Meanings of 焱（ yàn ）in the Chinese language:
China, a nation with a history of 5,000 years, is slowly waking up. I was born in Shanghai, a city that embraces all variety of cultures and has formed its unique diversity. In the center of Shanghai, there remains a region called “the French Concession”. That is a part of the “colonial, commercial, modern and urbanized” cultural form with a mixture from the East and the West, formed by the openings of foreign concessions since the mid-1840s.
I graduated from Tongji University in 2012, when China has entered a new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics and made remarkable achievements, for example the completion of “building a moderately prosperous society in all respects” and the eradication of absolute poverty. However, as a fresh graduate I was still influenced by the stereotype of the elder generation of artists that “painters cannot support themselves, especially female painters”, although I have been painting since I was 3 years old. I was lost and felt clueless. Finally, I followed the suggestions from my family and the stereotypes of the mainstream society, and gave up art. I threw myself into the commercialized world seeking for a well-paid job, a so-called “golden bowl”. Shanghai is a business center with a market economy environment. In such a busy city, everything looks like “business opportunities” and everything smells like money – which artists might call “a stink of money”. I felt like somebody put a cloth on my soul and closed my “third eye” and I could not see through. All I did was exchange my labor for money. Day by day, the world got darker for me. I often asked myself, what magic did money and wealth have and why was everybody tempted and willing to give up their souls for money? It was also in this year that China put forward the "Chinese Dream" of "realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation". What did the “Chinese dream” mean and what was our “national spirit”? As a new graduate growing up in a diversified cultural background and having received high education, I often felt confused.
There is a saying in China: "there is no making without breaking". Only when we are in chaos can we see through the illusions in our minds. It is like the tiger in the painting. The tiger stares, internally at your obsessions and externally at the illusions. When you break the illusions, you will find the candlelight on the tiger’s head. The candlelight will lead you. No matter how the external environment changes, no matter how turbulent the universe seems, as long as your eyes are looking at the tiger's eyes and the candlelight in between, you will find inner peace. You will be the master of your heart and return to the true self.
Therefore, the past ten years of struggling has become a blessing. When I picked up the brush and asked myself again what was our "national spirit", I knew I didn’t need to look outside for an answer. Every cell, every piece of memory and every hair of mine is the product of the Chinese spirit. I asked myself again, what is money? Art needs money, as money supports artists to create art. There is two energies, Yin and Yang, to everything. Ten years ago, when I thought of the profession of an artist, I thought “art creation” was Yin, which is the internal energy and “money making” was Yang, the external energy. Ten years later, when finishing YAN, I realized it is the opposite. "Art creation" is the display to the outside world, and wealth is the internal energy that drives the external display. When Yin and Yang find their right positions, they will break the illusional obstacles to work properly.
People usually believe that time moves forward in a linear direction. Personally, I am more inclined to believe the concept of time in the films Interstellar and TENET directed by director Christopher Nolan, which says that every single second is more like a fixed block of the space. So, is human civilization going to the future or to the past? There is no way to know, so we cannot judge whether the current dimension we are in is “new” or “old”. In my opinion, contemporary art can be the pioneer of human cultural progress, because its unrestricted and unbounded form allows us as artists to explore and venture into many unknown possibilities and paradoxes in the perception of reality. In this case, when I return to the true self and paint the picture of my inner soul, the painting is the voice from my heart. The I at the current moment created YAN. What does it stand for? The world has its own definition. But I have put everything I want to say in the painting.