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Dialogue | Pan Shiqian——The "Ordinary Places" Hidden in Everyday Life


Editor / Nicole

Artist / Shiqian Pan

Interviewer / Nicole


Shiqian Pan is a multidisciplinary designer. Her practice encompasses Graphic Design—with specialties in 3D techniques and Digital Illustration. She is focused on bringing out the incongruities that hide, unappreciated, beneath the surface of everyday life, into her spotlight.


Personal emotional release

Q: Can you introduce yourself to the audience at Hua'an?

A: My name is Shiqian Pan. I am a bachelor and master of illustration at the University of the Arts London. After graduation, I worked in a small illustration design studio in London for a year. Currently preparing to return to China for a period of time.

Q: How is the work experience?

A: It's very painful. Painting under the designer's hands should be created according to his aesthetic taste and detail requirements. After going through this job, I decided to stop doing illustration work in the future, and the future career development direction will be design. Currently, I plan to apply for an international advertising company or a design studio.

For me, illustration is a way of free expression and catharsis, just like writing an essay, it has become my automatic mode of thinking. When mental stress is high, those problems that cannot be solved in real life will be automatically transformed into pictures in my mind, and the emotions I have are unconsciously presented in the form of illustrations.

The Shrine Will Guide Your Way, 2021

Q: How do you see the difference between pure art and illustration? Does the disciplinary background of an illustration major have any influence on artistic creation?

A: There is no difference. Because of the particularity of British education, there is not much distinction in the teaching of professional teachings such as illustration, fine arts and sculpture, and they are not limited to form. The underlying thinking logic of these majors is very similar: do research first, find the entry point, then experiment, and then output, basically this process, the experimental process and final performance may be different. From the graduation exhibition, it can be seen that everyone's works are intermingled with each other. The school has no regulations on the form of creation, and many illustration students will also create in the form of sculpture or installation. The essence of British education is to cultivate students' creative thinking and self-exploration, rather than focusing on the learning of professional skills. At my undergraduate level, illustration and graphic design were both semi-self-taught.

Wating Room, 2020

Q: Do teachers in British universities give more freedom to students in teaching?

A: The freedom is very strong. For students who have not established their own artistic style and framework, they will feel lost in the face of this teaching system. When I went to school in China, I was used to sitting and waiting for others to tell me what to do. When I arrived here, I would be very unaccustomed to this kind of stocking.

For the first two years of college, I was completely lost. Whether it is artistic style, interpersonal relationships or personal character, they are all in chaos. I don't know how to conceive and complete the work smoothly, and I have been touching the south wall for a long time. At that time, my personality was relatively closed and sensitive, and the courses and teachers did not give me much help, which caused me to be in internal friction. Looking back now, when I formed my own framework, I can understand very well how the system works. But I was in the system at the time, and as someone who didn't know what to do, I had to just go with the flow.

In the completed work "The Shrine Will Guide Your Way", many questions asked by players to the temple are based on my own experience, combined with later research. When I was confused about my studies, I was a heavy user of divination software for a long time. I used tarot divination and other methods to temporarily relieve anxiety. In the process of doing this project, I tried to make the audience realize that all divination methods are just a choice, or a consultation method, and the ultimate goal is to explore the core of these issues. On the other hand, this project also represents my mental journey from relying on external assistance to now seeking inward and self-transformation. Now I don't need to ask any more questions, I'm no longer the audience for this work

Sun Structures, 2020


Art vs Illustration

Q: When someone asks about your identity, do you answer whether you are an illustrator or an artist? What do you think of the two titles and identities of illustrator and artist?

A: I don't care about the titles. They were invented to assist humans in understanding the details of the division of labor. Essentially the two names are the same. Compared with the title of artist, illustrator seems to be a more original title, and artist has a feeling of being held to the altar. Whether it is an artist or an illustrator, they are all creating and expressing themselves, and illustration is only one form of expression. Just like apples and strawberries, they are both similar in essence and physical structure. They are both fruits, and there is no need to subdivide them.

If I have to call myself, I will decide according to the occasion. If I was selling illustration-related merchandise at an art market, I would call myself an illustrator; when I was interviewing in a gallery, I would call myself an artist; when I was looking for a job, I would call myself a visual designer. I am like a tomato, which can be both a fruit and a vegetable.

Blood Gloves, 2020

Q: You use very bold colors in your work. What was your turning point or preference for bright visual styles? Is it from any period of artists or art movements?

A: If I could sum up my aesthetic orientation in one word, it would be minimalism. On the one hand, I am naturally sensitive to the collision of colors, and my personal taste tends to be toward designs with heavy patterns and eye-catching color combinations. I also like to mix and match all kinds of patterns to match the style of my works. I really like the gorgeous and complex patterns, floral patterns, different colors and collages used by GUCCI in many fashion collections. Besides, I am also inspired by the visual style of Art Nouveau movement and brutalism.

The difference between design and art lies in that the functional and service characteristics of design require more rational elements. Every decision of designers must be interlinked and tracable. Art, on the other hand, is more intuitive and emotional.

Gucci AW 超现实主义建筑布景与服装,2018





Q: In your works, such as "Blood gloves" and "Blooming", you use a lot of flower elements. Do flowers have any special meaning to you? In art history, the appearance of flowers in the works of female artists is generally defined as the representation of the artist's female identity. Do you intend to express your dissatisfaction with this stereotype in your works?

A: I have a natural affinity and attraction to flowers and plants, and am fascinated by their forms. When I lived in London, I went to a park or botanical garden every day. In art history, this view of "flowers equals women" has been subtly rooted in culture. Under the male gaze, women and flowers are given representations of fragility, femininity. I think women artists are trying to take back our rights from men when they choose flowers as a form of expression. We have the right to choose what metaphors and meanings we use to tell our stories. In "Blooming", I intend to convey women's right to free choice in a wild way, using the image of unconstrained flowers as the presentation of female identity.

Blooming, 2022


Get rid of the Fixed Mindset

Q: Your work involves a variety of digital media, especially using a lot of 3D design. When did you start using 3D design? Why choose it as a medium to create?

A: "Red Village" is my first project in the field of 3D design. The starting point comes from the National Day of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China in 2020. The huge celebratory installations on the road are eccentric and exaggerated. At the same time, this work was created at the beginning of the epidemic, when I felt powerless and angry for the first time, and wanted to do a project to express my feelings.

While looking for inspiration, I came across news reports about street reorganization. Store signs on some streets are required to be replaced with a uniform font and color, and some even use white characters on a black background, just like a mourning street. At that time, I created this work with these phenomena presented by the outbreak of the epidemic as an entry point. In the creative process, in addition to doing research, I also did a lot of experiments with different media, such as watercolor, collage and clay sculpture. The final decision to use 3D design is because I want to present a physical installation that is placed on the street, and the plasticity of 3D design enables the presentation of virtual reality.

Red Village, 2021

Q: Nowadays, more and more exhibitions begin to combine digital media and technology. Many people believe that traditional painting forms and sculptures will inevitably die out, and installations and digital media will be the development trend of future art. What do you think of this view?

A: The times are always progressing, and new things will always appear, but this does not mean that the past forms will be replaced. It will be stimulated by new forms to find its place more precisely. When photography first appeared in the 19th century, people said that oil painting was going to be replaced and died out, but in fact, after two centuries, oil painting is still one of the mainstream media. Each form has its own specific occasion for existence. Emerging technologies are simply opening up more possibilities for art.

Q: Is there any new form you would like to try next?

A: I want to try programming. There is a subtle resistance to being intrigued by the art of programming, but a bit intimidating. Because I'm bad at math and hate numbers. In the past few years, I have slowly tried many different media and forms, basically self-study, and find some tutorials and explanations on the Internet. Painful because of technical issues, but excited to try new things. The C4D technology used in The Shrine Will Guide Your Way at the time was more complex than the technology used in Red Village. The process of creating it was very painful, I broke down many times, and now I am used to doing it while crying. I don't think you can stop trying. Trying is the least expensive thing. Get yourself out of your comfort zone.

The Shrine Will Guide Your Way, 2021

Q: As an international student, does being in the middle of Eastern and Western cultures have any influence on your creation?

A: When creating "Red Village", I experienced an identity split. When the work was finished and I showed it to my foreign friends and domestic relatives and friends, their views were polarized. Both foreigners and international students gave this work positive comments; domestic comments were mostly negative, especially when I showed it to my parents, they thought it was too much. Their wording at the time made me feel as though I had done something wrong.

This work uses the celebratory installations on the streets during the National Day as an entry point to explore the public space of Chinese art, with the aim of hoping that the audience can think while watching. We have the right to ask questions and questions.

I don't understand why people react so strongly to art that references elements of red propaganda and labels it critically. As an international student, "Red Village" made me deeply feel the state of polarization and separation

Red Village, 2021

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