Yi Zhou Interview
A rose by any other name would smell so sweet. Like a true Renaissance woman, Yi Zhou is an adept artist with multiple skills.
Adding to the long list; filmmaker, animation innovator, writer, composer, poet and muse, Zhou has just lent her eye and skill to a new line of jewellery for Gripoix, a revered fashion archivist’s top source for poured glass jewellery since 1869.
Noted vintage jewellery collector Marie Keslassy, creative director of Gripoix, appointed Zhou as art director for a capsule collection. In the same way that Zhou likes to make films that are meant to stir senses from a critical perspective and also reach the far corners of mass appeal, jewellery is another medium that grabs the observer from all walks of life in an immediate way.
Rachael Barrett: What does the present and near future hold for Yi Zhou?
Yi Zhou: I am so excited about my team in China, they are all creative people, and I have also made a short film featuring them http://vimeo.com/39334520. I love the idea of being in a more structured environment: my life as a Chinese artist in Paris, which marked my debut as an artist, was bohemian; now, my new life in China, I see it as a new departure, a more corporate approach in order to better create. As an artist, I noticed that only being in a very strict disciplined work pattern, I can best perform. I see my future packed and exciting with new things happening, and I also very much believe in chance and chaos, I love the surprise element, that unknown factor that the universe can bring us.
RB: You are very prolific in social media, notably this has been recognized in China where you are the art director for Toudou.com and art director at Sina.com. You run four different tumblr accounts with poetry, different languages etc. Can you talk about the role social media plays in your work/life? Are you still as engaged with digital technology as a medium? 35mm film? Are you still dissecting life via the lens and telling stories?
YZ: I do still look at life through lenses, and since I relocated back to China, it's been great to be able to develop my social media as not only a communication sharing tool with the Chinese community and audience, but it's also now an essential part of my art work, as I believe my social media, and all the work I develop with printed media, are part of my work. I admire artists like Cindy Sherman who can metamorphosize into printed mag pages. I feel my approach is the same, yet it has the online virtual network factor included, meaning that my social media platforms allow me to unfold stories from my mind and from my dailyness. http://weibo.com/yizhoustudio
RB: How has the relocation been?
YZ: Moving back to China I didn’t expect to find such a welcome place; lots of requests to express ideas, a lot of room to create, which I didn’t have as much in paris... I cant complain about Paris; being chinese and given a solo exhibition when I was 22 [at Galerie Jerome de Noirmont] was great. Not many people have that chance. Looking at my new life in China, there is a sharp contrast with the turmoil in the west. Living in China where everyone's so relaxed, I don’t feel that urge to go and be seen anymore, it all feels like a circus that’s so far away. Here there’s a luxury of choosing rather than being victim of the machine.
RB: It's been two years since we worked together on what was your first solo show in London with outdoor screenings in Hoxton Square, and one since your immersive solo show in Venice during the 2011 Biennale. That exhibition marked a departure from the heavily digital body of work and film that you had been working on, and showcased a number of sculptures based on forms from some of the films. Can you elaborate a bit on how your practice has evolved in the past few years?
YZ: I feel the art world has changed in the past 2 years. I feel the relationship between art and corporations has deepened its tides. I have always refrained from working with brands, but it seems a new departure - a new hybrid art meets fashion meets corporate world. I don't know what the future will bring us, but as all new assessments, new phenomenon will rise and other ones will fall. I have also evolved with my language and my research since London, especially since relocating to China, and developing sculpting atelier skills. Translating 3D technology produced characters in my animations into real tangible sculptures has been a great challenge as an artist. Also, most of the 3D characters have been carved after many months of research via 3D programs that are especially used for video games. Some of these programs are also originally conceived to help ease the work of sculptors, therefore, I find it legitimate to translate what I've first made as 3D virtual elements into reality under the forms of sculptures. I still do 3D animations, and I started a new one earlier this year, but as you know, each animation takes about 9 months to a year to be completed. http://vimeo.com/user10808798.