Artist: Dan Yang
Dan Yang (she/they) is a multidisciplinary artist who holds a BFA of Specialization of Film Studies and is currently completing her second bachelor’s degree of Studio Arts at Concordia University.
Dan’s spheres of practice span sculpture, ceramics, painting, and film photography. Her work often explores the body of abjection, the otherness and dehumanization and is stylistically embodied through babies. By using non-gallery space as placement, her work forms a hybridized ecology of darkness that undergoes beneath the civilized ground.
Below is an interview with our artist of the month.
Abby: Thank you so much for joining us today. Do you want to give a little brief introduction, your name, pronouns, and then any website or Instagram where we can see your work?
Dan: Sure. Hi, I'm Dan. I use she/they pronouns. Recently completed my studio arts, second degree at Concordia and I used to study film study, but right now I'm doing more cool shit. So yes. And my Instagram is @damndandamnn. Yeah.
A: Awesome, great. So let's just jump right into it. So the first question I have for you is just kind of relating to your introduction to art and art making. So maybe you could talk a little bit about when did you know like, this is what you wanted to pursue? And maybe what media did you start out with? And how has that changed from what you do now?
Rennie Taylor, Dan and Abby, 2023.
D: Yeah, I used to do like paintings, and not a lot of drawing. But like, I just kind of want to explore more like, kind of like, learn different techniques to get inspiration from other kind of media class. So I took a photo class and a ceramic class, which is something that changed my life. So yeah, so basically, right now I'm doing more sculpture thing like ceramic. And I also took a bronze casting class with Abby. So we kind of have fun - had a lot of fun in that class.
A: Absolutely, absolutely awesome. And then maybe even going earlier, like in your kind of studies, or even just making art on your own time. When did you start first like considering or labeling yourself as an artist, if there was a point in time where you're like, Okay, this is what I want to do. This is who I am.
D: I feel like it's more about, I don't know, kind of like engagement of, like, what you are interested in. Because for me, it's like, when I really want to say like, ceramic, for example, like, I really want to make something but I don't have ideas. I just keep thinking and thinking about like, sometimes it's kind of like stressful but I kind of enjoy, like, the process of I'm just having different ideas. And finally I can just get my hands on to make something. I mean, at the beginning like all artists probably kind of struggling what they're gonna do. But when you start worrying, like we started to do that. And I think it just goes towards a more fun or direction, I guess.
Dan Yang, Mutated Baby, Ceramic, 2022.
A: Totally. And then kind of going more into your your studies. So you already have a BFA in film studies. So what kind of inspired you to pursue another degree? And maybe how do you see your film, but and then also your sculptural practices? Like, do you think they're responsive to one another? Or are they kind of separate entities?
D: Sort of. Sort of like, for my film study, like I really like, kind of weird films. So that's why like, my work is kind of weird. So I think that's part of the thing. And also, I do like film photography, I like something about body, like the, about the awareness of body, something that we say, towards our body or bodily experience, like we don't usually have or don't really put up attention to. That kind of "ugh" you know?
A: That grossness kind of abject? Yeah, to the body is what you're interested in.
D: Yeah. So I think, although like I'm doing different things, but I think there's something that links them.
A: And so did you kind of see it as like a natural progression, like in the film or just within the body? And then you're like, Well, why don't we make this three dimensional? Yeah, kind of what happened for you?
D: Yeah, totally. And also kind of like subjective thing as well. Because probably, like, I just make more things like come from my mind. Like, I don't know, sort of, towards my objective or subjective body. It's more of like my own perspective of like, knowing something.
Dan Yang, Swaddled Baby, bronze, wax, sand, paper, nails, 2022.
A: Right yeah. So it's kind of like an intuitive whole process for you. Cool. And then so what led you to go into studio art? Like, what was that transition? Like? Like, did you didn't feel very natural? Or were you like really thinking about it? Or, you know, was there a few years gap in between your two degrees? Or what was that?
D: Well, honestly, like, I used to learn painting back in China before I came to Canada, but like the way like the Chinese art education, it's just so dry. It's just like drawing like training. very technical. Yeah, very technical. But I really like to do some more fun things, instead of like, just doing something like a robot, like just producing, there's no creativity. So and I really liked the Montreal, like, the artists, art scene, like, the film festivals too. So like, I felt was just fun. And people making art here for not for, I don't know, for different reasons, like for fun for whatever, like, very enjoyable. So that's, I'm choosing to switch to studio art. Yeah.
A: Cool. And then, you know, because of this kind of past degree you also have a lot of more exhibition history, and you've kind of you've been killing it with all these exhibitions, and projects that you've done. So I'd love to just know a little bit more about that and your experience with exhibitions, but also with, like, marketing yourself as an artist.
D: Well, the exhibitions, like I know, seems like I'm getting this student art program, like the students, like the gallery VAV, and I also follow a bunch of like accounts on Instagram and just keep submitting my work. And yeah, basically, like sometimes they have a theme, like sensitivity or some kind of like, about the body or something I would apply. I also like to, like submit different media like photography, painting, or ceramics. But honestly, like, because I got a lot of weird sculptures, I feel it's kind of difficult to fit in the theme, like, especially I felt my stuff tries to off set the white cube space, right, more like, the natural underground... Just a corner of beauty and like something, very, not noticeable, but when you put the artwork there, I felt like it fits better with the work instead of just what was in the gallery. So that's kind of what I'm like, kind of exploring right now is kind of like anti-academia space.
I think that's great.
Dan Yang, Baby Scorpion, ceramic, 2022.
A: But you also, you know, just in the foundry class, like you also are able to almost transform that exhibition space with other elements, you bring in like dirt or sand or water, like kind of subverting this and not using other exhibition spaces. But subverting the space that you have been given.
D: Exactly. Yeah, I felt that something like we can also think about like, was showing work, not just the work but also we can just create a own like a site creator.
A: Make a space for yourself within a space that's, you know, maybe been unwelcoming in the past.
D: Yeah, bring plants bring cats to the gallery, they're a part of the show!
A: Honestly, I love that. And lastly, just maybe what advice would you give to another emerging artist or art student?
D: I felt like when you’re struggling with work, like you don't know what you're going to do. I just start it. Just don't think about like, the shit too much. Just start it. You're gonna know what you're gonna do. Yeah, I think that's the only thing like the most important thing I learned from ceramic study because it's very tight. And also the teacher doesn’t really give us a theme, and just let us make things. It's very like, I felt like the general art classes like this is they don't give like, they don't care about like, how, what are you going to do but more about, what you're going to do with this thing? Like, just, I don't know, just more personal stuff. Yeah. So just do it like, don't think about it.
A: And have fun too, right? You talked a lot about having fun. The creative process is something playful and enjoyable and you know, yeah, experimenting.
D: Yeah, experimenting and making things that are enjoyable, like, not just academia thing like very all, like--
A: Very like prestigious, super academic.
A: Yeah, I love that you're you're embodying that because I really, you know resonate with and appreciate the idea of just like art as play. You know, art is something that's fun and that's something that in I feel like fine arts, academic spaces, it's kind of like discouraged because everything's supposed to have some meaning conceptual sort of analysis. And I think you're kind of subverting that with the work you do. So that's really awesome. Cool.
Dan Yang, Bronze Fetus, bronze, sand, wood, chains, 2022.
A: So any other new projects we can look forward to seeing from you soon or stuff that you're working on that you want to give us a little hint about?
D: I have a huge ceramic work. Because , I'm taking a ceramic 330 class. And this year we are making a one meter high sculpture. It's so big and right now I'm making a cage like a base for it. It's gonna be big. I'm still struggling with where I'm going to put it after. We will see. That's always something we should think about, like, backyard, basement or, I don’t know. Mom’s house? Haha.
A: That's where my work is, my parents house.
A: Yeah. Well, thank you so much for talking to me. This is really great. And I look forward to seeing new work and projects, things coming from you soon.
D: Thank you so much Abby!