Yirui Jia (b. 1997) was born in China and currently lives in New York.
Jia is a current MFA Fine Arts candidate at the School of Visual Arts. Exuberant, cartoonish, and childlike characters inhabit Yirui Jia’s canvases and sculptures.
Jia’s subjects often interact and associate with each other, ranging from popular culture and cartoon characters to anthropomorphic and animalized daily objects.
Yirui Jia started her art practice by making cartoonish sculptures that are anthropomorphic hairy characters with complex identities.
By changing the visual forms and re-identifying the functionality of instantly identified objects, Jia treats the materials intuitively depend on their imaginary character representations.
As Jia believes, the paintings are like visualized narratives accompanying the sculptures.
Appearing in spontaneous and animated, expressive aesthetics, Yirui Jia’s paintings conjure childlike worlds that are occupied by fragmentary tales and rival narratives.
The work is central to the character and its relationship to the others.
The character is often transformed and reinvented from stereotype popular culture and cartoon characters based on Jia’s interest and memories.
They have complex identities by reinventing identified symbols and by adding multi-slim limbs that connect and interact with the dramatic environment.
There are moments of fight and triumph, devotion and failure, momentum and repel, between the characters and the animalized object rivals.
Having the character as an avatar, Jia tries to capture a humorous yet otherworldly internal conflict.
How did you find out you are an artist?
I did not attend an art school when I was an undergraduate, I went to a small liberal art college double majored in Studio Arts and Management in Pennsylvania.
Because of the study abroad program, I had a chance to go to an art school in France for half a year.
From there, I painted the Sainte-Victoire mountain and visited museums and galleries in Europe.
The study abroad experience strengthened my original passion and made me even more fascinated by art.
Then I thought I should go to an art school to continue making art.
So after graduation, I came to New York and majored in Fine Arts at the School of Visual Arts.
Immersing myself with paints, materials, cultivating disruption into the work, and continuing without goals, I gradually became more confident over time as an artist.
Till the first time I attended a group show with my gallery in Shanghai, people unexpectedly loved my paintings and several pieces were sold.
At that point, I realized that I am capable of sticking with who I am and sustaining my artistic practices as an artist.
Was your family supportive?
Yes, my family is always very supportive and they are all very proud of me because I am the first one who became an artist in my family (LOL).
What is your relationship to Instagram?
Instagram provides an amazing platform for exchanging visual info via images. Instagram is like an electronic portfolio for me, I always post my works on Instagram once I finished.
I look up Instagram pretty much every day to see what other artists are up to, to check out exhibitions, and to discover works that I like.
How important is digitalization for you in connection with your art practice?
I am a painter and I make sculptures too, so most of the time I work directly with materials and paint.
Digitalization generally is a good thing as it provides accuracy and opens possibilities, but I do not use it as a medium in my art practices.
How has the pandemic left a mark on your work?
Before the pandemic, I mainly focused on making sculptures.
My school shut down because of COVID so I took a year off and went back to China.
Because of the limitation of studio space, I suddenly had the idea of going back to do flat works — go back to painting, as another parallel narrative along with my sculpture characters.
And it turns out I truly enjoy and am satisfied with what I’ve been doing now, painting and making sculptures at the same time.
When, where do you work best?
I usually start to work at noon and work until the evening in my school’s studio, depending on when I feel satisfied with today’s work.
When I am on the subway or in a restaurant, I will sketch in my sketchbook.
When I put on my headphones in my studio I play techno and electric music, I feel impassioned and have a strong need to work.
Where, how do you usually get inspired?
I am often inspired by daily life and personal experiences, from shared daily events, popular culture, fables, cartoon characters on billboards and films, to the hybrid creature from a codex, Mexican ceramic ornaments, and masks.
What does success mean to you?
I guess more expectations and the urge to keeping it going.
What are you working on currently?
I just finished a couple of paintings ‘David Copperfield with White Power Stripe’ for a group exhibition in Hive Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing opening at the end of November.
BFA 2015-2019, Studio Arts, Management Gettysburg College, PA , MFA 2019-now. Fine Arts school of Visual Arts, NY
2019.5- 2019.7 BFA Thesis Show, Gettysburg College PA, US
2021.1.1-2021.2.8 ‘Redirecting’, Tree Art Museum Beijing, China
2021.5 ‘Arsonist’s Fallacy’, No Space online exhibition Beijing, China
2021.4.16-2021.5.14 ‘Simulacrum — FurryTale’, Show Window Exhibition, WerkStadt e.v. Berlin, Germany
2021.6.15-2021.7.31 ‘Group’ exhibition, We Space Gallery Shanghai, China
Solo Exhibition 2021.8.8-2021.10.8 ‘Poop Fiction’, Gateway Shanghai, China
Hive Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, China, November 20th, 2021 - January 20th, 2022, group show ‘A couple of’
Here Arts Center, New York, US, May 12th, 2022 - June 5th, 2022, three persons show ‘Confessions of A Weightless Mind, Soft Endurance, and The Call of Life’
We Space, Shanghai, China, September 2022 - October 2022 (detailed date undecided), Solo Show (title undecided)
A big thank you to the very gifted young artist Yirui Jia, for sharing with us her work and her story.