Lily Fei’s work explores the ambiguous borders between control and freedom, privacy and security, dominance and disruption; the conflicts in between. She received her bachelor’s degree of Fine Arts at Parsons, the college that gave her a wonderful journey and taught her the fundamentals of being a visual artist. In this conversation with Lily, she talks about her experience in creating NFT pieces, her inspiration and the place that she feels most creative. We also discuss about how Lily finds it easy to create but finds it difficult to understand the work once it’s done.
Can you tell us more about your time during your studies at Parsons?
I studied Fine Arts at Parsons for my bachelor’s degree. Parsons offered me a very liberal environment to study, and I had a wonderful time being a part of the community. Although the school is known for its education in Fashion Design, the Fine Arts department has a very solid structure that taught me the fundamentals of being a visual artist. Afterall, all forms of art are bound together.
How do you know when a project or a piece of work is finished and doesn't need any additional touches?
They always say there are no rules in making art, but the rules are made by the creator when it comes to individual practice. To me personally, I see messages that could be embodied in my works. When a piece speaks to me on its own, then I know the piece is finished. I think it is very important to know when to stop working. Sometimes too many additional touches could overwhelm the audience, thus blurring the original intention behind the work.
When a piece speaks, it could be anything: a message, a narration, or just a glimpse of the moment of happening.
You have participated in the Crypto realm. Can you tell us about your experience in creating NFT pieces?
I see myself scraping through my digital files on my different tablets when creating. It's more of an exploration than a process. We are constantly generating on our devices, making a massive body in the digital world. To me, I'm uploading something that I discovered in my digital body to the chain, whether it's a reply to a scam email or a random chat history. It could be anything. It could be a photo from craigslist or coordination of a place named "nowhere."
It's an odd feeling to feel so connected to your file, but at the same time, there is a big gap between you two, like in another dimension.
What inspires you?
I'm inspired by the conflicts between my mind and reality—the distinction between freedom and control. Escape the obstacles on the way to express ourselves freely. Although my primary practice is painting, I see different ways of communicating in different mediums.
If you could live during a different artistic movement, which one would it be and why?
I would live in the Dada movement. What’s mesmerizing in dadaism is that it expands the possibility of art making, and redefines the meaning of a piece of art. Once I read from The Blind Man, an old art journal published by New York Dadaists.The writer Beatrice Wood commented on ‘Fountain’, saying its functionality of an ordinary object disappears by creating a new perspective to view it. This was a key that expanded the definition of artists from makers to chooser and shifted the emphasis of art from techniques to concepts. This always drives me to try out different mediums in my art works and try to break the boundaries. I also made a sculpture piece and named it after the Fountain as well.
Continue the sentence: I would never paint…
I would never paint your wall.
Have your personal expectations ever limited your creativity? If so, what did you do to overcome this?
I don't often have that experience, and I think there is more freedom in creating without any expectations. Expectation sets rules and creates a frame around the possibility of what a piece could become. So just try to avoid having any expectations.
Is there a particular place that you feel most creative?
I think that's a place in mind. You must be in a spacious place in your mind. In that way, you can conceive all the turbulence in your mind that could be captured and make some meanings out of it. It takes time to find that place, and sometimes we have to sit down and wait for it to come to us.
Do you find it ‘easy’ to create?
Yes, I do find it easy to create. What's hard for me is to understand your work entirely after it's made.
Sometimes my work confuses me. And that's not always a bad thing to me. Confusion creates extensive thinking that, at times, could discover more possibilities in a piece. You need to understand your work socially and realize what it means to you internally.
I often feel the burst of emotions inside me when I try to create. My work is deeply connected with my personal life. I worked on many different topics in my practice, but to me, they are all interconnected.