"I am a one-child-only generation of China-born in the 80s. Growing up, I hadn’t any siblings, I couldn’t have pets, and making friends was limited by rules, inhibited communication and confidence. As a child, I often caught all kinds of small bugs, put them in jars. I spoke to them, played with them, and they were the only listeners in my childhood. Now I still often talk to these creatures, but instead of putting them in the jar, I put them into my creations."
Hi Suyao! I would love to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell me more about yourself?
My name is Suyao Tian. I am living and working in the Twin Cities as an artist, designer and independent curator. Painting is my own language to connect to the world, and my way to find and connect the similarities in our soul that we all share.
I am a one-child-only generation of China-born in the 80s. Growing up, I hadn’t any siblings, I couldn’t have pets, and making friends was limited by rules, inhibited communication and confidence. As a child, I often caught all kinds of small bugs, put them in jars. I spoke to them, played with them, and they were the only listeners in my childhood. Now I still often talk to these creatures, but instead of putting them in the jar, I put them into my creations. They become a symbol and language of my own.
I mainly use watercolor medium, but I also use different pen marks to define the details of each painting to give the audience layers and depth of the painting. For example, I use color pencil, ink marks and a variety of pen marks in each painting. It creates a very interesting micro and macro world.
My creative process is to extract the fragments of memory and separate, reorganize and integrate them. This process is my communication with them, and a process of self- release and expression. These peculiar images often appear in my memory, dreams and subconscious imaginations, so I use abstraction to catch a moment, feeling, and unclear form when they appear in my mind. I use bright colors to celebrate my freedom! The title is the moment in time when I start creating, these moments are transferred my mind through beauty or ugliness I put into my work, that becomes my identity to speak out to the world.
I first came across your art through Art to Change the World. I was immediately drawn to your surreal images. I also see a sense of play in your work too.
My work inspired by my childhood memory, imagination, and my subconscious thinking. I had the habit I had when I was a little girl where I would go out into the street or in nature and find little things that interested.
What draws you to paint with watercolor?
Watercolor is so dreamy and unpredictable. This feeds a feeling like an unclear memory, like a subconscious that is not defined.
What is your art process like? Do you have a studio space you work out of?
I start off most pieces by doing a kind of sketch in my mind. I like to gather my thoughts and ideas and play with that any time of day, even at 3am! I will sometimes sketch on paper, but most of the time, the ideas are most often developed in my mind. As I paint, I will pause and reposition everything that appeared on paper. I used to share a huge studio with a great couple of painters in Vandalia Tower, but we moved out last year and now I’m working out of my home with my little angel!
I recently learned about your social impact business Modern Cover. When did this business start for you? How did you get it going... and where can folks buy a pair of mittens to help support your cause?
Long story short I will just direct you to the website here and Modern Cover Instagram here. Also in one my recent posts you will find the answers to these questions here. People can also purchase through the website.
I know that you are also a curator. Does your art practice inform your curatorial approach? What was the last show you put together?
Curations is a collaborative process that I love because it’s a creation that reaches a complexity that any single artist can never reach on their own. [Curated] DIALOGUE: 23 participating artists from different countries…we are all standing at the intersection of art, immigration, citizenship, and Identity, facing severe issues. As loaded as these issues are, can these topics unpacked? [Curated] TRANSFORMER: 10 participating artists from different states.
It can be a daunting task to put together an art show. What do you recommend to other artists who are interested in curating shows? How do you get started?
Curating a show is a ton of work! For artists interested in curation, I say always be curious of everything and always ask why and how. Curation arises organically in the ideas you have where you find that not only do you need the help of others, but in problems where the resulting collaboration produces results far greater than you could do on your own through working with other talented artists. Come up with ideas and keep your eyes open for people with shared interests and passions!
What do you love most about being an artist?
Creativity, freedom to be yourself, and honesty!
What kind of resources have you used to help your career?
People, books, my ears and my eyes! Existing stunning artworks of a wide variety, not only painting!
Are you working on anything new?
Yes, I’m always making new works!
Thank you for answering my questions, Suyao! Do you have any last things you would like to share?
Thank you for this great opportunity!
All artwork images by Suyao Tian and courtesy of the artist. Interview written and edited by Jes Reyes.
Artists I Admire is a series of interviews with artists I think highly of.
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