Yiyun Chen

Yiyun Chen

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About The Artist

Born and raised in Guangdong, China, Yiyun Chen is a photographer, artist, and educator currently based in Cleveland, Ohio. In 2015 he received his Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art from Cleveland State University and was invited into the Post Bac program at Cleveland Institute of Art where he continued studies in photography and video. In 2018 Yiyun earned his MFA in photography and related media from Rochester Institute of Technology where he was also recipient of the Theodore Chapman and William A. Reedy Endowment Scholarship in support of graduate studies.

Yiyun is known for portraits and artist books, as well as his poetic images of immigrants. Since 2012 Yiyun has actively participated national and international exhibitions, bookfair, awards, and scholarships for his creative work – Wausau MOCA, MOCA Cleveland, The Galleries at CSU, Colorado Photographic Arts Center in Denver, Gallery 263 in Cambridge, Findlay Art League, LH Horton Jr Gallery in Stockton, William Harris Gallery and Gallery R in Rochester, PH21gallery in Hungary, and Loosen Art Gallery in Italy.

Artist Statement

My process for making work comes out of my daily practice of both walking in and photographing unfamiliar places, such as in the streets of small towns and cities, parks, and the interiors of buildings. There is a repetition of motifs throughout the work, visualizing the contradiction between the old memories and my current reality. This practice reminds me of my early experiences living in the United States. Whenever I had days off from work, I would walk around the Chinatown area, looking at the street lamps, mailboxes, and old confusing posters that were stuck to walls of the city. Sometimes I would sit in a parking lot or watch TV shows in the laundry. The practice of photographing and thinking are referenced in the concept of boredom as a function of attention, described in Susan Sontag’s book As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964–1980. Sontag points out that “most of the interesting art of our time is boring.” Finding something interesting and enjoying the playfulness in its boredom is my process of shooting. I was drawn to this concept of boredom and attention in photography, using it to create a romantic and poetic communication of my inner meditations. I become most aware of subtle feelings when I am in a state of extreme boredom. My photographic works are a collection of emotions, symbolizing a person’s life in a place without the primary language, culture, and habits that are familiar to them. I stay in the same location and take the same yet different picture. This becomes a metaphor of memory from the past and the longing for the best of what is yet to come, a metaphor for the contextualization of being disconnected from history. Jason Fulford’s work, The Mushroom Collector, inspires me with his way of using an image as the language with which to communicate with the audience. Fulford states, “When you embrace the fact that pictures are inherently ambiguous, the possibilities open up in terms of using images as language.” I realized that I was looking for a picture similar to my superimposition of past and present in the physical world, a conversation between my emotions and reality.

Creative Practice

Both. Mostly, I will write the popup idea on paper and hang it on the wall, then keep coming back asking myself, Do I still like this idea? It may take a year sometime, I believe the time will tell. For studio, yes, I remodel my attic to become a studio.

Sharing Space Artwork

In Their Studio