Studying the way our visual perception works has helped Yuqing Zhu understand how it is invariably linked with how artists use the visual medium to convey abstract concepts and ideas especially in surrealist art.
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Though she is currently taking a doctoral degree in neuroscience, Zhu has been an artist since she was a child. Most of her artwork now focuses on exploring her Chinese heritage inspired by the images and stories she grew up hearing from her parents and grandparents. It’s a way for her to rediscover her identity. And with the insights she gained from her studies in neuroscience, she is able to add another layer onto the art she creates.
When she came to the United States at seven years old, Zhu prioritized fitting in at school in North Carolina, where she lived for a year before moving to Cupertino, California.
“At the time, I was very focused on not being Chinese,” she said. “I feel like I robbed myself of something that I had, and now in creating art I’m trying to regain it.”
“My heritage impacts who I am and how other people see me. It may impact what kind of artwork people expect me to create.”
A childhood Chinese art teacher influenced Zhu’s work as well. The “old school” instructor made her draw at easels for hours, rarely giving compliments. She now uses paper and graphite to make realistic drawings on paper, but mixes in atypical loose pigments such as pots of eyeshadow—softer than pastels, and good for adding a flush of color to the skin.
“He taught me a lot of discipline, to really love creating, and really good technique,” Zhu said.
(Image credit: Yuqing Zhu)