Born in 1990 in Lanzhou, Yuan Zihan is part of a generation that has witness the rapid social and political transitions that have taken place in China. At the age of seven, he moved to Shenzhen, a city of immigrants situated at the border of China and Hong Kong. He became influenced by the culture between North and South China. His passion for art began at an early age, with a propensity for scrawling on pieces of paper. He graduated with high honors from Sheridan College in Canada. His awards include the Sheridan College Faculty Choice Award of the Best in Grad Show and the Sheridan College for The Best in Advanced Drawing Award.
Zihan creates paintings, drawings, prints and mixed media artworks. The concepts found within his works reflect both Chinese traditional culture and Western art. He uses art as a language to record his daily life and present his observations. His work documents the genuine predicament of his generation as they adapt to the rapid transitions taking place in China. He draws inspiration from friends and family as they go about their daily activities, drawing out the complex social and political conditions inherent in their actions and environments. His works is represented in temporary exhibitions and collected by many art organizations and private collections at home and abroad. He currently lives and works in Toronto.
I have always been fascinated by art, and was enthusiastic about drawing from the time I was a child. Art making became my way of storytelling. It became another language that allowed for more objectives and more nuanced narrative descriptions. In the moments where I am left speechlessness, there may be found no such limitations within my drawings. Born in the 1990s, I also hope to document the enormous social changes in my environment and my feelings about these changes. We are like small boats floating in a large river and we easily forget that we are in a river rather than just in a boat. I believe everyone will find his or her direction in life through steering the boat, perhaps through the passage down the river. Eventually, however, we all find our way.
The people in my environment are generally the subjects I paint, most often they are my friends and family. I prefer not to describe an overarching narrative using visual imagery in my work because of the fear of losing the balance between that which is objective and that which is subjective, and also the possibility of losing the richness of the story itself. However, the people and things that are the subjects of my work are close to me. The relationships we had, the years we spent together, and the affection I had for them provided me with the insight to produce a persuasive and considered description of them through my art. This kind of ‘intimacy’ can also create a reflection of the time and the society I am living within.
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