Yuan Fang (b. Shenzhen, China) is a visual artist who lives and works in New York. She graduated from the Visual and Critical Studies Program at School of Visual Arts (BFA) with Rhodes Family Award for Outstanding Achievement. Her works have been widely exhibited in the United States and China, including Yuan Fang: Rushing Down The Cliff, Latitude Gallery, Brooklyn (2020); Yuan Fang: Liminalities, Time Arts, New York (2019); Cross-Cultural Practice: Recent Works by Chinese Artists in New York, 285 Jay Street, Brooklyn (2019) and Artificial Boundary, Fou Gallery, Brooklyn (2018). She is currently an MFA candidate at School of Visual Arts who is expecting to graduate in 2022.
Fang’s practice began with a self-detachment from the external environment while maintaining a rebellious posture of exile. Throughout her upbringing, she has been constantly experiencing a lack of belonging and displacements reflected by her surroundings. For her, desire, emotions and memory are not concepts, but real, vivid, and tangible experiences, and she attempts to explore them in the sense of self-estrangement in paintings.
We would love to learn more about your journey as an inspirational creative. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am Yuan Fang, a visual artist who mainly focuses on painting. I currently live in Brooklyn but was born and raised in Shenzhen, a Southern city in China. I moved to the United States five years ago to pursue undergraduate study, and graduated with a degree in Visual & Critical Studies from the School of Visual Arts last year. I never thought of becoming an artist before I went to college, and sometimes can still feel the “unnaturalness” when making or talking about art. However, at a certain point in my life I began to appreciate painting the medium, and decided to stick to it for at least for a while.
What is your art about? What is your process like?
I would like to shorten the theme about my practice in general as “the reflection of my mental states and surroundings.” And my way to approach finishing a piece is quite improvised. I barely do sketches, and one painting might take three hours to several months to be completed.
Your paintings are quite dynamic with colors and shapes. You also mentioned how you got inspirations from constructions, human bodies and anxieties in your statement. What is your idea behind this?
When I first started to do drawings, I was fascinated by Surrealist automatism, a method of art-making in which the artist suppresses conscious control over the making process, allowing the unconscious mind to have great sway. And those topos were just emerging from my mind when I let my subconscious determine what I should do, and I realized that I am very interested in the relationship between our physical body, spirits and the outside world as a universal whole. So when I continue my practice, I just keep it going.
What does “community” mean to you? Has your local community inspired you as a creative?
If I have to be totally honest, then I will say that because my undergraduate department, unlike most art school’s, barely has any other international students, during my college years I never felt a sense of belonging and found any “community.” I was quite struggled and always wanted to fight with some unknown power (later I realized that it was called “white-dominance.”) After I graduated from college, I was relatively released and had the opportunity to get to know other Asian people here. (I was quite an intense student and didn’t really socialize when I was in school.) From my perspective, ever since this pandemic, Asian people in America are becoming more and more united which is pretty promising.
What are you working on right now?
I am working on some commissioned projects, organizing documents and preparing for grad school at this point… I didn’t expect to be so hectic at this point but at least it is a good thing.
Do you have any advice to share with others?
Well, as a quite young emerging artist myself, I still have plenty of things to figure out at this point…but I would say just keep working hard and thinking about what your practice means to you on a regular basis.
text & photo courtesy of Yuan Fang