Features & Interviews
In an Evolving Art World of Alternative Mediums, Artist Jia Hui tells us why she Sticks to Painting
Hailing from the City of Kunming in China, emerging artist Jia Hui broke away from the constructs of the Chinese education system and moved to Chicago to study art. At the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, she found her footing with her artistic practice, experimented with an array of mediums, yet found herself focusing on painting. She prides this decision on how she seeks to truly understand and respect a medium before pursuing it, and how an artist should always do their mediums justice.
Here, Jia talks about how her practice resembles puzzle solving, how her education has shaped her, and what she’s working on next:
I figured out that I wanted to be an artist when I was 10 years old. At that moment, I was taking painting and drawing classes with Xu Jiande who was very famous for Contemporary Thang-Ga in my hometown of Kunming. I would say it’s that experience that brought me the belief that being an artist would be the meaning of my life. When I was much younger, the path of being an artist wasn’t very clear or assuring. There were about ten years that I was just like any other Chinese student trying to study more than sixteen hours a day, with everyone around you looking to celebrate your offers from The University of Hong Kong or Peking University at the age of eighteen. I was very sad but in a way, fortunate, to be diagnosed with depression. Because of this, my parents gave me permission to go to art school. After I recovered, I moved to Chicago and studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) for four years. From there I began to have more specific ideas about how to be an artist not only as a career but also as a lifestyle.
I treat different mediums with different seriousness. I prefer to consider the ontology of different mediums before its interdisciplinary possibility. Currently, the idea of multi-media and alternative art mediums is very popular, but rarely are there pieces that truly perform such an ideal successfully. Expanding on how people understand about a medium is meaningful, but I think it is more essential to respect the medium first. I am going to make peace by the medium, which aligns with what I want to express, but not because being interdisciplinarity is popular and people call it ‘contemporary’.
I am still young and only have restricted experiences both as an artist as well as a human. When I confront with different mediums, I want to really understand them before I start to play with them. Therefore, I decided to focus on painting for now. Whilst I also make sculpture, photography, and interactive installation, I also have the hope that there will be better chances to show them in the future.
Concerning the two way of creating paintings, these methods are what I have been productively practicing. It’s just like putting a puzzle together, you can choose a random piece at the beginning and match others around it later, or you can start from the four pieces as the corner of the image and match it towards to the center. Of course, I am still trying to find new ways to play with it.
This is a hard question because it takes time for me to really understand what I really want and what I have done for that. I guess the consistent themes that relate to my painting might be existence, living and surviving as a being. Sometimes, standing in front of the white canvas, I consider myself as the God who is making the world and the universe. My life and experiences give references for my painting. I believe my paintings, and the overall practice of painting, also inspires my life. It’s abstract but very realistic at the same time.
I had a really good time in the SAIC. I met many creative artists there. They definitely gave me lots of inspiration and courage. People there take art seriously which I felt grateful for till the end. The critical feedback I received in school helped me a lot and I will never forget it. Also, I do miss the times that I could walk through the Art Institute of Chicago every day. It’s really different when you have the privilege of standing right in front of the works by the artists you want to research and study. I miss Matisse’s painting deeply. And because students are able to choose whatever studio they want in SAIC, I also took lots of fiber material, art and technology, and photography studios.
These experiences have led me to focus on painting. I realized that each medium has an inside code, or I should say exclusive features which require intense practice to grasp. It’s frivolous to mix different aspects together when you don’t really understand it.
This is hard to say because I'm attached to a different work at different times. I am always changing, as is the world.
Yes, of course, I am pushing myself to do not only things I have never been done but also what nobody else has done before. As of late, I have been playing with clay to see if 3D forms can be paired with 2D forms. Because the perception of 3D forms is much more certain than the perception of 2D forms, I wonder what will happen if I find an interesting way to relate the two. I shouldn’t pin down a specific direction for myself regarding this art practice.
According to my experience, art practice should be experimental enough so that I can find something new in the uncertainty. Concerning my practice, I am trying to do it as much as possible, and be as critical as possible.
I am currently preparing for my first solo show. I anticipate it will happen this year or at the beginning of 2020.
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