Studio Visit : Zhou Yilun, Basel Switzerland

Visit to studio of young Chinese artist Zhou Yilun currently on a short residency in Basel Switzerland


Eli Zagury: Are you really mad or are you just painting like a mad person?

Zhou Yilun: In one way I wish I could paint like a mad person, but I also paint in many different ways.


EZ: Your works look very expressive in technique and composition and diverse in subject. Do you carefully plan your paintings, do you follow a sketch or do you work instinctively and directly onto the canvas?

ZL: Often a sketch or a rough draft becomes an artwork. An artwork is actually part of this draft.


EZ: Found objects, old crates and second hand frames are often part of your art. Can you tell us about your interest in using unconventional materials in your work?

ZL: I use them like colour for paintings. I take the properties of their material to blend with different colours. I started to collect second hand frames for myself; once the frames were really well done, they used to contain certificates photographs, paintings… and some artworks might have actually been created because of the particular frame.


EZ: There are artists struggling with the composition, others with painting fine details and some find it hard to use colours. When you’re executing a work, what is the hardest part for you personally and why?

ZY: Sometimes it’s hard to start painting, and it’s even harder to stop!  Sometimes it’s difficult to finish a work, I always think I need to add something more to make it better to the point where it looks perfect to me. However, most important for me is to know when I reach this perfection as once a mistake is made I cannot go back.

EZ: You are dealing with many important social and political issues, what do you think is the role of the artist in China today? Do you believe that your fellow artists are fulfilling this role?

ZL: Perhaps, the world I imagine is based on theories of conspiracy.  China has been highly exploited, as well as the artists, in order to build a world under Western’s standards. Even the artists have thus to learn English and this says much in terms to contribute to this plot.


EZ: Most of the artists at your level have moved to Beijing and opened large studios operating in and near the art districts. You have chosen to stay at your hometown Hangzhou, is there any artistic or creative reason for this choice?

ZL: Beijing is unbearable: weather, air, water and traffic, and it all make me feel uncomfortable. I believe Hangzhou is best place to be in China, even though its slowly changing and many people are moving into the city.

EZ: Who are your favourite artists in Asia and the in the West?

ZL: I really like Zhang Daqian, he painted many fakes of masterpieces and now there are still many pieces haven’t been uncovered. I also love Da Vinci and Duchamp. I like many, every new phase I seem to like different artists, however, more than artists I do like those people that are doing other kind of activities that result in creating artworks.


EZ: Can you tell us about the body of work you are working on currently for Liste Basel.

ZL: I didn’t bring to Basel any of my artworks since I decided to do a residency there for more or less a month. In this way, all the works I have and will realize in the studio during the residency will be part of the project for Liste.


Zhou Yilun is showing at Liste 17 in Basel 12-17th June 2012 with Platform China:

Platform China Contemporary Art Institute
Beijing | Hong Kong

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