top of page

Yiwen Zhang

Jewellery Artist

1. You have a background in jewellery design and focus on enamel works, a traditional material. Can you share what initially drew you to enamel as a medium for your artistic expression?

A: I try to "paint" the metal with enamelling, the exciting thing is that through the combination of different kinds of enamel glaze( transparent, opaque and painting enamel) and engraving technique, it is possible to achieve touchable textures and multi visual effects. It can be said that enamel is a good narrative material that gives the creator a lot of space to explore.


2. Enamel has a rich history. How do you approach using enamel techniques flexibly to create new visual effects in your contemporary art pieces?

A: I mainly focus on three aspects in this project: layering and stacking, matching different kinds of enamel glazes, and carving on surface. For example, in this project, I need to use enamel to achieve a kind of oil painting brushstroke effect, then the enamel piece's base glaze should preferably be thicker, like painting to burn out the main colour blocks first, then use the diamond burs to refine it, and finally use the painting enamel glaze to outline the structure. During the production period, it is necessary to cycle this step many times.

3. Texture and colour variations appear to be crucial in your enamel works. Could you elaborate on how you aim to evoke emotional responses in people through these tactile and visual qualities?

A: In this project, the main thing is to intuitively make people feel a kind of savage vitality through the bright and rich colour variations and the relatively messy and disorderly sense of brush strokes.

4. Your brooch series explores the multi-faceted nature of objects, inspired by Edvard Munch's oil paintings. How did Munch's work influence your creative process, and how do you reinterpret the negative aspects he portrayed from a different perspective?

A: Munch himself has mentioned that the so-called "negative subjects" in his paintings are actually things that really happened around him. What attracts me to Munch's paintings is that he uses a lot of vibrant colours and some loose brush strokes. So in my opinion, he used a more vibrant and vital way in the case of realistic subjects. It is his subjective reaction to a realistic situation and has inspired me a lot in the development of my project.


5. The visual elements in your brooches stem from research on the real-life "dilemmas" of people in the late 19th century. How does this historical research shape the narrative and meaning in your work?

A: The living condition of the working class at the end of the 19th century was difficult , because the industrial revolution has just emerged, which has caused a negative impact on the employment of the working class. From some books and documentaries, I learnt that their living conditions, including foods, illness, wearing, which can also correspond to the situation depicted by Munch. However, in my opinion, Munch's images do not contain many specific things, but more of an expression of emotions. In this project, I conducted a detailed research on the living conditions of the people at that time, and used these elements I got to symbolise an unsatisfactory state of life, and then interpreted them with a more vital perspective.

6. Your description mentions exploring the many facets of "dark" things. Could you share your perspective on how these facets are conveyed in your brooch series and the emotions or thoughts you hope viewers will experience?

A: My project is divided into two parts, one is the so-called "dark", the other is the so-called "light", these are subjective descriptions, but actually the fact is many-sided, "dark" things also have colourful parts, "light" things also have some dark corners, there is no absolute good or bad, happiness or unhappiness. So I use rich colours to show some things that look unsatisfactory, and I added a few broken elements on some pretty things. If people can see the many sides and angles of the fact, they may not feel so painful when they encounter this kind of unsatisfactory situation.

7. Enamel has both a traditional and contemporary presence. How do you balance these aspects in your work, bridging the historical significance of the material with modern artistic expressions?

A: The modern expression of enamelling must be based on traditional techniques. Traditional enamelling works are relatively delicate, such as filigree cloisonné works and fine jewellery made of enamel. In my works, I don't use cloisonné to delineate the range of each colour block, but allow the different colours to blend naturally through heating, thus creating a " sense of brush strokes ". I try to show a loose effect, but I need to keep a balance between "loose" and "tight", so I use diamond burs to trim the edges of each colour block. During the making process, I prefer not to anticipate the results,  I tend to improvise and optimise the pieces according to my intuition.Because sometimes I look forward to the "surprises", and also the  "accidents", as accidents arise and are solved, my understanding of the material deepens.


8. Lastly, can you provide insights into your future artistic plans or projects involving enamel or other mediums?

A: I try to explore different enamelling textures depending on the theme of each project. I am working on my latest project TRAINERS, a series of 12 enamel necklaces. In this project, I try to show the textures of the personal traces of used trainers and the texture of the trainers by enamelling. Thus talking about the relationship between individual uniqueness (personal traces) and social commonality (mass-produced shoe structures). In this project, I tried to imitate the texture, structures of the shoes and the traces of wear by enamelling, and the final result is very different from the  project DARK, and the subsequent works will be posted on my instagram.

bottom of page