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“I find it creatively rewarding to see my work in different realms. I’m very curious and always have a creative urge, which is why I have produced animated gifs, pop-up books, zines, clothing, watches, murals, and have even collaborated with a chef on a dish inspired by my paintings.”

-Priscilla Yu

Your style is so uniquely your own. You create worlds that intuitively combine perfect ratios of color, form, and texture. What led you to your distinctive style as an artist?

When it comes to the form and geometric style in my work, I usually share about the experience of doodling in high school math class, and how extending the lines of the polygons in my trigonometry notebook and boredom led to the development of the style in the worlds within my artwork today.

However, I think that the colors, textures, combinations and ratios in my work really stem from the moments in my childhood of spending countless hours in my bedroom, dressing up, rearranging my bedroom, painting, making collages, and being obsessively interested in fashion magazines. I would take in every inch of each photography spread and all of the advertisements.

When you rearrange your room a billion times, assemble outfits based on what you have in the closet, you really get to learn the color and texture combinations and ratios that bring you harmony and joy. You learn how to create within a constraint and beautiful surprises come from that. I think that I internalized these visual combinations that simply felt good and use them in my art today.

I also have a good memory for color combinations that I see in my everyday life, ones that move me, and ones that give me joyful feelings in my gut. I tend to be very visually-sensitive and it has always been a part of my personality.

You crossed over to the street art realm when you created a unique wall for Vancouver Mural Festival. Have you worked on outdoor projects in the past? How did this project transpire and what inspired you to create the piece you did?

Vancouver Mural Festival was a real milestone for me. I had worked on outdoor projects in the past, but nothing close to the scale of the piece that I did for VMF this year. I had worked with the curator over half a dozen times in the past few years, and he called me up during the spring to ask if I would be interested in painting a mural for the festival this year.

I was very excited about this opportunity as I knew it would be a really great step not only for an emerging artist, but also for my self-confidence. I had never used a scissor lift before, painted a large mural without a projection for the sketch, been a position to direct a team of volunteers, or completed something like this in a week. It was such a thrilling and empowering learning curve!

Naturally, that idea entered into the theme of my mural, titled ‘Befriend Your [Inner] Demons’. It is about acknowledging your inner demons and insecurities…all the things in the story of you that you tell yourself, but also being kind to yourself, and gently growing around these things so that you can live your life fully. The inner demons and quirks in your personality that make life sometimes difficult, also make you unique and help develop a special type of empathy unique to you.

On the right side of the mural, there is a yellow creature that represents my inner demons and my fearful aspects. On the left side of the mural, there is an architectural form that is representative of a female head bust. In the “attic” of the “head”, there is a plant growing and thriving out of her “mind”. The female form and the yellow creature share a plant that extends across the whole mural, coexisting and thriving.

Obviously, the mural is on the abstract side, with lots of colours and pattern, and a variety of focal points but the theme creates conversation when asked about the title and the theme.

I was fortunate enough to see your work featured at the Art Rapture event in Vancouver. How did you become involved in this event and can you tell me more about the particular pieces you exhibited?

I had been following Art Rapture for a while now, so when the chief curator contacted me I was really flattered and excited! One of the co-curators had also seen my work through my submissions for the magazine that she founded they added my work to the mix of artists on the roster.

In my initial meeting over coffee with the chief curator, I was really impressed with his experience in the art business, his overall personality, drive, and his generosity in sharing all of that. I knew that I would learn a lot from him and that the show would be solid.

The exhibition was loosely themed ‘Prohibition’ and artists could take this in any direction that they wanted. I created three new pieces specifically for the show. My take on it was the idea of self-prohibition. For example, in the piece titled ‘The Illusion of Safety’, there is a cage full of beautiful and vibrant butterflies sitting above a waterfall, with two predators nearby. The butterflies represent the expressive parts of myself that I am constantly trying to protect but also want to share. In the end, the cage won’t really protect you from what you fear of others’ perceptions and judgement. There is no safety in the cage, you might as well be free and brave. In a lot of ways, my work is very personal through symbols and abstraction.

You formally studied art at Emily Carr University of Art. Have you seen a transformation in your work since that point of time?

Yes and no! Some of the artwork in the first two semesters make me cringe so bad, it’s actually hard to think about them because they’re mostly repressed memories. One time, I made a 5 ft tall metal pineapple made out of 106 joist hangers. Don’t ask me why. Another time for a design class business branding project, I created branding for a fictional business that sold replicated coveted body parts of celebrities (ie. Angelina Jolie’s lips, Jennifer Anniston wig). You have to remember that I went directly into art school right after high school, so I had some very wacky ideas. I think that it’s important to begin with exploring wacky ideas before narrowing down and focusing.

In second year, I discovered illustration, really honed in, and continued on the same path as the doodles that I did in high school math class. I realized that when you set stylistic constraints, such as making most of the lines in your paintings geometric and angular, the result is exciting and often surprising. The boundaries are simultaneously challenging and liberating. Like looking at clouds and imagining what the shapes could be, I use these constraints as starting points. It’s also great for catching the floating bits in your subconscious which I have been very interested in ever since.

I also did my first indoor mural that year, and began a habit of keeping sketchbooks and making a lot of work inside and outside of school. Since then, my techniques and mediums have evolved, but I still use the same method of thinking with constraints. I’m more confident with my work and have more tools for pushing through creative blocks.

I still love creating illustration work for clients, in a less linear, more abstract, less rigid, and more intuitive way. All within the themes I’m asked to communicate, and within the stylistic constraint of geometric forms, that has really become my own style.

You are clearly fearless when it comes to artistic experimentation. As a multi-disciplinary artist you draw from various forms of inspiration. What are your preferred mediums and how do they contribute to your artistic vision as a whole?

Painting is probably my favourite thing to do! I love using Acryla Gouache paints because you get very vibrant and opaque colours that can be easily controlled. At the same time, you can make the paint very transparent and loose. It’s the perfect medium for creating the worlds that I have in my mind.

I’m also very drawn to fashion because there are crossovers with my way of painting. Intuitive combinations of unlikely texture and colour that bring a sense of balance are my greatest thrill. I also love interior, furniture, and glassware design. Bjork is a very big inspiration to me with her multi-disciplinary practice. No matter what she is experimenting with, it is still very much in her own voice, with nothing worldly holding her vision back.

I find it creatively rewarding to see my work in different realms. I’m very curious and always have a creative urge, which is why I have produced animated gifs, pop-up books, zines, clothing, watches, murals, and have even collaborated with a chef on a dish inspired by my paintings.


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