Internationnally renowned for her artistic visual work, Andrea Wan was awarded Western Magazine’s best illustration in 2013. A true globetrotter, she explores her subconscious to create aesthetically pleasing, as well as profound, visuals. In between two trips, Andrea let us journey into her mind.
Hi Andrea! What’s striking about you is your globetrotter side! You were born in HongKong, grew up in Vancouver, studied for a while in Denmark and you now live in Berlin. Three continents, three cultures, three different influences: how is this cultural wealth useful to you?
I guess having lived and traveled in different place turned me an adaptable person. I’ve always been curious by other cultures and interested in meeting all kinds of people in general. Being open minded to new experiences and aware of the surroundings also bring constant new inspirations to my art.
Art has always been an interest to you, but you began with media. When did you realise you just had to draw?
At a very young age I was already interested in drawing and storytelling. I loved making story books just like the children books I read. It was a hobby of mine without being totally aware of it being “Art”. I studied filmmaking in an art school, and upon graduation I went back to making more drawings and decided pursue Illustration in Denmark. At that time I was more determined that drawing and painting was the best way to express my ideas.
According to you, illustration is the same as storytelling, it’s supposed to say something. Can you tell us a story, then, behind one of your drawings you particularly like?
I see my drawings rather as different scenes telling part of a story, but not the full story. For example, this piece named “Question about the future” depicts a scene with a group sitting around an Ouiija board. The characters called up a spirit and take turns to ask questions about the future, while the sloths are recording the whole scene with their devices and googling for answers. In a way the piece serves as an invitation to a “happening” to the viewers and let them question what roles the characters might play in the story.
Your style is quite phantasmagorical and surrealistic. Apparently you like to observe the relationship between the conscious and the subconscious. How does this help you in your creative process?
I realized that I work best when I have a general idea for a theme, but without a specific plan on what to draw. Leaving part of the process unplanned allows me to bring out part of my unconscious side, which is very important for my work. I like to look at my works after they’re done and analyse them as if I’m my own psychologist. Rather than being completely rational, I’d prefer to be instinctual in practice, as the work always turns out to be more honest in the end.
We can see this work on the subconscious in your Exploding Heads series, of which one of thedrawings is featured on our CASSETETE tshirt from OLOW’s 2016 Spring Summer collection. What does this explosion mean for you?
An explosion of new ideas that stems from the past.
The illustration you did for our MAILLE tshirt is quite intriguing. Can you tell us what the hands you drew are knitting?
The hands are connecting humans an unexplainable way which sometimes feels predestinated.
You describe your art as being a “personal and visual journal”. How are you able to reconcile that very intimate side with the demands of the brands you work for?
In fact most brands I’ve worked for give me a lot of freedom into doing what I want, as they liked specifically the world I create. I’d also kindly reject works that doesn’t seem to fit my style in nature. Having said that, l do enjoy the challenge of illustrating things that I wouldn’t normally draw, because that often leads to new and unexpected ideas for my personal work. You never know!
We heard you were once a piano teacher. What musical genres help you work and think?
Yes! I had a classical background in music. I listen to a lot of indie bands but I like anything else that makes my ears happy, but it totally depends on my mood when I’m working.
Rome, Berlin, Stockholm, Vancouver, Portland, Paris, Hawaii, Miami, San Francisco… You have exhibited all over the world! What do you think is universal in your art, making it successful everywhere?
A lot of my work are emotionally driven, and those are basic human emotions that a lot of people can relate to either they are aware of them or not. Also I guess most of us liked reading stories as kids, so I think my work might have provided a world for a lot of grown up kids (as well as little kids) to get lost in.
As you have travelled a lot, you must have met quite a few people. Are there any artists in particular you’d like to tell us about?
Some creatives I’ve known for a while in Berlin are Johannes Mundinger, Rylsee, The Low Bros, Pablo Benzo and Alex Godwin (Billy) just to name a few – they are inspiring to me not only as artists but also as awesome human beings.
Which town will be welcoming your next exhibition?
I’m in a group exhibition at CASS contemporary in TAMPA, Florida. The next one will be at Spoke Art in San Francisco. At the moment I don’t have another solo exhibition planned yet. I’m taking time to experiment a little and develop my next series.