At first glance, Yanyun Chen’s works look like black-and-white photographs. Look closer – they’re in fact charcoal drawings. The subjects range from nudes to crystal ware, but it’s the still lifes of simple floral bouquets that are the most poignant.
Part of Chen’s Chasing Flowers series – her latest – each captures a classic, almost homey arrangement of blooms. The allure is in the alarmingly life-like details, which come down to the artist’s technical chops. The freelance illustrator trained in drawing at the prestigious Florence Academy of Fine Art, which focuses on classical techniques. She’s also an animation pro, winning the Lee Kuan Yew Gold Medal while still an undergrad at the Nanyang Technological University (she now teaches live drawing at its School of Art, Design and Media).
Their hauntingly beautiful quality might also have to do with her creative process: She draws them as they wither. In the few days that it takes to complete each portrait, she works in bouts of three to four hours, rushing to finish before everything wilts instead of replacing them at intervals. She explains her choice of subject: “They’re always changing, and don’t last long… an apt metaphor for life.”
Since starting on the series last June, she’s completed eight drawings; six have sold to private collectors for between $2,500 and $3,000 – about twice what one would expect for a new artist here. The fashion world is taking notice too. Last December, luxury multi-label accessories retailer On Pedder included one of Chen’s floral portraits in an art installation at its Scotts Square boutique.
An adapted version first appeared in Female’s October issue.