<p>Yuming’s collages—now on view at New York’s ArtGate Gallery—reflect the congested state of modern living. We spoke with her about the importance of keeping her roots planted.</p>
Mi Yuming’s chaotic works are packed with strong feminine gestures, symbols, and imagery from modern culture. Her collages create the dizzying feeling experienced when faced with the daily assault of our fast-paced modern day information age, which Yuming naturally explains through high-impact visual stimulation.
In light of her solo show “Between Reality and Virtuality,” currently on view at New York’s ArtGate Gallery through June 9th, we spoke with Yuming to gain some insight into her image-based world.
The Creators Project: Hi, Mi Yuming! Firstly, are you a guy or a girl? While preparing for this interview, I couldn’t figure it out. Then I found this picture of you showing you as a man. What is going on?
Mi Yuming: Haha, I am a girl! But maybe because I’m too pretty, sometimes I purposely label myself as a guy to prevent stalkers. If you don’t believe me, see for yourself! My assistant said I look like the Chinese Marilyn Monroe.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I come from a small town in China. Since I was a child I’ve shown a great interest in painting. But due to historical reasons, my mother’s side of the family prohibited their kids [from pursuing] art-related careers—a common story experienced by many Chinese families. My grandmother had a very handsome and musically-talented family. During the cultural revolution, both my grandparents were labeled as activists of Capitalism. My grandmother, who was the principle of an art academy at the time, brought the family down to the countryside in search for a better life. Later on, a highly-respected professor at the Lunxun Academy of Fine Arts in Shengyang took notice of my passion for painting and took me as an apprentice. After that, my life totally changed. Unfortunately, I couldn’t learn painting in college, so I majored in design. That is perhaps the reason why my photo work resembles paintings.
Army for Fire No.11, 210 × 100cm, C-print (2008)
Your previous series called Mercerneris expresses the merciless attacks of information and temptation coming from the modern world. What are the works presented at ArtGate Gallery exploring?
The Cold series presented at ArtGate is actually the series that started my artistic career in 2007. Mercerneris is my second series. I couldn’t show Cold in 2008 because it was too important to me and it wasn’t quite complete yet. It took so long to create Cold it seemed like it had already become the home I live in, the clothes I wear, and all the thoughts that sustained me. The blossoming images came from the information found in the city and I used them [to] rebuild my own castle. Even though I may have been lost or experienced happiness in the business, underneath my skin I only felt the chills of commercialism. Hence the title “Cold.” After five years of preparation, I finally decided to shed the outerwear that once made me feel ice-cold. Even though there’s a hint of chillness in early spring, I have bared the cold and hunger of winter. I am ready and have nothing to fear now!
What moves you to create the work that you do?
Those who understand the deep knowledge in Chinese traditional culture will have studied or read the ancient text of Taoist philosophy. I was also fascinated by the vast universe and these intangible teachings. I hope that people who live in this visually bustling city can find harmony and peace in this long life. As a bystander looking at the city, I see that it’s built by millions of hard workers, but appears to be inharmonious, noisy, and dirty—against nature and the wishes of the gods. So I hope to present a harmonious picture through my point of view. Work is my vessel. Creation and practice is my pen. I want to create a beautiful universe where each person can find their own planet and track. So that a beautiful life will not feel trapped in the hustle and bustle of the world.
Army for Fire No.10, 84 × 140cm, C-print (2008)
The female figure is always at the center of your images. How do women relate to your work?
The main character should of course be a woman! Just like in Hollywood movies… it’s because women exist in this world that human beings can continue. Because of women, there are millions of love stories. Because of women, the world is colorful and exciting. If there were only men, the world would be full of murder and wars. The world would have already been destroyed.
The worshiping and interpretation of the female figure has a long history in the development of ancient art. But now, since the female figure has been used for entertainment and commercial purposes, the respect and admiration of female beauty has disappeared. Is the development of modern society just about business and money-making programs? Without a sense of belonging and consciousness? People in the modern era just want to dance or fall asleep in the bustling, shoddily-constructed world.
What are your main creative methods?
After passionately being involved in painting for many years, I realized that new methods of painting need to be developed and explored to fit the times. When I encountered the video medium, I thought it was perfect but still not enough. So I kept on experimenting to find a style of my own. Ultimately, my creations fall between two- and three-dimensional images.
Cold Series No.3, 224 × 140 cm, C-print (2007)
What do you think are the effects of combining art and technology?
I think art can be combined with any media needed. I think everyone is an artist, but just expresses themselves differently through different channels and mediums. If you express your wishes honestly with the right channel and medium, then it can become art. Real art must touch the soul, allowing the viewer or the participant to feel the beauty of humanity. The combination of art and technology of course creates Supermodernism! This is the direction that art and society must develop into, because we need it!
You have mentioned in your artist statement that your inspiration came from Fuzhou’s Rongcheng (Bunyan City). What do you think is the Bunyan City in visual art? What are the leaves and branches?
To say that my inspiration came from Rongcheng is not the case, it relates more accurately to the branches and trees. Thank you for noticing that passage. I wrote that in 2010 when was I teaching. I gave the topic, “One Bunyan, One Bunyan Town” as an assignment to my students. I wanted to teach my contemporary art students to not forget about their roots while being in this colorful, visual art world or else they may end up floating around in this ever-changing information age. A bunyan tree becomes a town by sucking up the nutrients in the ground while taking root with its branches. If every contemporary art student can utilize the resources offered by this age, they can ultimately become a bunyan town. And each will look different from the other. The world and the art world should also share this notion.
Are you currently working on any new projects?
I have two important sets of work coming up next. One is a language series about a lotus pond. Now that half of my life is spent beside a lotus pond, I feel renewed every time I walk around there. This lotus pond is located in a famous Buddist temple called Nanpuluo. I have a friend who is knowledgeable in traditional Chinese culture who teaches me about these things. So I developed a series of pictures related to this notion and lotus ponds. The works are very difficult to produce. They will be presented through installation, videos, and images, so the exhibition space will be crucial.
The other set is also related to the lotus, called, Moonlight Lotus Pond. It originated out of a famous Chinese story. It’s very picturesque, and will be presented with 3D software. The Italian magazine IESPRESSO wanted some of the works from the series so I’ve already showed them four.
All photos courtesy of Mi Yuming