“Yao Zhiyan · Outside of Art” 2023 NYRCA Annual Solo Exhibition

2016 In the Yard

In 1992, I settled in Shenzhen from Wuhan. At that time, Shenzhen was a destination many young people aspired to. Before coming to Shenzhen, concepts like Coca-Cola and canned beverages were quite novel to me. I carried dreams to Shenzhen, where I took up various jobs, including my first one at a Taiwanese company as a designer, followed by creating commercial artwork in a Hong Kong art dealership, and later joining an art training department. Like many who arrived in Shenzhen early on, stability in one job was a challenge.

Studio 2017

Having been in Shenzhen for several years, around 2004, I began experiencing depression. At night, I would sometimes document my feelings in the bathroom. During this period, I would wander through streets and alleys. The bustling city streets during the day transformed into quiet emptiness as I roamed alone. I thought my melancholy was merely a mood problem, but it took years to realize it was depression.

In the Bathroom 2004 In the Bathroom 2005

At the time, I made a pact with myself that I would end it after completing a series of oil paintings. Each night, my mind was fixated on finishing a four-piece artwork. I aimed to reveal the side of me hidden from others through my art. This piece was one of the works from the series. I would stand on the fifth-floor balcony almost every night, pondering the moment of leaping off. However, I never took that leap.

One of the Four-Piece Artworks, Oil on Canvas 2004

For about two years around 2004, I spent most nights wandering through streets and alleys. Over time, I noticed a pair of glowing eyes in the darkness. They belonged to cats, and each night, they seemed to accompany me during my nocturnal wanderings. I tried to capture their images with my camera. During this period, I completed a series of photographic works titled “Night Wanderer.”

After that period, I gradually realized that I couldn’t continue like this. I needed to break free from this cycle. While I painted with music playing, I felt that wasn’t enough. So, in 2007, I bought an alto saxophone. I enjoyed its sound and would play it casually while taking breaks from painting.

In the Studio 2004 In the Studio 2005 In the Studio 2006

Over the years, I’ve experienced much, both anticipated and unexpected. They have all accompanied me. I often say, “Painting gave me a lifeline.” I’ve found solace in painting; it has been my loyal companion. In 2021, during my solo exhibition in Beijing’s 798 Art Zone, it seemed that I was speaking, expressing through my art all these years.

Beijing Solo Exhibition Poster, Curator Feng Boyi 2021

“I Am My Own Stranger” Solo Exhibition Venue 2021

Even today, many aspects of the past and present linger, and life must continue. I don’t want to return to the past, but it has left deep marks. In my current works, it’s hard to separate the experiences I’ve had from those I’m currently undergoing. After the 2021 Beijing solo exhibition, I’m now preparing for the 2023 Shenzhen solo exhibition.

Yao Zhiyan

Born in Wuhan, I settled in Shenzhen in 1992. Early on, I explored various artistic mediums and collaborated with art galleries, foreign artists, and different institutions. I have donated paintings to institutions in Hong Kong, Macau, mainland China, and the United States, and my works have been exhibited multiple times in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Germany. From 2006 to the present, I’ve been interviewed and featured by art institutions and media in the United States, Canada, Indonesia, Taiwan, mainland China, and more. In 2010, I was selected as a member of the Shenzhen People’s Hall of Fame. In 2011, I was chosen for the Australian Chinese Artist Program. My works are collected by institutions, individuals, and art galleries in Australia, Germany, the United States, France, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, mainland China, and more.

NYRCA Annual Projects “Outside of Art · Storytelling”
Grace Young 
Humans always try to surpass the prison of time, stretching or compressing it to make life burst into brilliant sparks in the gaps of time. As we pass through the overt era of the pandemic, we marvel at the changes it has brought to our lives, and anxiously return to the covert era of the pandemic. We realize that the pandemic has never disappeared from human society, and people are changing the way they perceive and treat the world because of its overt or covert states. In the overt era of the pandemic, humans are more fragile and sensitive, especially artists.
If life itself is a gift of mysterious power, and time is only a phenomenon, and the past, present, or future is not a linear extension structure, then time is not an equal existence for different individuals. In the creation and interaction of art, our time fully demonstrates its elastic power.
When life becomes a work of art, and living becomes the essence of art, every aspect of life becomes irreplaceable and unique in your work. For example, the money-making activities necessary for survival, the various emotional experiences encountered in life, and the various events we encounter by chance or intentionally. Therefore, every story experienced by oneself is precious because of “truth + sincerity,” which is the reason why we launched this project.
We will present each artist’s unique story in stages, and each stage will be a separate exhibition.
Even though “the viewer is obsolete”.