Qianwen Yu interview

weave with light
Qianwen Yu

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hi my name is Qianwen Yu, I was born in a small city called Guilin in south of China. I finished my BFA in China Academy of Art in Shanghai and recently graduated with my MFA from School of the Art Institute of Chicago. 

Currently, I am a freelance artist and gallery artist based in Chicago. I work with traditional and modern techniques, such as weaving and hand-drawing, with modern techniques. My works combine different human sensory dimensions, such as tactus, vision and acoustion, and tries to blur the boundaries between different fields of weaving art, animation, film, sound and space.

2. Describe the city you’re living in and what it’s like to live there.

This is my third year in Chicago, I personally like Chicago a lot. It is not as rushed and crowded as New York. People can struggle and enjoy life here. Chicago is a great city for art and music, it has many great galleries and museums where you could spend your weekends. As to music, they are everywhere in Chicago downtown, from street musicians, from passing cars, from Jazz bars and different music festivals. I went to college in Shanghai for four years. Some parts of Chicago are very similar to Shanghai. They are both suitable for the fast-paced life of young people and the leisure life of the elderly.

3. What is the best and worst thing about living in your city?

Compared to Shanghai, Hangzhou and Guilin where I have lived before, Chicago is more open to different aspects, including art, lifestyle, culture, etc. But in the first few months I arrived in Chicago, I felt that the people in this city were very indifferent. When I moved for the first time, I pushed a very heavy cart on the road and tried to transport the furniture to the new home. The furniture keeps falling, but there is no one to help on the way.

4. Give us 3 words that describe what it’s like to be a creative in your city.

Active thinking, dynamic, exciting

III. Creative Work

1. How did you start your career in art? 

I have been drawing since I was really young, and I always have a strong curiosity on the unknown. I like to explore new areas of art and new cities. I went to different cities and countries for my high school, college and graduate study. My dad is an architect who influenced me a lot when I was pretty young, I studied in Environmental design and Architecture design in my college, but the study of architectural design did not meet my expectations, that there are too many rules and restrictions in urban architectural design in reality. Gradually, I began to consider turning to more creative illustrations and short animations. So I went to School of the Art Institute of Chicago to study animation and art and see what is art looks like in another country. I spent my first year in SAIC to explore what I am really interested in, and I made so many experiments with different art disciplinary in this two-year study, and finally found out something which I really into. In my opinion, countless experiments have brought more possibilities and fun to my work, which motivated my continuous exploration.

2. Were the people around you supportive of your decision on working as a creative?

My parents have been always supportive of  my decision to be an artist or animator or illustrator, although my father always hoping that I could become an architect like he did, but he chose to encourage me to do the thing that I love in the end. I also have a twin sister who is an amazing animator and illustrator, and some friends who are in the art field that we always support each others.

3. What are some goals and ambitions you have for your future work?

I hope that in the future I will always keep the desire to explore, challenge and cooperate in different fields.

4. If you could collaborate with any person in the world who would it be?

If possible, I would really like to work with my 5 y/o self, when I was first exposed to arts. At that time, I had not yet begun to receive art education in school, I just drew as I wanted. I really want to know what kind of sparks can be collided with my young and imaginative 5 y/o self with the knowledge and technology I have learned over the past 20 years.

IV. Womanhood

1. How would you describe the women around you?

Incredible, independent, knowledgeable

2. Were there any local female creatives that you looked up to when you were growing up? If none, please tell us why.

Liu Sanjie was a Chinese folk music singer in my hometown Guilin, Liu is a legendary figure of the people in my hometown and her songs were melodious and touching. When I was a child, I watched opera movies based on the folklore of "Liu Sanjie " and I looked up her rebellious spirit and melodic singing.

3. Are there any challenging aspects of being a female in your industry?

The gender dynamic in the art industry is quite different from the architecture industry where women has been the minority. I am glad to see that there are so many outstanding female artists around me. Many women’s social statuses have been suppressed in China due to the traditional culture, and therefore, the gender disparity still maintains its effects. However, right now more and more women are choosing the life they want, which is a good sign. Women have always been powerful and strong.

Try and experiment more, do not be afraid of failures. And sometimes try to think about the questions from different perspectives and directions, try to make works from interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary ways.