Yimin Qiao’s Weird Daily Flower is a record of unpredictable seasonal change over the past year
The Royal College of Art grad talks us through her breathtaking illustration practice and explains why having a signature visual language is “intense and unsatisfying”.
- Jyni Ong
- 5 August 2021
During the pandemic, Yimin Qiao made a promise to herself. She would draw one flower per day for a year in order to “catch some certainty in a turbulent time”, the London-based illustrator tells us. The project allowed Yimin to come to the realisation that some works constantly grow, much like a living plant. A project that evolved with the passing of time, each day presented Yimin with a new challenge and over time, she realised the outcome could not be predicted. Titled Weird Daily Flower, the collection of beautifully drawn illustrations has a deeper meaning for The Royal College of Art grad: “like we lost many opportunities for contact with the outside world,” she says, “the accumulated materials still represent a seasonal change.”
This is just one project courtesy of the thoughtfully minded Yimin. Born and raised in Taiyuan – a northern Chinese city and capital of Shanxi Province, known for its manufacturing bases – Yimin went onto study graphic design in Chengdu where she focused on sharpening up her branding, advertising and other design-related skills. A far cry from the delicately poised illustrations that we see before us today, Yimin began to explore the medium as a deeper meaning of expression and “the most natural way to help me to express myself.”
For Yimin, drawing is an innate habit. It allows her to achieve a state of relaxation. By drawing, she enters a zone of total concentration, her mind is emptied of inhibition and she is carried away into a different psychological mindset. She remembers doodling on her textbooks at school, which now carries on in the form of doodling in a lecture or on the tube. Just like how subconscious gestures automatically sooth nervous tics, for Yimin, drawing is that gesture. Whether it looks good or not is irrelevant, it’s the movement and the process that’s at the crux of this feeling.
In this way, Yimin is unconcerned with having a signature visual language. She’s found the expectation of making something that looks a certain way “intense and unsatisfying” because the process is concerned with making an image “acceptable to other people”. Instead, the illustrator sets her own expectations for her work, focusing on the energy exuding from an image as opposed to what it looks like. “Now I tend to think that the visual language is more about the accumulation of one’s drawing habits and its visual representation of the energy and feeling based on the creator’s intention. It should be flexible.”
Combining daily observations with a layer of imagination, a sprinkle of humour and a hint of sentimentality too, Yimin makes connections through seemingly trivial objects and elevates them into a higher experience. Her illustrations are rooted in mundane moments which make her feel strange or spark a flicker of imagination. Using her intuition to capture these moments in time, Yimin relies on her natural instincts to prompt her creativity as she doesn’t want her work to be too rational, nor does she want to analyse or reduce her process to appear like a mathematical formula.
Weird Daily Flower is an example of exactly this, but Yimin also demonstrates this thinking through other projects. Most notably in A Great Exhibition which consists of a collection of imaginative manuals based on human inventions and cultural symbols. The project also started in the pandemic when most public spaces closed and in turn, objects with a public function lost their purpose. Yimin altered the meaning and intention of these objects; she envisions lamp posts as birthday candles, bus shelters as seesaws, bank counters as a place for people to shake hands and more. Echoing the 1851 The Great Exhibition – widely considered Britain’s most influential public event in the 19th century – Yimin’s historical response acts as a space to look back and reflect. At the moment, it takes the form of a website but in the future, she hopes it will become an archive of her urban space related practice where she can upload her various discoveries. Expect this, and plenty more project-based making from Yimin in the future.
Yimin Qiao: Keep Connected (Copyright © Yimin Qiao, 2021)
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.