One to Watch

Yi Shin Chiang’s portraits embrace conflicting emotions through distortion

Yi Shin Chiang’s portraits reveal the beauty of conflict, dissecting the critical moment when two emotions exist, cohesively or not. Born in Taiwan and now living in San Francisco, Yi Shin takes close friends and family members as her subjects, allowing for a more intimate exploration of their emotions. Though she is guided by her personal knowledge of her subjects, she values spontaneity in her paintings, especially when it comes to color and composition. The fragmentation and color palette, sometimes more restricted than others, parallel her subjects’ unpredictable battle of emotions.

Yi Shin received an MFA in Painting and a BFA in Illustration from the Academy of Art University. She has since received numerous awards and nominations, including Honorable Mention in the Coos Art Museum Expressions West competition in 2015 and Best in Show at the Dab Art Host: 2014 International Juried Show at HUD Gallery. She was also a Top 20 Finalist in the Artist Portfolio Magazine 2014/2015 Portraits Art Exhibition. Her works have been exhibited in the US, Canada, and Taiwan.

What are the major themes you pursue in your work?

I’ve witnessed most of my friends or others’ tipping points, and when they underwent a change after each setback and frustration. I ponder over each of their emotional conflicts and picture them individually because everyone is unique and their life experiences are indeed different. I do enjoy the process of uncertainty. “Half Empty, Half Full,” is my current portrait painting series, which represents two simultaneous conflicting emotions. This concept was inspired by the challenging moments that I’ve noticed my friends struggle with. Everyone has experienced turning points and dealt with dilemmas at some point in their lives. The vibrant colors I choose for two emotions can sometimes be too competitive with each other; therefore, I have to merge colors with abstraction and distortion in order to balance them in harmony and add an element of mystery. My concept embraces when two opposite emotions exist at the same time, either symbiotically or destructively. Therefore, the outcome of each painting remains mysterious and unpredictable.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?

While I was exploring my thesis at Academy of Art University, I received both criticism and compliments, the former more than the latter. I once doubted my ability and thought I wasn’t capable of creating any outstanding paintings because nobody appreciated my talent and stood by me, until one of my instructors encouraged me and supported me by telling me that there is no such thing as a right answer for art. Needless to say, all those different kinds of art styles in any given form in this era have already been created throughout thousand years of revolution. Therefore, it is important to have your own faith believing in yourself rather than living for others whose strong words may impact the outcome of your artwork. Every artwork is indeed a piece of your soul that records each and every artists’ unique life journey

Prefer to work with music or in silence?

I personally prefer to work with music and turn on a favorite TV show in the background, and just let them play at the same time. The chaos of the sounds makes me feel alive, and somehow makes me more concentrated on my brainstorming. I find this inner peace in this contrasting atmosphere, working really well with my overall concept. Life is filled with contrasts involving two opposite emotions. The environment can be loud and exciting, but I find inner peace within it.

If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?

I admire numerous masters everywhere around the world. However, the first piece of art that buries deep in my mind is the Mona Lisa. If my memory serves me, I climbed up onto my father’s shoulder to see the work in person and it amazed me when I was just a little kid who knew nothing about art. The first impression was so powerful that it left me confused and fascinated about this painting and fine art. If a painting paints a thousand worlds, I believe that Leonardo da Vinci reached his goal successfully.

Who are your favorite writers?

I used to collect all New Age romance novels from Zita Law, a writer from Hong Kong. I admired her creation of a fantasy world which narrates all kinds of creatures and characters in details that surprised me every single time I read her books. As I said previously, if painting paints a thousand worlds, Zita Law has transformed thousands of words into a wonderful artwork engraved in my mind. Her novels have given me a great imagination and taught me that although new chapters can always be created differently, the writing skill remains the same. In other words, techniques and applications may be different for each new piece, but our unique characteristics will always stand out and people would recognize them right away.