity and emotions beyond mere appearances. I picked “Dawn” for this show as it illustrates a sense of uncertainty through the figure’s body language.

yuri_yuan
Image courtesy of Yuri Yuan

LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
YY –
Yes, it is very nice to be showing with so many other international artists during such a difficult time.

LC – What are your suggestions about our services? Is there something more we can provide to artists?
YY –
I think it could be helpful to have funding for artists to participate in exhibitions and have a platform to network with each other.

LC – What is your idea about ITSLIQUID GROUP?
YY –
It is an international platform for artists across all disciplines.

yuri_yuan
Image courtesy of Yuri Yuan
yuri_yuan
Image courtesy of Yuri Yuan

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