Bridgeman Studio speak to artist (and doctor) Yi Xiao Chen on her art practice and influences
1. On your website it says you are an illustrator, a ceramist and a medical doctor, how do you manage to juggle the three and do they influence one another in any way?
I work as a full time hospital doctor for the time being while doing illustration in my spare time. I plan to to cut back on the hours and maybe go to art school after I become a qualified general practitioner in a few years. Medicine and art are vastly different endeavours but its often interesting to have that contrast in perspectives and modes of thinking in your daily life. However, it can also be very challenging from a time management point of view. I do ceramics mostly for fun and relaxation, but maybe i’ll incorporate it more in my work in the future.
2. What is your earliest memory of an artwork and who was it by?
My grandma used to keep clippings of cartoon characters and decorate my stationary with them when I was little. Growing up I didn’t have much exposure to art in the traditional sense, but occupied myself with lots of illustrated kids books.
3. Who or what are your main influences?
I’ve come across countless artists who inspire me. Some that come to mind include artists like Jacob Lawrence, Rene Magritte, Aaron Douglas, Romaine Brooks, Henri Matisse, Eduardo Arroyo, Kazoo Tatematsu, etc.
4. From what I've seen your work predominantly depicts very bold Asians or men and woman of colour. What inspired this subject matter? Do you sketch your subjects from life or how do you find them?
Apart from my most recent work, I never really have any specific individuals in mind when working on a piece. There is a heavy design element in all of my work in terms of form and colour. I am mostly concerned with exploring shapes and the architectural forms of light and dark on the human body. I choose subject matter based on what I find the most visually beautiful and interesting but not necessarily informed by any social or personal context.
5. Each image is beautifully composed, when there are elements in the background these seem integral to the work as a whole - what's your process in terms of composition?
I try to visualise the composition before I start working on a piece. The relationship between elements in my work is in my opinion as important as each individual element themselves. All my favourite artworks have a strong sense of space and balance which i try to emulate. I start of having an idea of the kind of space that I want to create and I tend to work on each individual elements after that.
6. If you could pick 5 artists, dead or alive, to have dinner with who would they be and why?
I would have dinner with Georgia O’Keefe just to admire her energy, Jean Michel Basquiat to teach me how to paint, Edvard Munch to talk about our respective neuroses, Ai Wei Wei to discuss politics and Jacob Lawrence because I would learn so much.