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This week we connected Ellen Yiu and Alice West.

On this episode they talk about  Chinese art-making and their artistic practice.

What ‘core memory’ of yours has impacted your art practice?

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One memory stands out vividly: an arts-and-crafts class in primary school where our teacher showed us how to make flowers from clay. I remember watching her demonstration and returning to my desk to reconstruct what I saw. While surveying the classroom, the teacher noticed my flowers and approached me, asking if I had taken them from her desk. Apparently, I had made them so alike that she thought they were hers!
Looking back, I realize that it must have influenced my approach to art-making and storytelling. I sometimes think about that moment while I’m working on replicas, and it serves as a reminder of the value of careful observation, the love of learning, and a passion for creating things.

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If your art practice was a smell, what smell would it be?

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My art practice feels like waking up to the smell of Chinese medicine, simmering on the stove overnight, and the smell of burnt ashes that linger on the skin after wormwood moxibustion, a traditional Chinese therapy. These scents are both comforting and familiar, evoking memories of home and healing. In both medicine-making and art-making, the themes of healing and comfort are central. They remind me of the importance of self-care and the power of art to bring solace and meaning to our lives.

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What was the inspiration for your Unfair presentation and what are you hoping to achieve by executing it?

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My art practice revolves around the concept of creating portable and simulated functional art that tells a story.
At UNFAIR23, I plan to take this concept further by creating a space where visitors can share their stories with me, in the form of a repair and customization service. Visitors can bring in a garment that they love but may no longer wear, and I will transform it into a unique piece of art that they can carry with them.
By hearing their experiences, I aim to create something memorable and meaningful for each person who shares their story with me and to connect with visitors through the power of storytelling and art-making.

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Ellen Yiu Take my Home Way (2022) Installation shots Picture by Myung Feyen

What’s the importance of mentors and friendships in your life, and how have they changed your perspective or offered insight into how you approach your practice?

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Mentors and friends in my artistic circle have played a vital role in my creative growth. Learning from mentors about their journeys in the art world has influenced many decisions in my career. Honest critiques are hard to come by, but finding someone unafraid to offer constructive criticism is invaluable. When facing self-doubt while examining hours of work, external perspectives become crucial. Gathering opinions beyond my own is a fundamental part of my process.

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What has been the most challenging and valuable experience you’ve had in the professional world?

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Regrettably, the experience that comes to mind involves a challenging gallerist I worked with. Naively entering the relationship, their big promises yielded minimal results. While deeply disappointing and crushing initially, I gleaned important lessons. I discovered the necessity of prioritizing myself and my work, demanding action or a contract before collaboration, and managing expectations. This encounter fortified me, enabling me to navigate the art world with resilience and a profound appreciation for dedicated collaborators.

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If you had to introduce yourself without mentioning your profession or your practice, how would you present yourself?

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I would describe myself as practical and good with my hands. I am optimistic to a fault and frustrated knowing I will never have enough time in my life to read all the books on my to-read list.

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Unfair - Alice West A Visit from Emma_2023

Alice West A Visit from Emma (2023)

Read more about Alice West Read more about Ellen Yiu

These interviews are part of an ongoing series of short interviews between Unfair artists, originally published through our mailings. Check the overview to read the other interviews  or subscribe to our mailing list through the button below:

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