yuyi john is the willy wonka of the art world
She makes jewellery out of Pot Noodles, iPhone chargers out of shoelaces and likes transferring images on to meat.
Yuyi John has been making things since she was just a kid. In fact, she makes everything and anything. Her artwork is like a lucky dip, you never know what will pop up next. It all started in her hometown of Taipei, where she would often paint and sketch in traditional Chinese style. Abandoning this a few years later, she launched her own swimwear line. A surreal collection of one pieces, featuring clay-made models printed on lycra. After a degree in fashion design, she moved to the big apple to begin an internship with Jason Wu, and later did some style assisting at American Vogue. However it is her work as a digital artist as opposed to her skill as a designer, stylist or painter, which is what makes her so unique. Taking the internet as her subject, and social media as her muse, Yuyi's work is a commentary on youth culture today. In fact her art is unlike anything we've seen before: there are her Reebook shoelaces turned iPhone chargers, her instant noodle jewellery (nose rings, ear studs, tragus piercings), and her Twitter, Facebook and Instagram themed transfer face and body tattoos, a three-part series called Face Post (it came from the literal idea of putting Facebook posts on one's face). Most curious of all is Skin on Skin, a series of prints featuring images of her naked self transferred onto a slab of meat. The title says it all really. You can also have it printed onto a t-shirt. I mean, why not? Currently working on a new collection of swimwear, we catch up with the eccentric artist to see how it's all going.
Were you always interested in art?
Yes, I love different kinds of art. I learnt how to paint and sketch when I was a little kid. I used to love traditional Chinese painting but there are times when my hands shake because of my anxiety, so I can't always practice. It makes me very sad.
How would you describe your overall aesthetic?
Colourful, skin and body-related, naive, odd, curious, unexpected.
What is the story behind your Face Post project?
After I graduated I made a fan page for myself on Facebook. To celebrate hitting 2000 fans, I put the "like" and "FB" signs on my back and took a picture. It was very casual but people liked it. I didn't think to continue until a year after when my friend and I were in NYC. We had the idea to put our Facebook posts on our faces. Then it went viral.
What inspires you?
All the different people who inspire me come from different centuries. I believe a lot of things have been done before, but now young people use their new creativity and redo it. So I think what inspires me is the Internet, social media and daily street life.
Could you talk a bit about your Skin on Skin project?
Skin on Skin is a random project. My friends and I were in the studio talking about some random stuff and I suddenly thought, "Why don't I put my skin on animal's skin?" It's like Face Post and Body Post 2.0. Face Post is like I am looking at your post on your face and Skin on Skin is like I am watching your skin on pork's skin.I think it's very tricky and fun, all the naked portraits are all shot by myself. Going to get the meat from the butchers was really fun, they couldn't understand what I was doing. After 18 days, I microwaved the meat for 5 mins. My face stretched on the pork, it became green and really funny.
What is it that you're trying to convey with your work?
Whether it's stupid or genius, I'm not really trying to convey anything. I'm just trying to send a message to young Taiwanese people to not be afraid of trying or afraid of losing. I feel like Taiwanese people are too shy. We think the world is too big or that we're too tiny. This needs to change.
What are you working on at the moment?
I'm working on new collection of swimsuits which are very experimental!
What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
I would say I wanna be healthy, happy, marry and have kids.
Text Tish Weinstock