Artist Interview: Wen Yu, Traveler and Arts Organizer

Wen Yu grew up in Suzhou, China, where she earned her B.A. in Visual Communication. After finding inspiration in a graphic design internship, Wen moved to San Francisco to further pursue her love of art. This is where she first developed her interest in cityscapes and urbanization, which you can find present in her mixed media works. Now she’s an arts administrator who helps create international art organizations. Learn more about these organizations, her inspiration, and her travels, below:

You co-founded an organization called Mo+CA Projects. What can you tell me about the organization?

Mo+CA pronounces the same as friction in Chinese, it stands for a clashing between persons having different ideas or interests. Mo+CA Projects aim to interpret and engage with the young generation of artists through various projects such as artist interviews, independent curated exhibitions, and art event/exhibition review. It is the foundation work for a potential art community, which is based on the belief that the local art community can function significantly in supporting artists and reaching a broader audience.

You work in art administration. What has been your favorite project to be involved with so far and why?

It is the first on-site exhibition I co-curated with Mo+CA projects. The exhibition gathers together both established artists and emerging artists from San Francisco and Taiwan – an occasion for true communication of the creative minds from the two regions. Their works are the fusion of calmness and incandescence. As the artist Robert Barry claimed in 1969, “Thinking not so much about the objects themselves as what possibilities are inherent in them and what ideas are in them.” The collection of artworks in Landing is experimental, varied in materials/forms to transcend them beyond a specific time and place.

A lot of your work is an abstract interpretation of cityscapes and revolves around urbanization. What interests you about this subject?

My hometown Suzhou is known for its traditional Chinese gardens and it is also the hometown of the well-known architect I.M.Pei. This influence has given me a love for architecture and geometric shapes. I enjoy exploring the transition between 2D surfaces and 3D spaces. My inspiration also draws from Bach’s fugues, structural elements of post-modern architectures, and personal experience in the US. As a non-immigrant visa holder who has been trying to navigate through a new culture, language, and place, my intention is to present the “manifold” through exploring physical and theatrical dimensions.

"I#11" by Wen Yu
“I#11” by Wen Yu

You’re well traveled, having yourself lived in many major cities including Suzhou, San Francisco, and Boston. Do you have favorite, and if so, why?

I think all the three cities nurtured me in different ways. I was born in Suzhou and witnessed the city transformed from a quiet city to a business hub. The lifestyle has changed a lot and you see the bad and good side of the changes.

I spent my early twenties in San Francisco and the memory is burning like fire in my heart.

Currently, I am living in Boston and I really like the intellectual and creative vibe. It inspires me in many ways in terms of the new directions (AI, new language, biotech) I could push in my art practice.

"S#2" by Wen Yu
“S#2” by Wen Yu

Have you noticed any differences in the art scene between America and China?

I think in the US there is a lot more space and freedom for the young generation of artists to express their ideas, both financially and philosophically. Also, the level of acceptance for contemporary art of the general public seems different.

If you could have one story from your life turned into a work of art for yourself, which would it be?

Currently, I am working on a new body of work that traces back my family history and who I am. I remember the first time that I realized death and the succession of changes of human’s life. My grandfather died when I was 5 or 6, I was brought to a religious ceremony that had many monks chanting scriptures around. The event was for releasing the soul for the dead. The monks were all wearing yellow and the light was dim. I could not understand one single word and I felt extremely uneasy. It was the moment I noticed the other dimension of life. Meanwhile, the religious experience rubs off on me that creates identity different from others.

What did you think of our interview with Wen Yu? Check out her mixed media creations on StoriesToArt! Also, read more artist interviews.