Dr. Yanyun Chen (b. 1986, Singapore) is an artist . She runs a charcoal-based drawing and installation practice, and her works respond to writing — fictional and philosophical — as well as aesthetic traditions and techniques. She was presented with the People’s Choice Award for “The scars that write us” at the President’s Young Talents 2018 exhibition at Singapore Art Museum and is the winner of the 2019 ArtOutreach IMPART Visual Artist Award.
She received her Phd with Summa Cum Laude from the European Graduate School. She is a full-time lecturer in the Arts & Humanities division of Yale-NUS College in Singapore, the founder of illustration and animation studio Piplatchka, and the managing partner of publishing house Delere Press LLP. She lives and works in Singapore.
Curator Andrea Fam describes The scars that write us, presented at Singapore Art Museum’s President’s Young Talents 2018 exhibition, as adopting the keloid scar as its reference and attempts to provide a narrative from the point of scar carriers. Keloid scars form as a result of an overgrowth of tissue at the site of a healed skin injury. Unlike regular scars that might lighten or minimise over time and are not genetic in nature, keloids may continue to darken and grow and are a genetic feature, suggesting an ever present reminder of scars that bind a family together. The installation is perceived rather than seen, a dark quietened space; feeling almost deferential, one might experience a sense of anticipation, curiosity, and uncertainty for what lies ahead, obscured. The work’s presentation can be described as unfolding in three sections: near, far, and wide. It is meant to address the spatial proximity and imagined familiarity audiences have with as intimate a space as physical markings upon the flesh of its host. It also endeavours to provide a space to consider the unregistered contemplations of scar bearers.
Flower Flights (2018) is a continuation and development from her first exhibited series 追花 Chasing Flowers (2016). The former is a collection of material experiments, the floral motifs remain, its surfaces and mediums vary; while the latter challenges the “still-life” genre, by drawing portraits of flowers as they wilt, attesting to the concept of artist-as-witness-of-death. These drawings are representations of time manifested in the changing conditions of decaying flowers, yet culminating in what appears to be unmoving still-life drawings. Her works respond to literary texts such as 红楼梦 Dreams of the Red Chamber, On Human Bondage, and Dorian Gray, and have been published in Flower Flights, It’s Fiction (2014) and Chasing Flowers: workings (2016) written by Junni Chen, Jeremy Fernando, Anders Kølle and Dustin Hellberg. This led to charcoal explorations of 花鸟画 (bird-and-flower paintings) depicting flower mythologies in her ongoing series Poppies. These have been exhibited by Art Porters, NUSS, ChanHampe Galleries, and Visual Arts Development Association Singapore.
In the 2016, she was invited by the Singapore Horn Trio to present works at their performance of Brahms’ Opus 40. She painted a quadriptych entitled Experiments with Johannes Brahm's Horn Trio Movement 1 - 4, which weaved compositional concepts from 山水画 (Shan Shui) and 留白 techniques to visualise Brahm’s music in charcoal on Japanese linen.
Chen received her Ph.D. (Summa Cum Laude) under the Philosophy, Art, and Critical Theory division at the European Graduate School in Switzerland. Her dissertation research, entitled Skinning Nudity investigates the notion of nudity as an artificial construct — in its representations in Singapore artistic practices, in censorship limitations by the legal and policy frameworks, and through its historical evolution by local media coverage from the 1970s to 2017.
She obtained her Masters in Communications at The European Graduate School in 2014. Her thesis entitled Tracing Etymology: Origin and Time; Monsters and Demons was supervised by Wolfgang Schirmacher and Jeremy Fernando, and was published by Atropos Press in 2015. It attempts to rethink the relationship between ‘origin’ and ‘time’ in etymology and thought. It considers the paradoxical relationality between the notion of a single starting point (a fiction that etymology relies on) and the various possibilities that a hermeneutical study of a word unearths, suggesting a constellation rather than a single origin.
Chen received the Lee Kuan Yew Gold Medal Award and the Nanyang Scholarship for her Bachelors in Fine Arts (Digital Animation) with 1st class Honours from Nanyang Technological University in 2009. Since then, she has been trained at the Florence Academy of Art in Sweden, The Animation Workshop in Denmark, and under puppet makers Miroslav Trejtnar and Zdar Sorm from the Czech Republic. Her various education experiences were supported by grants from the National Arts Council, Media Development Authorities, and the Ministry of Education in Singapore. Her team built Jimmyfish, a commissioned eco-awareness flash game, which was awarded the Jury Selection Prize in the 15th Japan Media Arts Festival, 2012.
Currently, Chen is a full-time lecturer of art practice (educator track) in the Arts & Humanities Division of Yale-NUS College, National University of Singapore. She previously taught at the School of Art Design and Media, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. The studio courses she offers include ‘Art Studio Research, Experimentation and Critique’, ‘Applied Drawing’, ‘Drawing for Animation’, ‘Introduction to 2D Animation’, 'Drawing Methods’, ‘Drawing Process’, 'Life Drawing', ‘Digital Narratives’, ‘Anatomical Studies and Figurative Art’, and ‘Storyboarding’. She is also a Capstone supervisor for final year projects.
In 2016, she co-wrote an art teacher's textbook entitled 50 Drawing Exercises with artist Martin Constable (RMIT), published by the Ministry of Education. This book serves to aid in building a drawing curriculum for pre-university art education in Singapore.
Her artist assistant is Darth Meow.