YangYang Pan studied at the Sichuan Fine Art Institute before moving to Toronto where she currently lives and works. Her joyful, botanical inspired abstract work draws inspiration from natural optical cues, infused with spirit and spontaneity sourced from her own emotions. Working with expressive, spontaneous brush strokes, YangYang’s energetic palette of colors reveals the contrasts she finds in nature. Her work will be part of a group exhibition at Archive Contemporary gallery in Montreal from February 8 to March 2.
To begin, could you tell us about your background in the arts? Where did your love of painting first begin, and how did it evolve over time?
Painting has always been part of my life. I completed my art education in China – when I was young student of fine art, I had a great time playing with digital art like many other students did. As I gradually realized our world is going through enormous changes so quickly especially in the technological development, eventually I found myself more interested in exploring the possibility of traditional painting; the activity of handmade image-making, which is the practice that accords well with the idea of a spontaneous burst of self-expression.
I tried my hand at watercolours and acrylics, and now work with oils. In the beginning I enjoyed the improvisational approach to every beautiful moment that accidentally occurred on my canvases. Each painting was a new risk rooted in sensation. As I am working on larger scales paintings in the recent years, I became more serious about the idea, the composition and what was expected to translate onto canvas.
Your artist statement mentions the importance of your cultural identity navigated between East and West. Can you talk more about how this translates in your artwork?
I try to bridge East and West through my inspirations within the real of art. As I grew up and received art education in China, most of my aesthetic consideration is rooted within eastern culture. When I was able to travel to North America for the first time in 2004, I felt the cultural differences that related to perception of art, creative expression among other areas. Seeing what is already there through new eyes resulted in an impetus for creating paintings rooted in deeply experiential and energetic realms from the larger cultural worldview, which also might exemplify Eastern attitudes towards impermanence, renewals and identity. It’s a good thing to think about all this culture diversity. However, when I actually work on the paintings, ideas about who I am or where I am from generally do not come to mind. When the painting is in process, my identity and experience naturally emerges into the work.
Your work anchors itself in landscape, drawing inspiration from the tones, forms and energetic qualities of the natural world. Yet it also seems to reflect a more personal, emotional landscape. Do you see your paintings primarily as a representation of the inner world, the outer world, or a combination of both?
While I constantly inspired by the natural world, I am not particularly interested in attempting to portray true likenesses of nature. What I tried hard to do, instead, was to create paintings that captured a moment of change and instability, luminosity, the emotion, and the freedom that inspired in me, by employing the abstract language. I explore the range of possibility offered by my paints, merged with my own experiences of seeking inner peace while living in a complex social context.
What drew you to flowers and gardens as central symbols within your artwork? What do these botanical elements represent to you?
Flowers and gardens are metaphors for growth and transformation. The mood of my series of gardens paintings are generally lyrical, bursting with colours. These garden paintings were intended to convey the positive ideas of fortune, peace and wellbeing, and sentiments of joy.
What are some daily practices and rituals surrounding your studio work?
As an artist who is also mother to two girls, I find time in my studio after they go to school. I love to have a cup of tea and listen to music before painting. It’s a preparation that put me in the right place mentally. Once I start to paint, I tune out the music. I keep the volume low, and so that I it won’t distract my thoughts. I work daily, and of course need to be in an inspired mood. I periodically take the time to review my previous work and think about what’s next. My work sometimes quite big, sometimes small.
My paintings are reflections of my personal journey. They are the records of how I respond to my surroundings. They are lyrical and emotional. For me, the possibilities of painting are endless.
Who or what has inspired you most when it comes to your identity as an artist?
There are many ancient Chinese artists that always interested me. I am especially fond of Ma Yuan from the Northern Song dynasty and Bada Shanren from the Ming dynasty. Later, when I first time saw De
Kooning’s paintings in the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C, I just felt so amazed. His mastery of figurative art within a well-controlled, large-scale context was incredible. I also enjoy looking at Joan Mitchell and Cy Townbly’s work as well.
What lies on the horizon for you in 2020 and beyond?
I’ve been keeping painting for the past decade. I am happy to be able to
continue painting in 2020. I am currently working on new series of paintings that towards my solo show at Madelyn Jordon Fine Art gallery in this spring 2020.
Yangyang’s work has been exhibited throughout Canada and US, as well as Italy and China. She has been invited to make numerous commissioned work. Noteworthy projects include Apple, Amour Vert, Holt Renfrew, Anthropologie. Yangyang’s work can be found in numerous private, public and corporate collections world wide.
YangYang Pan will be exhibited at Archive Contemporary, as part of the Coups de Coeur exhibition. The exhibition runs from February 8 through March 2. The opening reception is on February 8 from 2-6 PM at 2471 rue du Centre, Montreal