Artist Yang Liu challenges the boundaries of art with her bold works and tongue-in-cheek perspectives on modernity and cultural difference. Presented in minimalistic spreads with striking colours, her crystal clear messages are a testament to the oppidan life and a comfort to all caught at the cultural crossroads of our cosmopolitan world. Yang Liu speaks to Asian Geographic’s Sarah Chew about her life and work.
Your most famous works are the comparisons you make between the East and the West, men and women, yesterday and today… why do you think these works have captured the public’s attention?
My book is like a personal diary of my experiences in both the East and the West. The world is becoming increasingly multicultural. More people live in cultures other than their own and confront these questions on an everyday basis. Many readers tell me they felt understood reading my book because they share similar experiences.
How difficult was assimilating into the European way of life as a teenager? Which parts of your experience most influenced your art at a later age?
I grew up in the old town of Beijing, surrounded by the strong influence of Chinese painting, calligraphy, poetry and traditional opera. I have now spent 27 years in the West, mainly in Germany, so both cultures naturally influence me and my works a lot. I think my works include a mix of different influences.
What projects are you currently working on?
I’m working on exhibition designs, corporate design and book design projects. One project I have worked on in the past two years is graphic design for the Barenboim Said Academy. The idea fascinates me; it’s a music academy in Berlin that unites students from conflict regions in Palestine and Israel through music.
How have your works or approaches to your work evolved since you began as an artist?
These days, my work is more conceptual, focusing on content and content development. Design is becoming more and more a platform and tool for me to convey my messages.
What do you hope viewers can take away from your works?
I’m always very happy if readers find my works helpful and serve as a starting point for further communication.
Yang Liu was born in Beijing and has lived in Germany since 1990. An alumnus of the University of the West of England, she graduated with a Masters from the Berlin University of Arts. In 2004, she established her company, Yang Liu Design, in Berlin. She is the Head of the Department of Communications Design at the Berlin Technical Art University. For more information, visit www.yangliudesign.com and taschen.com