“I want to show what I have seen”: Miranda Fengyuan Zhang’s woollen paintings are based on her memories

The Shangai-born and New York-based artist uses coloured woollen threads to weave in moments from her past – a process that takes at least a week to complete.

22 May 2020

For some, the thought of becoming an artist can feel like a far reaching dream. Miranda Fengyuan Zhang, born in Shangai and currently based in New York, felt just that – having grown up in a less-than artistic family, she’d never imagined a career in the arts until her junior year in college. “Back then, I was a liberal art student in NYU,” she tells It’s Nice That. “In the summer between sophomore and junior years, I took an elective ceramics class in the art school. Since then, I was obsessed with materials; I realised that it was the only thing I could focus on for hours and hours.”

This transformative moment meant that Miranda was now able to foresee a future as an artist. Currently working full-time out of her home studio, this is where she tends to her intricate woollen creations. The inspiration for such comes from a short moment ago when she had visited MoMA with friends, encountering Matisse’s Red Studio and instantly losing breath in amazement of the colour, composition and mood. “Since then, whenever I go to MoMA I would go and visit this painting, and every time it moves me as I stand in front of it,” she explains. Additionally, she admires the work of Louise Bourgeois, an all-time role model and someone she “truly feels respect” for. “She can utilise any materials to execute any ideas in her works, no matter if it’s just a piece of drawings on a music sheet, or a cast bronze sculpture. Moreover, she never gave up what she truly believes in, when people started questioning her works saying that they are naive and childlike.”


Miranda Fengyuan Zhang: Wild lily

This aspect of material experimentation is key throughout Miranda’s work. Waking at around three in the afternoon, Miranda will eat her ‘breakfast’ and think about the rest of her day (and evening) to come. Most certainly a night owl, she will either head to her loom or table to resume an unfinished piece, and more often than not she will work until around five in the morning. Using yarns and threads, she has, since last year, been creating a series of yarn paintings. “These works are mostly knitted,” she says, “all I need are different colours, textures of yarns and a pair of knitting needles.” Then, she begins her intuitive process by laying out the colour palettes and textures on the table, beginning to pick them directly on the needle or mixing in further desirable yarns. “After, it will be a continuous process of knitting,” she adds on her method, usually taking between one to two weeks to complete a single piece.

Miranda’s recent work, I10E – on show at Halsey Mckay gallery in New York – is one that she points out as a favourite, and is exemplary of the work that she wants to create. Most of her pieces are inspired by nature or from a specific place that she’s visited and, for this piece, it was the Interlace 10 east highway that caught her eye. “I recalled the time when I was on a trip to visit my friends in Tuscon, Arizona,” Miranda says of the fond memory. “I was in a shuttle form Phenix to Tuscon on I-10E. In the shuttle, there were only a few people with me. The whole trip was about two hours and I couldn’t fall asleep. The outside was very dark as the west is filled with desert.” The only thing that Miranda could see was the lights from the highway and cars outside, which sat in harsh contrast to its desolate unlit backdrop. “The moment really moved me as I made the I10E piece later on. I was really trying to mimic this certain mood and colour of the magic wild west at night.”

The ways in which Miranda revisits her memories is unique; using thread after coloured thread, she will reflect on her past and weave in each and every mood, moment or piece of history. What she hopes to achieve from her practice is a feeling of honesty; “I want my audience to feel my works are honest and that I’m honest about my idea,” she says, which is similar to the feelings that she gets from the work of Louise Bourgeois. Even if there are obvious flaws or mistakes within, she hopes that by leaving these imperfections visible to her audience then it will allow for an even deeper connection of truthfulness. “I want to show them what I have seen and what I have felt through the lens of my works,” she concludes. “It was my story, my landscape, my colour and maybe it can also be theirs too.”

GalleryMiranda Fengyuan Zhang




Paris light


Falling rabbit


Little bug and bear hand


Hold on tight to your balloon


Not for valentine




Magic bottle

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Miranda Fengyuan Zhang: The nap

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About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla is a London-based freelance writer, editor and consultant specialising in art, photography, design and culture. After joining It’s Nice That in 2017 as editorial assistant, she was interim online editor in 2022/2023 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. She has written for i-D, Dazed, AnOther, WePresent, Port, Elephant and more, and she is also the managing editor of design magazine Anima. 

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