Interview via email and millennial WeChat exhanges (thanks Angela)
KL: What’s your artistic background? How did you get into art?
ZQ: I started drawing in university out of loneliness, in a way that’s very similar to writing in a diary. I’d find a quiet corner and sketch out my emotions and my understanding of my life and the world. Through drawing and art, I get to escape some aspects of my “real life”.
My insight and sensitivity have always been around, but I got to embrace them again in school, where loneliness gave me abundant time to reflect and gather my thoughts.
KL：Using markers gives your work a primary school quality, is the contrast between medium and (sometimes) graphic content an important part of what you’re expressing with your art?
ZQ：“Innocence” and “purity” encapsulate my love for the world. I love to draw - I experience the world and express “myself” and my art through color and paper. I don’t care about technique or material, perhaps because I don’t really have any skill. Thus, the only thing that touches me when it comes to the medium is color. This is also why I experienced a surge of creativity when I first encountered colored markers.
KL: Have you always mainly used marker (some of your work is done in paint or pastel) or is it something you discovered was your medium of choice after dabbling in others.
ZQ: No. My family (my mom) lived in strained circumstances. I bought my first box of colored markers with a grocery store gift card my dad received from his company. This marked my first encounter with color. When I drew with those markers, their color touched and educated me. I experienced an artistic renascence through creating with the most candid and rudimentary tool of the craft.
KL: Is this something that you are constantly doing? Are you doodling dicks in the subway or is it something you do in the home/studio?
ZQ: I draw whenever I feel any kind of emotion: on the subway, at McDonalds, in my school dorm, on the streets… Anywhere that provides me with a freedom of space. Of course I’m more drawn to places with good lighting and minimum distractions. I made Dick’s Dream in McDonald’s and the self-study room of my school. At the time, I was interested in the dick drawings on Tumblr and wanted to try my hands at it. The result was a collection of dick doodles influenced by how I felt at different moments. I was pretty absorbed by those drawings on Tumblr. This collection kinda acts as a record of my obsession with a certain organ at that time, the same obsession that drove me to create the drawings.
KL: I notice you sometimes appropriate advertisement logos and slogans in your work, are you making a statement about consumerism or do you just love McDonalds (we see it there in the background)?
ZQ: I think slogans and advertisements have been completely integrated into our lives. We live in a commercial society driven by materialism. The inclusion of ads and plugs is unavoidable: I’m not gonna take a picture of me eating a burger and make the effort to erase the logo on the packaging. Art in the 21st century should be more inclusive and forgiving because only then will life become art, right? Actually I think other industries should move toward this as well. Seeing celebrities on variety shows drinking Coke with a pixelated logo is pretty disappointing - it’s not like the audience doesn’t know. Materialism has a large presence in our lives. The same is true when it comes to cities, muffled and concealed by a bunch of ideas and doctrines. I scream ‘Hubei is hopeless’ from the perspective of a child with a pure heart; it’s just my attempt to express some opinion about the city that I’m a part of. I become that child when I draw… it’s all a part of growth.
I draw in McDonald’s because it provides a free and open space. There are patients resting, janitors taking a break, and children doing their homework. I like to be inspired and work in places like McDonald’s, vibrant with people from different corners of society. I’ve grown attached to the place after spending so much time drawing there. I drew the phrase “Say Goodbye to McDonald’s” right before becoming an intern at a corporation. I was sitting in McDonald’s with tears streaming down my cheeks when I wrote it in my notebook; I thought I’d never be able to draw again.
詹琦: 我觉得在如今，生活中出现的广告商标以及完全进入了我们现在的生活中了，因为这就是一个物质的商业社会。你完全不可能避免的 。我不可能拍一张本来我在吃汉堡的照片，然后还要费力去抹掉包装袋上的商标。21世纪，艺术应该包容一些，更多的，生活就是艺术了。不是吗，其实我认为其它行业也应该这样了。有时我看到电视上综艺节目中嘉宾跑去哪个城市游玩，明明喝着可口可乐，却要马赛克这个商标，觉得挺扫兴的，观众又不是不知道。 物质主义存在在我们的生活中，城市也是一样，被很多东西包裹覆盖。所以我才要呐喊，我在说“湖北 没救了 ” 包含了我对自己所处城市的一些看法而已了，但是这种看法是一个绘画中有着纯洁心灵的小孩儿呐喊出来的，也是我的一种成长进程的一种感受。
我在麦当劳画画是因为它有一个开放的免费空间，病人能在这里休息，环卫工也可以，做作业以及休息的孩子。我愿意在这样充满“生活”的地方绘画，它给我一些创作的灵感。 在麦当劳里绘画的时间多了，它也就保持了一部分我的情感。“跟麦当劳说再见” 是我在将要进入企业实习前画下的一句话。挺伤心的，我在麦当劳哭泣着在本子上写下这句话，原因是我以为自己再也不能画画了。
KL: Have you considered a colouring book? Dick’s Dream would make an amazing adult colouring book.
ZQ: Haha, I’d like to. Thanks for enjoying it.
KL: 你有想过出一本涂色书吗？Dick’s Dream 作为成年人涂色书肯定特别棒/牛逼/有意思。
KL: Why do you use text in your work?
ZQ: My native language is Chinese. Chinese is the most direct way of expressing my emotions and also the first thing that register in people’s hearts when they see my drawings.
KL: I see you have done DIY pop-up exhibitions in the hutongs. What prompted you to take your work out of gallery spaces and into the streets?
ZQ: “The Everyday”. Art should be present in the everyday life. When your work is displayed on the streets, people can walk by and have instinctive reactions that reflect how art is received by the ordinary people of society. In other words, consider “Does he get it?” and “Can something still communicate its artistic expression after entering the ordinary world.” I don’t think art should sit on a pedestal, removed from The Everyday.
KL: 我发现你在胡同里有过自己的DIY 街头展览。是什么使你把你的作品从画廊和展厅里搬到街上的？
KL: Tell me about your soybean shaped pieces. You are building quite a collection, are you hoping to turn them into a large-scale artwork?
ZQ: “Shapes” (tu xing) is an ode of my love for the light in this world. For me, to draw is to create color. Color is my guide when it comes to drawing.
I’m gonna do my best to continue to create color, for it is what makes my drawings become art.
KL: Do you ever or have you ever considered collaborating with other artists, writers or musicians?
ZQ: I published a collection of photos called “A New Era: I Captured 124 Trash Bins in Building A of the Boy’s Dorm in our School” in collaboration with the zine “吃的ReallyWant”. The book was published on the 22nd of November, 2015 and can be found on the “吃的ReallyWant” Taobao store.
On the night of November 22nd, 2014, I ran around with my camera taking pictures of the 124 trash bins in the boys’ dorm building. They’re filthy and dismissible objects, yet they project all the realities of modern Chinese university dorm life. We captured that and made the photos into a book to bring encouragement to those who lack the strength to look at life straight in the eyes.
詹琦: 作为“垃圾桶”项目，和独立杂志《吃的ReallyWant》合作出版了一本摄影集《新时代了，我拍下了我们学校男生宿舍A栋所有124个垃圾桶》。摄影集在2015年11月22日发行，现在在淘宝网店搜索“吃的Really Want商店” 就可以看到了。
KL: What are your plans for your work in future? Any exhibitions or projects in the pipeline?
ZQ: To continue to capture, to draw, to keep creating “Shapes”.
I’m having an exhibition mid-April called “Coming of the New World”. Once the exhibition starts I’ll be spending three hours per day in the space. The contents of the exhibition will be updated on my Weibo (詹巴儿).
KL: Is there anything else you would like to share with the Loreli readers?
Thank you for reading this and supporting me. I’ll keep my enthusiasm for art, creation, and “The Everyday” alive. Thanks.
詹琦: 感谢你们的阅读，甚至支持，我会继续保持对艺术的创作热情，以及“表达生活” ，谢谢。
Zhan Qi is an independent artist born in 1995 who works primarily in felt-tip pen. His works have been displayed in hutong pop up exhibitions and he has collaborated with 吃的Really Want with a photo essay. He will have an exhibition in Wuhan next month and one in Más bar in May. Contact him at Sina weibo: 詹巴儿