YeProfile

Ye Qin Zhu

Ye Qin Zhu (b. 1986 Taishan, China) is an interdisciplinary artist based in Brooklyn, NY. Zhu’s work has been shown at Harkawik Gallery New York, NY (October 15, 2022); Sugar Hill Children’s Museum, New York, NY (2022); Galerie Marguo, Paris, France (2022); Moskowitz Bayse, Los Angeles, CA (2021); James Fuentes, New York, NY (2021); Harper’s Gallery, East Hampton, NY (2021); and more.

THAT: Tell us about your practice
YQZ: I am an interdisciplinary artist working in painting, public arts, and social practice. With these forms, I explore the transmission of belief systems, finding inspiration in the architecture of temples and churches. Whole worlds, cosmologies, legacies, and cultures are formed in the floor plans of these buildings. 

I look to these spaces of worship to learn ways to transmit knowledge and world views through visual experiences, physical objects, and spaces. 

I integrate these lessons to share ideas on the porous nature of mind, matter, body, and spirit. In this way, my art examines how beliefs can travel and materialize between objects and people. The works can project ideas from their physical body into the body of someone witnessing it. Wounds and remedies travel these same routes. Through this understanding of how my work operates, I seek pathways toward personal, ancestral, and social healing.

THAT: What is your approach to relief painting?
YQZ: I make relief paintings because reliefs not only create a picture plane, they influence the architecture they’re in. I take everyday found objects—detritus, craft supplies, keepsakes, mementos, et cetera—and transform them by painting over their shapes, destroying and reconstituting their parts. These materials retain their original forms, but they are juxtaposed with elements in a painting that change their purpose. The act of transformation allows me to shift how the object is perceived, as well as the context and meaning of the objects. 

To ground this and make it understandable, I use contemporary materials. It gives a sense of familiarity in an otherwise strange human landscape where the past, present, and future are jumbled.

THAT: With materiality so central to your practice, what is your selection process like?
YQZ: I am always looking for found objects as a way to continue my relationship with my work beyond the studio. 

Although I don't usually have a preconceived notion of what's going to go into a painting, I often have a general idea of what I am looking for in the materials. It could be a certain feature—maybe I want something shiny. It could be I'm looking for something of a specific shape and texture. It is sometimes more complex like I might be searching for an object that symbolizes and represents a theme that I’m working through. 

Whatever I’m on the hunt for, recontextualizing these found objects brings joy into the creative process, and it helps fully define the art.

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THAT: What is the relationship between your painting and your works of public art?
YQZ: My public art practice has been the perfect vehicle to translate the ideas I’ve cultivated within the studio walls—and even the art world in general—into a more accessible realm. For any of my public artworks, I use heavy-handed metaphors and symbols to impress onto the viewer an experience told through easily readable visual language. Constellations, for example, are cosmic metaphors for relationships and interconnectedness—a constellation is made up of stars in relation to every other star—and we are each a constellation of experiences and relationships. 

The way we relate to stories and metaphors changes over time, and I hope that this layering of symbols facilitates that. For me, a work of art stays alive when it changes and grows with us. And with public art, more people can be involved in that change and growth over time, which opens up more possibilities along the way.

THAT: What has been inspiring you lately?
YQZ: Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Ocean Vuong interviews and readings on podcasts and YouTube. I am in love with the precision and power of his language. I can’t get enough of how skilled he is at illuminating the nebulous terrains of the Vietnamese American experience, and the Asian and American experiences in general. And of course, he speaks a great deal about being a writer—he offers some masterful tips, which I can apply to the cultivation of my art practice.

THAT: What is next for you? 
YQZ: I have my solo exhibition opening up this Saturday, October 15th, 6-8 pm in Harkawik Gallery at 30 Orchard St., NYC. It’ll run till November 17th. Come through if you are around, my works are very material and textured, so they’re best experienced in the round. After that, I have a few more group shows lined up starting next year. I am also working towards a new body of work. Excited to share those when they’re ready, but that might be the end of next year or the year after that.

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