ARTIST Yuan Yuan has a fascination for water, pools, showers, dripping walls and vapor. The ambience of his canvases is often humid, claustrophobic and melancholic.
He paints interiors, empty spaces and interiors, but not figures or natural scenes. He looks for evidence of human activity in, for example, a cathedral or an abandoned house.
An exhibition of his latest works is underway at M50; they include works painted in Scotland in a recent artist-in-residence program.
Yuan, born in 1973 in east China's Zhejiang Province, lives and works in Hangzhou, the province's capital which is known for West Lake and many streams.
"I like water very much and Hangzhou has a very wet climate, especially during the raining season. Humid weather and gray skies somehow provide me with a certain level of comfort," Yuan says.
Yuan uses oil paint mixed with water to create his watery effects.
"Using rice paper can also produce these effects," he says. "Before I start to paint, I dilute the oils. Then I cover the canvas with layers of wet paint. It's a very classic painting technique."Some say that Yuan's painting evokes the early works of Zhang Enli, a leading contemporary Chinese painter in oils who is popular in the West. Both pay great attention to detail.
The compositions are large, but Yuan meticulously executes the details on every surface, such as intricate tile patterns on floors, latticework and carved ceilings.
"In my eyes, nature exhibits many paradoxical forms: beautiful but deadly, small yet aggressive, big but gentle. Using a big framework to depict small objects reflects that observation," he explains.
"I also believe in the concept of strength in numbers. When these small items such as ceramic tiles are organized in a very tight formation in a huge number, they convey a sense of power."
Calling himself a very detail-oriented person, he says he sometimes is unable to begin work if an implement is not in its proper place in his studio.
"The expression of time is my favorite subject," he says. "I want to use traces of human activity to hint at the existence of man. My paintings seldom involve natural sceneries. What attracts me the most is the evidences of human activities in an abandoned place. For example, if I find a scrap paper in an uninhabited house, I might examine it very carefully, because it might contain a record of a human activity, perhaps a thought."
To Yuan, abandoned spaces have become public spaces that can be entered freely.
"I want to find traces of the past, not a place at it appears now, but what permeated or permeates it. No one can take this away and it is not visible."
Yuan took part in the three-month artist-in-residence program in Scotland, sponsored by the Glenfiddich, the single-malt whisky maker in Dufftown.
When he arrived in Dufftown, Yuan said, "When I'm in China, I find that my working time passes very quickly, and now I am excited to feel the opposite in Scotland. Dufftown is full of history and I look forward to capturing its unusual and unique interiors in my work.
As in his other works, Yuan addresses subjects of time, distance and history in his Scottish interiors.