Artist interview: Ziyi Wang, Batsford Prize 2023 Chairman’s Award Winner
In the last instalment of the Batsford Prize 2023 (Theme: At Peace) Artist Interviews series we meet fine art student Ziyi Wang, who won the special prize of Chairman’s Award for her piece Icarus from Underground.
Ziyi is studying an MA in Fine Art Media at the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL. Projecting on folded papers, this video installation documents an attempt to fly paper planes in the underground. Planes are made from protest posters, mimic doves flying in a downward system. It echoes individual political feelings in a Covid-time Chinese transmigrant situation.
HI ZIYI, CAN YOU TELL US WHAT YOUR PIECE IS ABOUT? CAN YOU TELL US WHAT INITIALLY INFLUENCED IT AND WHAT IT MEANS TO YOU?
My work Icarus From Underground is a video installation of me flying paper planes in the London underground. When I first arrived in London, I saw a dove flying into the underground. The contradictory direction of an up-flying bird being trapped in the downward space somehow echoes my political feelings, as a Chinese distant from the suffering homeland. I folded some widespread posters of Chinese political events into paper planes, again and again, flew them in the underground, mimicking the movement of birds, witnessing the soar and fall.
WHAT MEDIUMS OR MATERIALS DID YOU DECIDE TO USE, AND WHY?
This work is made of A4 paper prints posters, which are everywhere and easy-made, inhabiting a potential to be an open-source political action. The fragility of paper planes as handmade products and childhood toys is a futile optimistic political statement. When displaying this work, I projected the video on an A4 paper with creases, suspending it low to the ground, to keep the flimsy scale and the downward direction.
WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO STUDY FINE ART?
Before studying art, I was majored in philosophy. Contemporary art provides an opportunity to transfer my research interest into more approachable action, and to share and discuss ideas with wider community.
WHAT ARE YOUR BIGGEST ARTISTIC INSPIRATIONS? ARE THERE OTHER ARTISTS WHO YOU ADMIRE OR WHO INSPIRE YOU?
I would say my experience as a trans-migrant student is the biggest inspirations of my works. I pay sensitive attention to the details of life, trying to trace the wider situation and background of them, then problematic daily experience into research and art creation. The works of Chinese artist Yulu Ge can always touch me, humourous and romantic, roots in the social reality and offers alternative action to the pre-existing system.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE? WOULD YOU SAY THAT IT HAS CHANGED OVER TIME?
My works are often media installations. I like to apply simple everyday items and reassemble them to create upside-down structures. After arriving in London, I started to focus more on identity issues and diaspora feelings. Humour and ridiculous are now my tune to discuss the suspicious logic glitch in the power structure.
WHAT DOES WINNING THE BATSFORD PRIZE MEAN TO YOU?
I feel such gratitude of winning the Batsford Prize! It is literally the first step of me as an artist, and a lovely beginning of my career in London. Working with a group of supportive and energetic people from the Batsford Price taught me a lot. Thanks so much for giving me courage and confidence, and to keep believing in the potential of art to go beyond language and communicate.
AFTER YOU HAVE COMPLETED YOUR STUDIES, WHAT DO YOU SEE YOURSELF DOING NEXT?
I would like to continue to develop my art practice in London. Though I can see it is challenging to survive here independently both as a young artist and as a trans-migrant, I also consider these as important experiences, and lively fieldwork of my research interest in artistic labour and identity issue.
Check out more of Ziyi’s work on her instagram.
ABOUT THE BATSFORD PRIZE
The Batsford Prize is an annual award open for undergraduate and postgraduate students in the fields of applied art and textiles, fine art and illustration. View the winners and runners up of this year’s award here. The theme for the Batsford Prize 2024 will be revealed shortly…
So there we have all of our incredible winners from this year’s Batsford Prize. We are looking forward to continue supporting emerging artists with the Batsford Prize 2024 edition.
Interviews for the other winning categories are available to read here:
Artist Interview: Alivia Hoy, Batsford Prize 2023 Fine Art Winner
Artist Interview: Megan Du, Batsford Prize 2023 – Illustration Winner
Artist Interview: Pia Elliot, Batsford Prize 2023 – Applied Arts and Textiles Winner
Artist Interview: Forest Xiao, Batsford Prize 2023 – Children’s Illustration Winner