In our emerging artists season, we speak with Chinese mixed-media artist Yinan Chen, who resides and creates in Wuhan, China. Born into a family of artists, Chen embarked on her artistic journey at a young age. She pursued a BA and MA in Ceramics at the Hubei Institute of Fine Arts in China and recently completed a Master of Fine Arts in Ceramics at the Rhode Island School of Design.
Chen specializes in multimedia, employing materials such as steel, clay, and everyday objects to craft expressive sculptures. These pieces, inspired by societal complexities and life’s intricacies, are the result of her process of examining society and conveying her unique perspective of the world.
Ceramic is an important element of my works. It is a material with strong bearing capacity, and at the same time, it is a tool with the attribute of nature and social function
There are two of Chen’s works that particularly stand out to me “Butterfly Cemetery” and “The Silent Wing,” both of which are meticulously crafted.
“Butterfly Cemetery” is a captivating installation featuring a large, textured rug with a small white column nestled within. The rug’s texture creates a monochromatic landscape, offering an illusion of depth and movement. This setting is disrupted by an eruption of dead black butterflies on the white column and rug surfaces. The butterfly, emblematic of transformation and ephemeral beauty, is captured in its final moments of motion. Chen’s arrangement blurs the lines between three-dimensional sculpture and two-dimensional plane. “Butterfly Cemetery” embodies a silent dialogue among beauty, fear, and chaos, prompting deeper reflection on existence.
“The Silent Wing” is a poignant sculpture representing contrast and accumulation. Individual ceramic wings merge to form a larger entity. This layered assembly creates a pyramid-like structure, symbolizing both unity and individuality. Each wing, reminiscent of a bird in stillness, is a study in form and texture. The focus shifts from rich, deep hues at the base to a crescendo of charcoal grey at the apex. The introduction of terra cotta-coloured pieces at the forefront offers a visual and conceptual break from uniformity, hinting at a deviation from the norm. The interplay of light and shadow enhances the tactile quality of the sculpture, resonating with themes of structure, order, and subtle rebellion against it, inviting contemplation on the interplay between the individual and the collective.
Chen’s work is a testament to her talent, and the skill of her craft is evident; she is undoubtedly an emerging artist to watch closely. Having exhibited her works in the US, China, and Taiwan, Chen has received multiple awards from the Hubei Institute of Fine Arts and was featured in SAATCHI ART’s Rising Stars class of 2019. In our interview, we will delve into the woman behind the sculptures, exploring her inspirations, creative process, and more.
Q: First things first, why do you do what you do?
Yinan Chen: I was born into an artist family. When I was little, art was everywhere in my life. Then when I grow up, art is an indispensable and irreplaceable way for me to express myself.
Q: What inspires you and drives your practice?
Yinan Chen: Life is my inspiration. From my point of view, our track of life is like a mixture of complication and simplicity. Our life seems regularly repeating the process of eating, drinking, playing, sleeping, studying and working. However, when you explore the essence of life, every single second can be different, which is the reason for us to do regular things, record and make changes.
Q: What kind of approach do you take towards the creative process?
Yinan Chen: The only way I know how to create is to start from something I know very well, then going beyond the constraints of aesthetics and existing experiences and then try to make changes.
Q: What type of materials do you prefer to work with?
Yinan Chen: Ceramic is an important element of my works. It is a material with strong bearing capacity, and at the same time, it is a tool with the attribute of nature and social function, for the similarity with humans can be found in it. Thanks to its characteristics, I am able to transform the forms, colors, and quality to complete my works. Collected from nature, carved with human hands, the clay is cultivated and my expectation of the outside world is satisfied.
Q: What would you say is an integral part to the work of an Artist?
Yinan Chen: Being “interesting”.
Q: What artist inspires you the most?
Yinan Chen: Both my parents are artists and they inspired me the most, who created me and my past so I can create my future.
Q: What is the reason behind your use of society in your works?
Yinan Chen: My process of creating a work is a process of inspecting society. I am trying to convey the world seen through my eyes, which is also my understanding of art. Artists should lead people to the ideal world they create.
Q: What is your favourite piece from your collection?
Yinan Chen: Butterfly Cemetery and Throngs. Butterfly Cemetery is the first piece I made based on my own understanding and emotion. I have been afraid of butterflies since I was little, the more beautiful, the more attractive, the more terrifying. My feelings about beauty and fear and awe of life are evoked via thousands of “dead” clay butterflies with sound, light, electricity, and shadow in a closed space.
For a long time, I have been making art for myself. Throngs is a transitional piece that I started exploring the connections between butterflies and humans which have a couple of similarities, including identity, beauty, camouflage, community, and migration. Each butterfly is regarded as each individual. I translate human living conditions into my works using the symbolic element of butterflies.
Q: When you held your first solo exhibition, what were your emotions like?
Yinan Chen: Now I am planning and preparing my first solo show so I would say I am very excited and grateful.
Q: What is the most rewarding thing for you about being a part of the Art Industry?
Yinan Chen: The most rewarding thing for me to be a part of the art community is that there is always someone who can understand and expect me and my works.
Q: Is there anything that worries you about how social media is affecting the promotion of artists?
Yinan Chen: Social media is a great and powerful “window” for artists. Though I just started taking advantage of it, I am benefiting from it.
Q: In your opinion, do you have any advice for artists on how to manage their social media image? Or does it even need managing?
Yinan Chen: I’m still learning how to manage it.
Q: Are there any places where you feel Art and Technology really shouldn’t overlap?
Yinan Chen: I don’t think so. As for me, art is all about expression and anything can help it will be great. Besides, technology is part of our life and we are living in this age so whatever we do, like art, is a creation of this era which is also a product of technology.
This was Yinan Chen for our emerging artists season to learn more her head over to website below