Artist Interview: Yin Wang
Yin Wang is a figurative and portrait artist born in Nanjing China and currently based in London. Within her practice she works primarily with Watercolour, oil and Gouache and explores her identity and connection to her homeland with emphasising the importance of family and love. She has recently taken part in Sky Arts Portrait Artist Of The Year S10 Ep 6, where her artwork was taken home by Mishal Hussein herself! Alongside competing, she is studying BA Fine Art at the Art Academy London and has had her art exhibited at the Royal Society Of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition 2023.
We had the pleasure of asking a few questions, delving into the behind the scenes of the Sky Arts show and her world of portraits!
Photo credit: ©Anna Shilonosova
'The feedback from judges, presenters, staff, and the audience was incredibly uplifting. And the flood of positive feedback from people I know and even those I don’t, post-show, was amazing. Confidence is crucial and hard to come by for artists who tend to doubt themselves.'
'My process usually starts with a theme rooted in my experiences as a member of the Chinese diaspora. The rich cultural elements and my motherland provide a constant source of inspiration.'
Q: Congratulations on Mishal Hussein choosing your artwork in Portrait Artist Of The Year! Was it a surprise and how did you feel?
Thank you very much! I was over the moon, to be honest. It was a bit unexpected because, in my view, the other two artists nailed Mishal's likeness better than I did. I figured she must have spotted something in my painting, just like she mentioned: my artwork was like a mirage, and she saw herself in it. That, for me, was the highlight of the whole show.
Yin's final painting of Mishal Hussein
Q: Would you be able to describe the process of creating your piece on the day?
Absolutely. I brought in a narrow canvas because I wanted to echo my submitted self-portrait, which was also painted on a narrow canvas. It was a bit of a gamble but also a chance to stand out. I hoped for a front view but got a three-quarter view, making it trickier to fit the canvas ratio. So, I was a bit concerned about the composition. I did a bunch of compositional studies and head sketches before diving into the canvas. Once I had the composition in mind, painting and rough sketching the face and body were pretty quick. I used very thin paint with a lot of solvent, treating oil like watercolour, letting the paint drip naturally. I used big brushes on the body for my signature strokes—light and fluid. But with the face, I was super cautious, aiming to capture her likeness. I focused on the face during lunch when there were no distractions, leaving the easier parts for the afternoon. Towards the end, I decided not to do more on the face,My final painting of Mishal Hussein even though the likeness wasn't 100%, as I was afraid one more stroke could ruin it. And a big shout-out to all the artists on the show; finishing a painting in four hours, with all those distractions during filming, was already a big achievement.
Q: What is the main thing you've learnt from doing the show and would you recommend other artists to consider entering?
I have learned a lot from it, but the most important thing I have learned, or rather say gained, is confidence. Painting in front of cameras and people gave me a confidence boost I didn't have before. The feedback from judges, presenters, staff, and the audience was incredibly up-lifting. And the flood of positive feedback from people I know and even those I don’t, post-show, was amazing. Confidence is crucial and hard to come by for artists who tend to doubt themselves. So, the whole experience was fantastic, and I would absolutely recommend other artists to enter! Not just this show but anything that helps us build confidence.
BTS of Portrait Artist Of The Year
Q: What art materials can you simply not live without?
Watercolour tools, for sure. I only started using oil three years ago when I began my art school. Before that, I was more familiar with gouache and watercolour. Watercolour appeals to me because of its fluidity, transparency, and unforgiving nature. Plus, it's super easy to use and carry around.
Yin's Watercolour Tools
Q: Due to having studied a masters in Artistic Design(fashion) in China, what made you want to carry on your education in art in the UK?
It's simple. I lost passion for my job as a commercial designer, and on top of that, I couldn't find a proper job in fashion when I first came to the UK. So, during the pandemic, I decided to reignite my dream of being an artist by first becoming an art student. I consider myself lucky to receive fine art education in the UK—it's the perfect place to learn art.
Q: With your art being a celebration of cultural diversity and a reflection of your experiences as a member of the Chinese diaspora, do you start your creation process with a theme in mind which you are wanting to convey?
Absolutely. My process usually starts with a theme rooted in my experiences as a member of the Chinese diaspora. The rich cultural elements and my motherland provide a constant source of inspiration. For instance, my works in my grad show last June were inspired by the social reality in China, specifically "involution." It's a term widely used since 2021 in China, describing the irrational and sometimes involuntary internal competition for limited resources or meeting high expectations, leading to burnout. In response to "involution," several new terms have emerged and gained traction on Chinese social media to describe different social reactions, including terms like "lying flat”, "letting it rot" and "45-degree life". Therefore, each painting in my show explored the social realities related to one of these terms.
Contemporary Portraiture degree show in June 2023, Photo credit: ©Anna Shilonosova
Q: Could you tell us some facts people may not know about you?
Sure thing. I would like to raise a fact about me which people might already have noticed and get a bit confused about. The fact is I am a figurative artist and portrait artist at the same time. I actually started with a contemporary portraiture degree at Art Academy London and then switched to BA fine art after finishing the portraiture degree. As a figurative artist, I explore broader themes of life, culture, and identity through various subjects. Portraiture, within this, becomes a focused expression, capturing the essence of individuals. People are the eternal subject in my work, even though I can't paint the same way for a portrait as I do for my own projects, given the client's expectations, doing a portrait is still an important part of my practice. Now, my figurative work has an abstract tendency and might be more disconnected from the style of my portrait work, but I will continue to do both because I just can't drop the portrait side. I'd also like to mention that I sometimes delve into sculpture and printmaking; they remain my second favourite mediums and an indispensable part of my art practice.
Rock garden series-4 - Ceramic, 34 x 20 x 12.5cm, 2023
Q: Thank you so much for your time and knowledge! We would love to know what you are currently working on/ do you have a plan in mind for after you complete your BA at the Art Academy London?
Definitely! I'm currently exploring the theme of parting and separation, closely tied to my experience being far away from my family and motherland. I'm experimenting with various materials to bring out all the possibilities for a powerful emotional impact on the audience but in a soft and quiet way. As for post-degree plans, it's a bit rough. Mainly, I'm looking for a studio space to continue my art practice. I'll also explore various avenues to get commissions, show, and sell my work. Additionally, I want to continue my workshops, encouraging people with no art background to draw or paint their loved ones. I've done one in the London Chinese community center with great feedback, so I'm confident about making it a long-term activity.
Photo credit: ©Anna Shilonosova