Yang Na’s work is all about redefining the world we live in. The Chinese painter lives in the North-East of Beijing but dreams about a place where humans and animals complete each other. In our interview she talks about what she likes and dislikes about Western culture, Vincent van Gogh and the creation of what she calls Hu’nimals.
What story do you tell with your work?
“I want to show the world what goes on in my mind and describe details from my childhood memories and my dream world. At first sight the landscape you see in my piece called ‘Silent Village’ looks ordinary, but if you take a closer look, you will see something abnormal. I’ve combined humans, animals, mountains and rivers into one landscape. With this piece I want to send the message that it’s not always about humans alone. I emphasize how clean and beautiful the world can be if humans take more care of other living things like nature and animals.”
What place in real life reminds you of your dream world?
“ As a little girl I’ve lived in Chonqing, in Sichuan province, China and I attended Sichuan Art College. Chonqing is located on a huge mountain with lots of variety in flora and fauna, and it has two main rivers. In my memory that place was a beautiful. When I was about 10 years old, I could easily find different kinds of small animals and insects and I played with them on my way home. For me, that was a memorable experience, although it didn’t last very long.”
What do you like about contrasts?
“The contrast like Day & Night, East & West, Ying & Yang – they all have something positive and negative. We should take more interest in this to understand the different sides things we’re surrounded with.”
Do you change at night?
“ Yes, I do change, I often feel uneasy and more negative after sunset. Time goes too fast and another day passé before you know it. Again and again. I can’t stand the silence and loneliness in the dark. I want to be under the people more and do something special to get rid of the loneliness. But enough about my personal life, in reality I always show you the bright side of my life, Hahaha!”
Who’s your favorite painter?
“ My favorite painter would be Vincent van Gogh, not only because he’s legendary, but also because he’s the first painter that I can remember from my childhood memory. As a Chinese person it’s not easy to find out about foreign artists during the 80’s.”
What kind of music do you listen to when you paint?
“Actually, I have a small hearing disability, so I don’t really listen to music. Sometimes I listen to talk shows, this eases my mind.”
What’s a Hu’nimal?
“ You’ve probably guessed it already, it’ s a combination of a human and an animal. The meaning of Hu’ nimal doesn’t represent one kind of animal, but the message behind it is that we humans need to stop destroying our precious nature. Humans and Animals oppose, but also complete each other. If animals would disappear, we humans won’t live long either. You cannot separate the two, we are both species living in the same world!”
One of Yang Na’s Hu’nimals, exhibited at the Wereldmuseum in Rotterdam.
How does Eastern & Western culture meet each other in your work?
“ First of all, I am a traditional Chinese but I’m also living in an era with economic globalization and our society is becoming information-based. These sudden different culture influences can create complicated conflicts. The modern lifestyle in China is starting to look a lot like the western lifestyle, we can get the same industrial products, we see the same advertisements, movies and even listen to the same music that is popular in the West. I even interact with western people in my line of work. My brain can receive every message and creates a new image by itself. When that happens, that’s the point where east meets west in my opinion. That’s the nature of humans to think and improve oneself in their work. “
What do you like and dislike about our Western Culture?
“ For me, Western Culture is perfect. I love its regulatory, politeness, independent mindset, their patience and passion. Western people are good in details. Their culture looks very trustworthy. If I must give an answer about something I dislike about the Western culture, as an traditional Chinese, then it might be that the culture itself can’t be changed anymore, because it is so detailed and so well organized it feels like the Western people don’t take that time to give the mind some peace. Even though I also see it as a cute side of the Western culture.”
What keeps your mind occupied?
“If you look at the past 20 years, everything changed at a fast pace here in China. From lifestyle, economics, it all changed into an environment from people’s ideals, mind and core values. The fastest growing social networks in China have almost become a substitute for regular TV or News.”
What do you and Dali have in common?
“I really like his work, especially his sculptures and jewelry design. He shows his ideal world and sense of freedom very well. I think we both express our ideals through oil paintings and making sculptures, our similarity is our vision and free imagination. But we are totally different, I mean the time we live in, our background, sexual distinction and culture are different. I believe that we have different experiences, a different mind and a different story to tell. Of course, his ‘Super- realism’ works are more like an adult male with a colder vision with no actual characters. I think my audience sees my work more like a stage of many characters that they call ‘Virtualize Realism’.”
Find out more about her work here.