Where's the frame
December 22, 2022 3:22 PM
In many layers of virtuous brushstrokes that border abstraction, YaYa Yajie Liang paintings are incredibly magnetic. In a vibrant colour palette, she plays with different textures and techniques, ranging from meticulously detailed small brushstrokes mixed with translucent forms to a tonal gradation that together makes a truly mesmerizing presence. wtf? Has the pleasure of speaking to the artist about her practice, what inspires her and how she continues to explore the idea of transformation.
Yaya often gets inspired by other cultural and artistic expressions, such as literature and cinema. In ‘The Stalker’, a striking larger-than-life in intense colours. Winglike shapes in a translucent white against a dark turquoise background. Quick brushstrokes that give the impression of flying motions and, together with a tongue-like shape and forms that resemble a spine, you start to decipher a figure/ insect hybrid. This is exemplary for the series Animality Matter and her interest, as she explains, ‘in the metamorphosis of the body itself and the potential of ‘becoming animal’.
“I’m interested in the metamorphosis of the body itself, and the potential of ‘becoming animal’.”
In ‘The Stalker’, the story of the horror movie ‘The Fly’ is depicted. “I got my initial inspiration from this movie and tried to capture the disgusting sensation from my reaction to the hybrid form of Human-Fly. I do believe this part of humans’ distaste for cockroaches, rats, and flies is an awareness of their silent vitality, which is also reflected in humans’ own.”
An often wry but interesting dynamic, Yaya explores the relationship between humans and insects in her recent work. This is partly inspired by her interest in surrealist writers like Franz Kafka, a major literary figure from around the turn of the previous century. Especially his The Metamorphosis, one of the most enigmatic short stories in the history of literary fiction, in which Gregor, the protagonist, wakes to find himself transformed into an insect.
In specific, in this book, she wonders why Kafka chose to plot Gregor to become a bug rather than a dog and what that means to the overall story. ‘And also the huge size of this bug. Every tiny part plays an important role in this metamorphosis.’ In a larger sense, she is drawn to how ‘In the horror of insects, I see the desperation of all things for survival, the thread of existence that runs through every creature and thing. It is this amoral force that drives reality rather than the structures of feeling, grace, and society that I have followed so far. ’
‘I am obsessed with the interpenetration between the outside space and the human’s internal body.’
Other horror movies by directors David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick, like The Shinning and Mulholland Drive are also a big influence. In each of those influences, there are elements of transformation, haunting dark surreality and the power of chance. ‘I am obsessed with the interpenetration between the outside space and the human’s internal body.’
Asked where this interest in metamorphosis and transformations comes from, she explains: ‘It’s an identity to life itself. We are all part of the same event as non-human animals, soil, and rocks in the world. This awareness, the inevitability of a constant intimacy with all life, is both painful and fascinating to me.’
“We are all part of the same event as non-human animals, soil, and rocks in the world. This awareness, the inevitability of a constant intimacy with all life, is both painful and fascinating to me.”
She expands on how it’s interesting how and why we treat different kinds of animals in different ways, ‘In this world, we are kind to cute puppies and sad seal pups but not to crawling and stinging insects. I don’t agree with this common thought. Indeed, human beings are entirely dependent on an interconnected network of human and non-human actors and things, but at the same time live as if they were not so.’
Tying it back into her practice, she puts forward: ‘I want to bring more life into it, to challenge the way that people see themselves and their relationship to other creatures. We are not just separate selves locked in a skin. We come out of the world, not into it.’
The way she sees it, we humans, animals and material objects are all interconnected. She does not see the self ‘as a separate, independent monad. Actually, everything is connecting each other; all beings/things are relations and exist only in their connection with other beings, processes and forms .’
“Actually, everything is connecting each other; all beings/things are relations and exist only in their connection with other beings, processes and forms .”
The idea of transformation is also part of her way of working in a technical sense. ‘During the encounter with material, I feel that I could touch the reality that is hidden by the representational world. It is a transformation, which transfers my energy, my emotion, memory, and the future to another reference universe.’