“A sense of existence and meaning.”
Paul Zimmerman in conversation with Wei Yan
Paul Zimmerman: Your mixed media paintings have a meditative quality. Is there a spiritual aspect to your work?
Wei Yan: Since I was born in China, I learned Chinese calligraphy when I was little. The art of calligraphy frequently mentions space and structure during my creations, and it requires you to empty your mind and concentrate when producing your works. I always incorporated aspects of Eastern philosophical concepts into my pieces，such as the spirit of Taoism. To reveal the relationship between mankind and the universe is an aspect I strive to accomplish through all my pieces.
There are three natures for all art throughout time: animality, humanity and divinity. Some types just express the secular desires,and some show a rational aesthetic. I like artworks that give off divinity vibes, as they direct what‘s mercy and noble and the meaning of life. This has always been my artistic pursuit.
PZ: What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
WY: Sometimes I feel very frustrated in the process of my creation, since I experiment with mediums every time. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be successful for every single piece, as I need extra patience to cultivate more positive and optimistic emotions in my career as a professional artist.Another challenge is balancing my exploration of the energy expressed in my art piece. It takes me a while sometimes to add aspects of Western and Eastern philosophy into my art all together. Only one issue is technical and the others are about the challenges of self-cultivation.
PZ: What is your artistic process? How do you create your paintings?
WY: As a contemporary artist, I think the narrative and documentary nature of painting should gradually become less and less important, as we know the film and camera can do the better job at painting. It is even more important to depict the dimensions of a complicated world.Today, the world is diverse , so I am focusing on how to create the multi dimensions during each artistic process. When I feel like I have enough energy and I know it’s time for a long day in my studio, I usually do a quick sketch as a script, follow up the colour added on to see if it corresponds to the image I had in my head. I do the underpainting so different materials can be added on to build up the textures I planned on. I start to paint with a mass of pigments to do the opaque process, then I lay the canvas on the ground to pour the pigment to where I need it. The amount of layers I pour depends on how it‘s turning out, as sometimes I pour pigments over a hundred times.
PZ: How do you know when the piece is finished?
WY: I never think there’s any painting that is really finished. I put the almost completed piece away for a while till I finish the next one. I take a long look at it over time to see if I think the painting has finished. I always ensure that I see harmony in the painting, and that there’s no uncomfortable elements.
PZ: Have your practice changed over time?
WY: I focused on technique only when I did figurative painting a long time ago. However, I thought that it didn‘t show too much of my artistic concept so I changed to abstract painting. I feel more comfortable and relaxed when my practice changes.
PZ: What is art for you?
WY: Everthing! I started to create when I was a 9 year old boy, and I’ve met various people with different backgrounds and a variety of occupations. I’ve never thought of changing my career even if I’m extremely frustrated when my career is on the down side. I’m fortunate enough to be an artist. Art makes me delighted and peaceful everyday and it leads me towards having a happier and healthier life. Art has this function to me: It gives a rich and delicate inner experience, and aids others get rid of the endless emptiness of life and gain a sense of existence and meaning.
PZ: How would you describe yourself as an artist?
WY: I remind myself all the time I am an artist because I have a unique thought and view point from others. I am a poet but I only write a poem in mind when I create my paintings. I am a composer and a musician when I am pouring the different colours on canvas. I am a daydreamer when I put as many fantasies as possible during my creation. I am a commander when I’m in the creative process , to command the general of structures and the soldiers of colour. I am always a traveller when my inspiration is gone.
PZ: which artists are you most influenced by?
WY: Theres three artists I think I was influenced the most, two of them are Chinese masters, one is name Chang Ta Chien another one is Zao Woki, the last artist is Jackson Pollock.
PZ: What are you working on now?
WY: I am working on a series of large paintings using different mediums. Hopefully I can complete them without too much frustration.
PZ: How does the pandemic influence your work and sensibility?
WY: All planned exhibitions were cancelled, and the gallery which represented me hasn’t made contact in a while. I think most artists have experienced an energy boom,as it requires a lot to continue going on with our journeys. I used to think of artists as a less essential occupation, in comparison to nurses or cashiers from the supermarket during the pandemic. However, this quarantine has made me realize that artists are just as important, as they can cheer others up and encourage people to fight against the virus. I participated in some charity events and donated some of my painting to the hospital. As well, I held a series of online lectures for the local art lovers in my city.