SoPARTS Spotlight: Su Yang

Su Yang is a Chinese feminist art scholar and artist. 

Su Yang’s current artwork is combined with her artistic research with feminism methodology to investigate the representation of woman in contemporary Chinese art from 1990s up to the present, specifically focusing on the way women shape their images (both through make up, the representations on social media and, more radically cosmetic surgery) to conform the male desire of female beauty and the visual pleasure. These re-presentations of femininity are shaped by the global consumerism, Chinese styled conceptions of feminism (‘feminine-ism’), as well as the patriarchal ideologies in Western culture and Chinese Confucianism. This in-depth study complements her own paintings, drawing, photographs and videos about but beyond unnecessary harmful nontherapeutic cosmetic surgery amongst Chinese women to question the shifting idea of female beauty and to thwart the representation of woman by male gaze.

INVISIBLE HANDS/ VISIBLE HANDS, VIDEO, 2017

What drives you to wake up in the morning & what keeps you up at night?
 I spend most of my time on my research and making art. Reading, writing, painting or drawing, taking photographs or videos, and thinking. The thing that drives me to wake up and keeps me up are my dreams and hopes, but I'm working hard on making them come true.

Why art? Your work confronts boundaries—how can art break down walls?
My understanding of “the walls” are the borders and boundaries between the geography and chronology. “Walls” can exist between different cultures and also individuals. Art is the knowledge of externalizing and internalizing. People can absorb the knowledge through seeing and hearing art, and people can also express their idea through making art. That’s how art breaks boundaries: through expressing, exchanging, and understanding different ideologies.

What were your motivations to get involved with social justice? What specific issues do you try to address through your art?
I do not think I have the privilege to judge anyone in person. And I refused to be judged by the social and conventional standard of female form and women’s art. In the circumstance of the Chinese styled ‘feminine-ist art’ relating women’s art to present femininity, and the tradition of Confucian philosophy keeping women docile and unable to speak out, my art challenges the hierarchal standard of female form and women’s art through the theme of cosmetic surgery.

For every pain, there is a pill. For both personal and social “pains”, what is your medicine?
I would not consider myself the patient but I might consider my art projects to be the medicine for the audiences. Not for the pain but for waking  awareness of people who are under pressure of unequal traditions and who don't realize the importance of feminism.

What is a normal day for you like in the artistic process? Any rituals in the studio?
Studio to me is the most comfortable space. I feel free and safe there. I do not need any rituals to start work. I just get there and get to work immediately.

What does community mean to you? How does that community affect your creative output?Community means a special place with a group of special people to me. I am a student and alumni of universities, as well as a member of a feminist art community. I get the support and feedback on my art and research from these communities that make me insist on working.

Su Yang's solo exhibition in 2016

Su Yang's solo exhibition in 2016

Source & Know more: Su Yang