“I make up for the missing part of myself through drawing”: Huanhuan Wang on the similarities of image making and language
The Brussels-based illustrator discusses how she imagines herself in a situation, then illustrates it, in her evocative artworks.
- Jyni Ong
- 25 May 2021
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
Huanhuan Wang came to illustration via interior design, a subject she dedicated her undergraduate studies to. The transition came naturally to the Zhejiang-born creative, as illustration required only a small work space and a computer. Other than that, the work could be done from anywhere and in any place, and that greatly appealed to Huanhuan, who is now living in Brussels. “I enjoy my time alone,” she tells us, an attitude which suits her chosen discipline. With this in mind, Huanhuan pours a mix of emotions into her striking, beautiful practice. Emotions, she explains, of “anxiety, jealousy, vanity and enthusiasm.”
In 2018, Huanhuan journeyed to Paris to study for a master’s degree at École de Condé which led her to Brussels where she is currently attending the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Still at the beginning of her creative career (three years in, to be precise) Huanhuan admits she is still finding her feet when it comes to style. Not that you would think it when observing her clearly defined lines and sense of nuanced emotion expressed through her colour palette, tonal choices and serene compositions.
Drawn to “strong contrasting colours” which contribute to the delicate emotion of Huanhuan’s works, the illustrator creates narrative pictures where she can weave fantasy, new plots and autobiographical experiences together. “The skill of drawing and language, for me, are beautiful in the same way,” she continues. “I thought that if I didn’t draw, I would be a romance novelist.” Romance is just one theme that arises from the illustrator’s work. Characters intimately intertwine and the use of a seductive, blood red colour evokes a dripping sense of allure. Elsewhere in the work hints of fantasy, mythology and history seep through, expressed in Huanhuan’s stark depictions.
“Most of my inspiration comes from my desire for love,” she explains. “I make up for the missing part of myself through drawing. I describe a romantic illusion, imagine myself in it, and vent my unsatisfactory emotions from the real world.” In turn, Huanhuan’s use of highly saturated, strong colour forms a feeling of “contradictory drama” imbued with sadness and romance wrapped up into one image. She goes on to say, “I always think, like a little girl: anyone could leave me, but drawing will not.”
For now, Huanhuan’s portfolio is made up of mostly personal work. Some are four panel comics, others being powerful standalone illustrations which speak volumes in the details and colour. She talks us through a favourite recent series titled Illegal Love Story, where she adopts the simplest panelled comic format to explore certain storylines. “The story is subtle in that there is no beginning and ending,” she adds. Highly interpretive, the viewer can deduce their own narrative from the suggestive comics. The oozing red for one person might denote something entirely different to another.
As for Huanhuan, the story behind the red is as follows: “I like red, so I use the most direct and hottest. I like roses, so I paint the fullest and most delicate roses. Like Shakespeare’s plays, full of absurdity and beauty.” Elsewhere in her work, she has been commissioned by condom brand Okamoto to create a poster for the new year. For this brief, she tasked herself with using simple images and colours to express desire. As commercial illustrations can be restrained, she attacked the project in a similar way. As for the future, Huanhuan hopes to further her work as an image poet, stirring up stories and emotion from both a visual and conceptual viewpoint.
GalleryCopyright © Huanhuan Wang, 2021
About the Author
Jyni became a staff writer in March 2019 having previously joined the team as an editorial assistant in August 2018. She graduated from The Glasgow School of Art with a degree in Communication Design in 2017 and her previous roles include Glasgow Women’s Library designer in residence and The Glasgow School of Art’s Graduate Illustrator.