Step into the world of Yuan Fang, a visual artist honing her skills in abstraction who was born in the year 1996 in the city of Shenzhen, China. Currently residing in the electric metropolis of New York City, she obtained a Master of Fine Arts degree from the School of Visual Arts, and her works have been exhibited widely in both the United States and Asia.
Fang’s artistic journey began with a self-imposed detachment from the external world, yet maintained a spirit of rebellion and exile. Growing up, she often experienced feelings of not belonging and displacement, which are reflected in her art. For Fang, emotions, desire, and memory are not abstract concepts, but rather tangible experiences. As an Asian woman living in the cosmopolitan context of New York, she aims to explore her own sense of vulnerability and self-estrangement in her artistic practice.
“I love the gesture of compressing passages in my paintings onto such a flat surface.”
In Fang’s paintings, one can see the essence of the human condition, with its anxieties, turbulence, and unpredictability. Through the use of vivid colors and fluid forms, Fang imbues her canvases with an ebullient energy. Her artworks come to life with every brushstroke, conveying a sense of dynamism and vitality. Fang once said, “I love the gesture of compressing passages in my paintings onto such a flat surface. For me, the act of painting helps relieve my own anxiety, too.” Her art practice echoes the sentiment of the famous artist Lee Krasner, who once said, “I like the canvas to breathe and be alive.” Fang’s works are organic and infused with life, reflecting her own lived experiences.
During a recent interview, Fang discussed her approach to abstraction and the creative process. She noted that her paintings often eschew straight lines, as she believes that curves mimic the contours of the female body. Fang embraces the idea that viewers can find a sense of femininity in her paintings. Altogether, her goal is to create works that explore the complexities of the human experience, and to invite viewers to share in her own journey of self-discovery.
The artist has shown her work in numerous solo exhibitions at renowned galleries such as Prince & Wooster, New York; Bill Brady Gallery, Los Angeles; and ATM Gallery, New York. Her artwork has also been featured in group exhibitions at Stems Gallery, Brussels, and COMA Gallery, Sydney, among others. Recently, the ICA Miami acquired her artwork.
For our latest Hypeart Visits series, we met with Yuan Fang at her Brooklyn studio to discuss her approach to abstraction, the processes that fuel her art making and the projects she’s working on for the year. Read our exclusive interview below.
” I didn’t receive any formal training before, but I feel like the galleries and museums in NYC have become my teachers on art instead.”
What was your upbringing like?
I was born and raised in Shenzhen, a very southern city in China. And then I moved to New York when I was 18 for undergrad at the School of Visual Arts in new York City. And since then, I have been spending my adult life here.
What sparked your interest in art? And were you making art when you were younger?
I wasn’t think about being a professional artist as a career until maybe a few years ago, but I was always interested in art. My parents never really approved of my decision to go to art school or pursue a career as an artist, but I was very insisted on doing that. I didn’t receive any formal training before, and I feel like the galleries and museums in NYC have become my teachers on art instead.
What was one of the exhibitions that really moved you or inspired you?
I saw an exhibition about Lee Krasner at Kasmin Gallery maybe six or five years ago, and that really touched me. Her work is kind of inspiring to me because it is also about energy and fluid shapes and swirl shapes, and I just very, I really love her gestural marks.
“I don’t want to see anything you can find in reality. So that’s why I paint abstraction.”
What did your earlier works look like? Were they totally different from the works that we’re viewing now?
I would say they’re not totally different, but they’re very different. And I think how my work developed is a very natural process. I’m not entirely an abstract painter or a figurative painter. I just feel like the transition is very neutral and natural to me.
What is your fascination with abstraction? And then why not other forms of art?
When I was a freshman in college, I got very bored in class so I started to just draw random stuff in my sketchbook, and it kind of became my way of escaping from reality. So I think that drawing practice later becoming into my painting practice. I don’t want to see anything you can find in reality. So that’s why I paint abstraction.
How do you approach a painting? How do you even begin one?
At first I study, begin with some little studies on paper, and then I begin with layering up the first layer, which is the background and then layering up. But I feel like my process is very spontaneous and it’s very hard to explain what is actually happening when I paint.
“I find meanings of the work later after I finish them.”
Are you capturing an emotion or maybe an experience?
I feel like it’s both.
How do you decide on the colors for a composition?
This is a very tough question for me because I always feel that color for me never means anything. And I choose a color palette to mainly act as a tool to create my works and not for anything else. And how I pick color palette, it’s like I just want to do different stuff in different paintings.
Let’s talk about your show at Half Gallery last January. How did those works come about?
I began preparing for the show last fall, and the show includes eight paintings. Generally, I feel like I don’t really prepare works for one specific show. I find meanings of the work later after I finish them.
“How I paint is very intense.”
So would you say painting is more of a form of therapy?
Yeah totally. I feel like it’s more like a therapy. Also, it’s something that I do almost like every day, so it kind of becomes part of my life. I usually spend six days in a week at my studio. Each day, I only actually paint six hours. How I paint is very intense. I don’t do other stuff when I paint.
Do you listen to music at all? What’s the atmosphere in the studio like?
I listen to pop music, just to gives me energy. I don’t really listen to very tasteful music when I paint. I love Lady Gaga though.
Have you run into any creative blocks? And how do you overcome those creative blocks when you’re doing a painting?
Yeah, I encounter those blocks a few times, maybe two times a year. And then one night, I just make a few shitty painting and cover them and I will just go over it.
How do you come up with the titles of your paintings?
I title paintings according to the moment of emotion or the metaphor I was thinking for the painting in terms of the human gesture. So for my show at Half, I title a work named Fireworks, and another few ones Hunting. I usually title them into different series.
“I’m in the stage of my practice where I need to focus more on my own languages instead of looking at other artists.”
Which artists have made an impact on your work?
When I first began painting, I had a lot of influences. So I would say Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner was kind of my painting parents at the time. And I also really love Sicily Brown when I was younger. These days, I’m in the stage of my practice where I need to focus more on my own languages instead of looking at other artists.
Are you experimenting with, I guess, new mediums or new new tools with your painting?
Not at this moment, but I was trying other stuff before. Before there was a time I was using spray paint in my works. And for the show at Half Gallery, I used some oil pastel and oil sticks in some of the paintings too. But, I work with acrylic mainly.
Tell us about your projects this year and where are readers can expect to see your work.
I recently had a show at the Half Gallery LA this April, and working towards a solo presentation with Half Gallery for the Armory Show this September.
All photography courtesy of Keith Estiler of Hypeart