With a hint of surrealism, Jiayue Li talks us through her dreamlike and thoughtful compositions

With a hint of surrealism, Jiayue Li talks us through her dreamlike and thoughtful compositions


So much so that we were instantly gripped by the artist’s use of colour and thoughtful compositions. Working with texture and paper, Jiayue’s ideas are intricately traced onto the page with coloured pencils – creating this roughly sketched and dreamlike illustration aesthetic. On the topic of how she came to land on this particularly style, she cites Slovakian illustrator Dušan Kállay as her main influence for his “eccentric” images and compositions. Elsewhere, there’s Florentine painter and mathematician Paolo Uccello, “whose work consists of a lot of plot and rhythm”. Jiayue can spend a hefty amount of time looking at just one painting, and finds plenty of depth within Paolo’s work. Small moments of the everyday, plus animals, nature, music, films, books and themes of “women empowerment and mysticism” also play a huge part in her process, which are then transformed into scale with symmetry and “allegorical references” used to present the artist’s narrative.

Although working predominantly with analogue techniques, Jiayue will also use digital tools such as a tablet, Photoshop, Illustrator and Adobe Fresco to refine her aesthetic. Layer upon layer, her pencil marks are formed with ease and care as she places her female protagonists in the centre. A recent piece of hers depicts three birds with human faces in the middle of the animal’s body. A strange concept at first, she explains how while creating this piece there was a Nordic folk song stuck in her head, “distant and hollow”. She adds: “It symbolises our endless desire to transform into something we are not.” Hidden among the realistic portraits, you’ll stumble across more earthy florals, and faces that have been sliced and morphed into something that’s ever so slightly unrealistic. A head opened up and exposing a sky of clouds is just one example, or a trio of faces that appear to have left their bodies behind.

As a whole, Jiayue’s works almost certainly give off a hint of surrealism. “But,” she adds, “it’s just some eccentric combination of daily sparkles.” Within her most recent illustrations, she hopes that her audience can find some unexpected moments of joy, but most importantly, it’s up to the viewer to interpret her hidden stories.



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