Shen, Ying-Fang


Ying-Fang Shen
from Taiwan

  • artist biography
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    Interview: 10 questions

    1. Tell me something about your life and the educational background.
    I grew up in Taiwan, a mountain inland in the West Pacific Ocean. Taipei, the place I lived, is a crowded city surrounded by lush hills. Since I was four, drawing kept me occupied, and I knew that art would be my career. In the following years I have been answering that calling in my heart. The visual experience from my hometown and the pattern of Chinese culture helped me lay down some framework for my art in the later years. I received a Painting BFA in Taipei National University of the Arts in 2000, and a Painting MFA in National Taiwan Normal University in 2004.
    Apart from painting, I have developed an increasing interest in digital media. I have gained a deep appreciation for films and animations, and the role and function they play in the art community. In 2006, I came to the US for pursuing my second MFA in Digital Art at Indiana University, and since my arrival I have grown interested in conveying subtle feelings and ideas to frames without spoken words.

    2. When, how and why started you filming?
    Previous to 2005, I was a painter. For some time, I have found that forms and shapes in nature pleased my eyes, inspired me, and formed patterns and structures in my mind. My mind used to import images through frame forms, like windows, buildings, and screens, and output them as rectangular figures. The foci are slightly like flowing points.
    Thus, as time goes by, images brought me more and more ideas about movements and tracks. I once stood on a boat and watched hundreds of sea gulls flying overhead, and I felt overwhelmed by the beauty of their course. I then realized that I could no longer depict such a structure in a still frame, so I started my work in time-based media, and made my first animation in 2005.

    3. What kind of subjects have your films?
    Recently, I have focused primarily on nature, and tend to represent natural subjects and the characters that conveys.
    As I previously mentioned, the city where I grew up had its urban swarm encircled by a mass of dark green. This contrast framed my visual experience, and my perspective on both civic sights and nature. I sometimes portray natural aspects in an urban environment, such as “Bustle”.
    When I moved to Bloomington (the beautiful town where Indiana University is located) in 2006, I felt myself totally captured by its natural landscape and colorful plants. The scenery here is quite distinct from what I was accustomed, and I have been immersed in the natural subjects and trying to pour my thought into it.
    I work alone on my projects most of the time, because it allows me the most control and flexibility.

    4. How do you develop your films, do you follow certain principles, styles etc?
    I tend to deal contemplatively and painterly with mundane subjects. Usually, I start my work from a tiny point, and then expand it to an open-ended microcosm. Sometimes sounds, forms, and textures inspire me and help me with creating characters. For example, I started to make “蝕 (Eclipse)" by listening attentively to leaves at night.
    Regarding techniques, since this media is new to me, I like to explore different methods and search for different possibilities.

    5. Tell me something about the technical equipment you use.
    A digital camcorder and some software: Final Cut Pro, After Effects, Macromedia Flash. When working on stop-motion animations, like “Blank”, I usually need more tools such as lights, paper, knives, etc.

    6. What are the chances of new media for the genre film/video in general and you personally?
    To me, new media makes preparing new works simpler, and brings more possibilities to films. With new functions, I may not only adjust the tone, shapes, and value, but also effortlessly combine many footages to create what I need, such as the trees ‘staring’ in “Eclipse”.

    7. How do you finance your films?
    (1) A scholarship from Indiana University.
    (2) Self-funded and family-provided support.

    8. Do you work individually as a video artist/film maker or do you work in a team? If you
    have experience in both, what is the difference, what do you prefer?

    I work individually. Admittedly, team working and individual working provides different pleasures and advantages, but working alone sometimes makes the process easier — especially when creating short films.

    9. Who or what has a lasting influence on your film/video making?

    Chinese traditional operas and Cloud Gate Dance Theatre have lasting influences on my work. Those performance arts taught me the idea of narration.
    I was very inspired when watching some Chinese traditional operas again few years ago, especially after getting used to western dramas and Hollywood movies. Then I realized how broad narrative media and methods could be. The operas have a big contrast between the content and narration. Most of the stories are concrete and with strong structures, but the ways to perform them are usually abstract and implicative. Besides, with empty stages and strange tones, plots are perceived in a peculiar way.
    Cloud Gate Dance Theatre, a contemporary dance company in Taiwan, presents distinct choreographic language roots in Asian myths, folklore, and aesthetics. I was stunned by the contemporary and universal perspective of this language, and the age-old beliefs and stories behind it. The performance sent me a strong impression of power, richness, depth, and refinement, and from this, I sensed how movement functions as a narrative element.

    10. What are your future plans or dreams as a film/video maker?
    I would like to keep working, experimenting, and exploring new methods. My goal is to make longer films that combine more disciplines such as calligraphy, painting, literature, and music. To me, film/video provides a wide range of possibilities with which I am excited to be absorbed in for many years.