Drake Lab: Yan Wen Chang

Posted by Kylie Gionet, June 30, 2015
Yan Wen (1)

"WHAT ELSE SHOULD I SAY BABY" 46" X 36" (52" X 36" with glass blocks). Embroidery, Ink, Acrylic, on mylar with Crocodile skin stretched on frame Plexiglass blocks as support.

Speedball”, Yan Wen’s most recent body of work, like its title, provides the aesthetic equivalent to a shot in the arm. Using a variety of materials and textiles, including embroidery, crocodile skin, leather and lace, her work is full of texture and erotic references. And while she reps an artistic swagger that is definitively all her own, she is not short on sources of inspiration. Robert Fones is one in particular, who Yan Wen worked as Studio Assistant for in 2014, and has had an important influence on her creatively.

Not to get up on a soapbox, but in a time of Instagram-induced vanity, where many have become so consumed with their own social media exhibition to even recognize the fantasy, talking to people who still want to be known for their actual work is refreshing. Here Yan Wen talks to us about desire, her first solo exhibition, and why sometimes, things are better understood when they’re in black and white.

Yan Wen (2)

"BAGGIE FLAGGIE (1-4)" 9" X 18" each. Oil paint on canvas pennants.

Kylie: Speedball is your first solo exhibition. What served as your inspiration?
Yan Wen: Inserting autobiographical events into this body of work was part of my intuition. People in my past and present, and the good and bad things that have happened to me served as my inspiration. Having said that, my work itself comments on something bigger. I identify with these autobiographical events, but my identity is much more than the things that have happened to me, and so is the art that I have produced for the show.

Kylie: Can you tell me a little about your “Good Girl” sculpture?
Yan Wen: The object itself has overt sexual undertones – the white and black leather allude to bondage, and the dog muzzle itself refers to sex in doggy style. The word ‘come’ when read aloud could also be read as ‘cum,’ and the title overall refers to dominance in sex. I enjoy Méret Oppenheim’s sexy objects like Fur Teacup and My Nurse, which also were the sources of inspiration for the production of Good Girl.

Kylie: Addiction, desire … these are some themes explored in your exhibition. Do you see desire as a positive thing?
Yan Wen: Desire is the intensity and force of a feeling in a particular moment. The force itself is neutral, as it acts as a catalyst to already existing emotions.

Yan Wen (3)

"ON THE HIGHWAY TO MY PLACE, ITS HIGHER THAN U EVER BEEN" 26" X 32". Cotton and satin embroidery on linen, stretched on wooden frame Faux crocodile skin stretched on wooden edge

Kylie: Your work has feminist undertones. Would you agree or not? Things are changing in the art world but female artists still have a lot of bullshit to wade through. What does being a strong female and an artist mean to you?
Yan Wen: If being feminist is believing in the equality of men and women, then I am a feminist. However, if being successful is knowing how to play the game, I know how to do that well too. I changed my name from ‘Gillian’ to ‘Yan Wen’ this year because the mandarin name sounded gender neutral. I was brought up in South East Asia where men were, and still are to a large extent, the dominating gender. There is a much higher amount of successful Chinese contemporary male painters than Chinese contemporary female painters. I want to be known for my work. I don’t care to be known for me as a person. It was a strategic decision for myself to change my name to ‘Yan’ in order for me to do this. In speaking in context of the show – desire is not only first and foremost a force, it is also a force that is gender neutral.

Kylie: All of your exhibited work is in black and white mostly. Any reason?
Yan Wen: Colour evokes too many unpredictable emotions in spectators that I cannot control. I have a clear concept, and I want it to be undisturbed by colours that might otherwise change the message I have set out to send.

Kylie: Who or what stimulates + inspires you?
Yan Wen: Canadian artists Robert Fones, Alex Bierk, Nicholas Ostoff, Brad Phillips and Daniel Hutchinson. Marcel Duchamp and Meret Oppenheim are key figures in influencing the concept of my work. Sex, drugs and money are also driving forces.

Posted in: Art