Visual Art Designer: Jewellery, Clothes, Interiors, Photographer & Painter
Interview on 26th September 2015 at Cafe Zarah
Translation by Sammi, Operations Manager of Culture Yard
TF: So how did your passion for fashion start?
F: It's something I was born with. Now I'm 46 years old but when I was young there were no magazines and no movies and no cassettes. Nothing, so I was cut out from the outside world. So I saw these nice clothes in the movies and I would take the padding from my father's suit and put something together myself. So basically, I put the padding in my sweater because that's how I wanted it to be and later I discovered that all the sweaters in style were like that at that time so that's why I feel that it was something I was born with. I was born with good taste. So I drew lots of inspiration from movies, Japanese movies and old Chinese iconic movies.
TF: Do you still feel that you draw your inspiration from those types of movies or has your inspiration changed?
F: Now I'm very much inspired by each and every relationship that I've ever had. Any art is emotional, an expression of emotion. So I feel that there are no rules in art, it's just emotion and expression of each individual's feelings and emotions.
TF: When you're designing, who do you feel like you're designing for?
F: It's very complicated. The clothes that you see in my store, I imagine myself as a woman and what kind of clothes I would like to wear as a woman. As a Chinese lady, what kind of clothes I'd like to wear, if I'm a curvy Chinese lady, a skinny Chinese lady, what kind of clothes I would like to wear.
TF: Is that across all ages as well?
F: It's not commercial. It's kind of the reason I stay in Beijing. I think now I've realised that people are always going after things they will never get. I wish I could be a woman. Because I wanted to be a woman but I'm not so I'm kind of changing everything about me that's a man into a more female side. Like I spent 10,000 RMB on this wig. So in life I feel like, if you have the courage, if you have the skills, then you will feel very fulfilled.
TF: That's really beautiful. It seems like a lot of the art that you do is an exploration of the self and the development of the self. How important do you think that it is to explore the self through art?
F: I think this is art. Art is self. Every transformation, innovation and development in art, it's all an expression of one's self. Art comes from everyone's... it's kind of an expression of one's mind and like her [translator Sammi] lipstick reminds me of a new wound oozing blood. But that's just his idea, maybe for someone else it's a different thing. I'd use it for a buckle on a shirt or some kind of accessory like a necklace. And then the name of this collection could be qin yue [侵越] - Invasion. I would design a whole collection of accessories, like a bag, like a necklace and bracelet.
TF: And this is inspired by her lipstick?
F: Yes, inspired by her lipstick.
TF: Wow, so this is an example of a new relationship inspiring you?
F: Yes. But all the shapes would be kind of hard and cold, not very soft.
TF: Recently I saw on your Weixin that you posted a lot of photographs that I guess inspire you and some of them seem to be quite dark. For example with these kind of restraining, just dark images. Why is that something that you find beautiful?
F: I don't see them as dark because I don't have a dark side. I seek inspiration from sex. For me I think coitus is like the ultimate form of energy. Everything comes from it. To me, I think this is very dark. I see a very clean, nicely dressed woman and then I imagine her having sex with a very fat, filthy man. Her moaning and everything, I think that's very dark.
TF: I like the whole thing you were talking about to do with art and the self, and is that how the self-photography and the self-portraits came in? When did that start and why did you start to document yourself?
F: My father is a photographer and he would always ask me to help him in, you know the dark room where they develop the films?
F: My father would always ask me to help. That's how I started. So basically for my father to teach me how to do photography, how to take photos, my father said, That is not something that I can teach. You have to do it by yourself. So my father gave me a camera. And I started to take pictures and I discovered that the things that I saw were completely different from what I would see through the camera. And then I started to learn how to observe everything through the camera instead of using my eyes.
TF: So can you show us some of the photos you have taken of yourself and explain how you do it because they seem to be quite distant shots? So do you have equipment or is somebody assisting you?
F: My pictures are an expression of my depression and emotions. So I bought all this stuff and was walking on the street holding these dolls and walking in the dark on Gulou Street and everyone thought I was hilarious weird and quirky.
TF: Of course!
F: These photos are recording my life. Like flowers, I take lots of photos of flowers. Sad flowers, sexy flowers, flowers in the bathroom, my daughter (a doll). A picture of me peeing.
TF: So, for example, the self-portrait of you as [Salvador] Dali and the self-portraits of you as Frida Kahlo, I really like. How do you choose the artists that you want to represent in your photos?
F: I have specific taste. Very uniform. I really like Dali, I really like Coco Chanel. I think they are the same type of people.
TF: And this, what's in here? These are photos of your clothes?
F: This is my sister.
TF: These are all clothes that you've designed?
F: Yes, in 2013.
TF: Have you ever, I mean I know you have a store in Beiluoguxiang but have you ever displayed any of your photography, sold any of your clothes in any other places in Beijing?
F: No. I'm afraid of meeting new people and socialising. I think I'm very lazy, I don't really want to force myself into anything. I like what I like, and what I don't like I reject. Some kind of photographers and magazines have approached me asking for an interview but if I don't feel like it, I don't do it. My dream is to find someone who loves me and I love and to spend the rest of our lives together. And it's not art, I just want to find this person. To find love. My favourite thing to do ever since childhood is to put stamps on postcards or a cashier at the supermarket.
TF: That's amazing! Considering that, thank you so much for meeting with us. We really appreciate it. Loreli is very much about the artists representing themselves in the way they want to be portrayed. So your clothes, your photography, your design, how would you like to portray them to the world?
F: I don't really want to make it too complicated, maybe it's better to keep it about one theme – me and my life in Beijing and some pictures of me walking past Beiluoguxiang. Don't make it over-complicated would be great and me and my life. You can write anything you want as long as it's true. These are pictures that show my definition of art.
TF: Where is this, and why do you take photos in this particular hutong?
F: Beiluoguxiang. Because it is spontaneous and, for me, art is all about spontaneity. It doesn't have to have much preparation as long as it's a reflection of my inner state. And for me that's art.
TF: Does he feel inspired by the environment of his store? The hutongs and that area.
F: No. I would draw inspiration from really, really old stuff. Old buildings and those kind of run down places like the Forbidden City. But not the city because I like conflicting things, things in contrast. Like a really old door and a vase lying on the street that someone has thrown out. Something like that. People go to Paris, France and take pictures of famous tourist attractions and they take great pictures, beautiful pictures. The first time I went to Paris I took a picture of the corner of a dirty, filthy street at sunset. There was a pair of red shoes, the heels had come off. So I took a picture of those two shoes and they were scattered around and the house was only this part and lots of water. And for me, that's Paris. The shoes told me a story, a story of a very, very sad woman who was unhappy, who was abandoned. People ask me, Why is this Paris to you? And I say, the house in the picture is Parisian style and the shoes, the shape of the shoes, you can only see them in Paris.
TF: That's really beautiful. It tells a story.
F: Yes, of abandoned women. So art is just how I see things not how other people see things, like how her red lipstick inspired me for the collection, the wound oozing blood and I think her face should be paler. Her hair should be darker. And I would like to see her in black clothes. Something very, very big, not tight, very oriental. Something that sets her free.
TF: So is this something that you do when you meet other woman especially, you kind of see how you would want them to be seen and does that go into your designs?
F: I'm using my years of experience and my artistic view and telling you, this is what you should be. I think red would suit you (Charlotte) really well.
TF: Red clothes or red lipstick?
F: You are a very warm person but then you have this very free and wild side. Once you fall in love you will be very family bound. If you don't love this person, you would not force yourself.
TF: It's like a therapy session for us.
F: (To Kassy) In relationships you'd like to be in control, you don't want to lose your control. If you don't think you've got this, you can't handle this, you would stop. You won't keep moving forward.
TF: There’s such a great range of pictures for us to use...
F: I'll send you lots and lots of pictures. I don't really want to be addressed as man or woman. I am who I am.
TF: You mentioned that you want to find true love forever, how is that reflected in your past relationships?
F: That's my dream but I think it's unattainable.
F: Because I think we always fall in love with the ideal other half but that never happens in real life. When I see you I think you're a very sweet person and, for me, I picture you as this sweet personality but you might not be like that. That's just my impression but in reality you might be completely different. You might be cold and mean. So that's why I think love is unattainable, you can't imagine it, you can't picture it. It is what it is. I think for me right now the most valuable thing in life is feeling the things around you. Like right now being in the moment. And to live without a goal. For example what I mean, even if you don’t publish this interview I would think it's still very beautiful because it's in the moment, we've done what we've done. It doesn't really matter if you publish it or not. Because I've had the opportunity to meet you and I really like you and for me that's enough. It doesn't really matter if you publish the article on the website or not. For me this has been an amazing experience.
TF: For us too.
F: There's an old saying in Chinese, I don't really know if there's an English equivalent, I'm gonna try, if you have a talent sooner or later you'll show it. But it's up to me if I want to show it to the public or not. For me the happiest thing that I've found out about life is that you feel happy in the moment. Yes.
TF: Do you feel art is a way to expressing your perception of the world because it's not something that you can put on to other people? Is it a way that you can express what you see?
F: No. For me it's all spontaneous, there's no reason, like today I feel like I need to put on this wig, it doesn't even make me comfortable but I just feel like it. I might say, This guy is not my type, I would never go out with this guy, and then you go to a bar later and then you see someone like that and immediately you hit it off. You don’t know anything about this guy and then you just fall in love with him. You want to hug him, you want to do something with him. So one day I dressed up, I looked really pretty and two foreigners asked me, Why do you want to go to a bar? And I said, I want to get fucked. And they said, Fan, your English is very cool. So every time they see me they say, Ooh, maybe fuck. [laughs]
Fan is a visual art designer from Nanjing in Jiangsu province. Fan started designing clothes from a very young age, inspired by old cinema of the time. Fan later began to explore photography, having worked alongside his father developing film in a dark room. Fan opened a self-entitled boutique fashion store on Beiluoguxiang over three years ago. Fan's personally designed clothes, jewellery, accessories and photo albums are all displayed, so take the time to venture in.
Find Fan at: FAN 72 Beiluoguxiang, Dongcheng district, Beijing, China