Yuan Fang (b.1996, Shenzhen, China) is a visual artist currently residing in New York. Her work has been exhibited at ATM Gallery, the Hive Center for Contemporary Art, Latitude Gallery, and Bill Brady Gallery, among others. Fang is currently an MFA candidate at the School of Visual Arts and is expected to graduate in the Summer of 2022.
THAT: Tell us about your practice, for those who are new to you.
YF: I am a painter whose works are the reflection of my mental status, memories, and surroundings. My practice began with a self-detachment from the external environment while maintaining a rebellious posture of exile. Throughout my experience of living in fast-paced urban cities, Shenzhen and New York, I have been constantly experiencing a lack of belonging and displacement. For me, change is a real and vivid bodily experience, hence in my paintings speed exists as a physical form.
THAT: Your practice spans a lot of mediums from painting to collage and ink. Can you talk to us about your process a little - what determines the medium?
YF: I mainly use acrylic paints because I need to make decisions fairly fast when working, and oil takes too long to dry and cover. Besides that, acrylic paints were invented in the United States, where I began to take paintings seriously, so this kind of “homie” feeling is part of the reason too. I sometimes switch to collage as a break from painting and see it as a way for me to disassemble one layer and put it over to another, playing around with randomness and unpredictability. Recently I have been working on some mixed media collages on small-scale canvases and find the conversation between paper and canvas pretty interesting too.
THAT: You mentioned doing photography before coming to painting - how did you come to painting as your medium?
YF: In my early adulthood I went through a period of depression, and during that time I would draw on my sketchbook, notebook, and paper I found, everything, to escape from reality. As it went on, I started to draw on canvas…and that became my painting practice. I do refuse to bring in any narrative elements in my works because, for me, the reality is enough when you can experience it in real life.
THAT: You’ve called out many sources of inspiration and interest - from fashion to architecture to literature - do you find that creeps into your studio practice?
YF: I am interested in patterns that I sourced from different fashion brands, as well as the spatial relationships within buildings, and that is probably how they influence my works.
THAT: Talk to us about color - you seem to have taken a stronger direction with this in your more recent body of works, how do you currently approach color in your work?
YF: I finished a body of black and white paintings during the pandemic. Part of the reason for that is that limiting the color palette gives me more control over shapes and the relationship between light and shadow, and it functions as an exercise. After that when I went back to color, I truly felt that it has more meaning to me. Now I would say my choice of color depends on the subject matter in the real world that I picked in each painting, like flowers, leaves, human skin, etc.
THAT: Does the city of New York still inspire you? Curious if that’s changed over time, in particular with the pandemic.
YF: New York is my second home of mine and definitely that penetrates into my practice. However, I did find it extremely depressing during the peak of the pandemic and was considering moving back to China because of all the isolation and xenophobia I was experiencing. But now things are getting back to normal (at least I hope so!) and I am more graceful than ever before for all the wonderful things happening in the city now.
THAT: What has been inspiring you lately?
YF: I really love the solo show of Oliver Lee Jackson currently on view at Andrew Kreps Gallery.
THAT: What's next for you?
YF: I will finish my MFA degree in one month (!) and participate in a few art fairs coming up. Besides that, I am currently working on a solo show in Los Angeles opening this fall, and in the process of applying for an artist visa to stay in the United States.
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