PHOTOGRAPHY AND INTERVIEW BY TONY WARD: Copyright 2019
TW: Let’s start with your acceptance to PAFA. How did you feel when you heard the news of acceptance to MFA program?
LR: It was only a month between my submission to PAFA and my acceptance into PAFA. I was excited because it would be my first time going to a fine arts academy to pursue a fine arts degree. My four-year liberal arts experience was more on the theoretical side. PAFA seems to be a better place for me to do something more practical. I went to the open house last fall and immediately fell in love with the facilities inside and decided to apply there: a rooftop terrace that holds the best part of the city, spacious private studio space, skylit painting studios and etc. The location is also a plus. Located in center Philly makes everything more accessible. More opportunities to go to gallery openings and to meet more people in the art circle. Hope I could walk outside my comfort zone and experiment with more mediums during my next two years there. Looking forward to the new semester.
TW: You spent part of the summer visiting friends and family in Shanghai. What is it like in China these days with the tariff wars seemingly going on with out an end in sight. Are the American tariff’s having an impact on daily life in Shanghai and more generally through out China?
LR: I am not really into politics, so I don’t have much to say for this question. But my friends talk about it, only talk about it because there isn’t much that they could do. I remember the day my friend circle all came out and cried when 1 USD converts to 7 CNY. The currency rate is going insane. It is now up to 7.16 CNY. The rate might be a real problem to those studying abroad because it means that they need to pay more for their high tuition. Other than that, I think people just live their normal life and are not really affected by the tariff. Well, I still need to say that I am not a political person. So my words really don’t count towards this one.
TW: So you’ve clearly drawn a distinction between your art and politics. Tell me what draws you to make Art. What is its purpose if it’s not political?
LR: I don’t think art should always be political. My painting professor Ying Li at Haverford College was the one who inspired and encouraged me to do art. She always says to me: “just paint what you see and the more you paint the more clearly you will see the object”. Landscape, cityscape, and still life are my current main interests in painting. I am interested in exploring how forms, structures, and colors impact the way I see and make a painting. One of my favorite artists is Joan Mitchell whose work focuses on abstract forms and colors.
TW: You coined the phrase Imitation Kills. What does the term mean to you and do you apply the concept in life in some way?
LR: I used that phrase for my social platforms. Nowadays people just imitate each other, from clothing style to art style. Influencers post outfits on Instagram and followers go after them. Originality is lost or is diminishing. People are doing similar stuff. I don’t think that’s a good thing, especially in the field of art because we are different individuals and we need to use our own way to prove that we are unique, even if one’s art style has not been widely accepted.
TW: Your current series of paintings featured at the senior exhibit at Haverford College this past Spring revealed a focus on abstraction with an effusive application of paint and vigorous brush work. How do you anticipate your work evolving in the next two years at PAFA?
LR: I look forward to trying something different at PAFA so I couldn’t answer how I would anticipate my work to be. Let this be an open question and we shall see.
TW: You have a love for fashion that is often reflected in your affection for oversized clothing as part of your day to day style. In this series of pictures another side of your persona is revealed in your choice of bathing suit for a series of pictures taken at the Oceana Casino & Resort in Atlantic City. Tell us about the black two piece you brought back from Shanghai on your recent trip. What is your impression of the Jersey Shore?
LR: I bought the bathing suits from a Chinese lingerie brand named NEIWAI. The brand features intimates for petite sizes. Their design is simple but also sexy in a subdued way. I think that impression is similar to my day to day style. They don’t have too many options in bathing suits, so I just bought the piece that I think might fit me the best in size. I chose black because that has always been my top color. The leather jacket is from All Saints. I feel more comfortable covering more of my body. Speaking of the Jersey Shore, I mean, who doesn’t like the beach? It’s a perfect getaway from busy city life. I like the architecture of the Oceana. The design is quite modern and the curves on the exterior are totally on point. Shoutout to Tony who picked this place to shoot. The surrounding fits the outfit perfectly.
TW: The Chinese government has blocked access to Google, Facebook, Youtube, and other mass global communication platforms on the internet. What do you think the reason for that is?
LR: I think the voices on these social platforms are different, especially when the problem goes to politics. However, I am not saying that one voice is better than the other. It’s just that politics has always been a complicated thing. Our minds could be easily influenced by words spreading on these platforms. The government is just trying their best to eliminate the unnecessary issues that might arise.
TW: Are artists based in China heavily censored by the government as to what they can express in a work of Art?
LR: I am not familiar with the art circle in China because I spend most of my time here in the States. But I think we can do whatever we want unless we create and show art that has strong politically sensitive subjects. Other than that, I believe that artists based in China have enough freedom.
TW: With the exception of Al Weiwei are there other leading artists from China having an impact on the global stage that inspire you to make Art?
LR: I am thinking about adding more Chinese elements in my paintings. My two favorite Chinese artists are Cai Guo-Qiang and Xu Bing. They are both creative in their way of making art and are also the ones who incorporate Chinese materials and culture in their work.
TW: What are your goals in the next 5 years?
Haven’t planned that far. I hope to have a solo opening after graduating from PAFA. So I guess I will keep painting. I am thinking about going back to Shanghai to spend more time with my family after graduation. It just has been a while since I first came here.
Editor’s Note: Linda Ruan is a recent graduate of Bryn Mawr College with a concentration on painting and art history. She recently enrolled in the Master of Fine Arts program at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia.