Curious, crude and oddly familiar, the work of Hamburg-based illustrator and visual artist Yuxing Li is totally joyous; crafting captivating collage works that can’t help but make you feel warm and fuzzy – longing for the days where running around outside was all that you needed to have a great time.
The charming naivety and sense of wonder within Yuxing’s practice comes from her childhood desire for fun and entertainment. Being raised by her grandparents in China, she spent her time reading, drawing, and making up her own games. “My practice today is very close to this need to play, make things, and have fun”, she tells us, noting that her illustrations are both profoundly personal and conceptually driven.
Alongside this love of playfulness, Yuxing’s illustrations are born from an interest in the complexity of people and their behaviours, often taking time to sit and observe people and how they navigate the world, and beautifully contrasting this complexity through crude, hand-rendered forms. “Body movements and gestures have always fascinated me,” she explains, “I like how body language is really direct and universal,” recalling her formative love of folk and native art.
Perhaps Yuxing’s ability to trust her creative gut is the secret to her illustrative mastery. Disclosing that she creates work according to the observation of elements that instinctively spark her interest, she explains, “My eyes are sensitive to certain things, shapes, colour combinations, contrasts, postures, gestures.”
This approach to her practice allows Yuxing to produce remarkable illustrations that are truly authentic to her and her personal fascinations. The collages are systematic in their design; their simplistic nature does not distract from their ability to stir emotion from the viewer. “I want my illustrations to speak to the viewers softly,” Yuxing tells us, “much like a cool summer night after a hot day,” she adds. Her choice of colour combination, playful approach, and minimal layouts leave us feeling comfortable, focusing on the world through her own eyes and what she wants others to enjoy.
Yuxing’s work is methodological but never overly strict or without room for experimentation. Reflecting on the inherently cheerful nature of her work, she comments, “It’s a mixture of a very systematic way of thinking through elements of an image but then let loose and be playful with it.” She adds: “I try not to worry too much about sticking to a colour palette or technique but rather to be open and curious to explore new answers.”
Her collages also take a comedic approach. Yuxing herself is partial to funny faces and oddities across her work, further showcasing the importance of keeping playfulness and fun at the core of her practice.
Having fallen in love with her primary medium of collage, this slowed-down process of illustration allows her to take total control of her outcomes, a mood extremely evident in the tranquillity of her work.
Colouring her own papers and individually cutting out every single shape, Yuxing’s process becomes like a dance, playing with narrative and meaning before she settles on the final result. “I never get tired of moving around bits of papers and enjoy my own colours/shapes performance on the desk,” she concludes, demonstrating the authenticity of her practice and, most importantly, the joy she derives from it.