These Are a Few of Yannis Chan’s Favorite Things
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this post ran in 2023. We’re publishing this update in honor of our December 2023 exhibition, From the Mixed-Up Files of NOT REAL ART, which includes work from Yannis Chan.
Pop songs and Poké Balls, dapper dogs and angel wings—these are a few of Yannis Chan’s favorite things. Calling herself a “philosophy enthusiast and dreamy Sagittarius,” the Hong Kong-born artist sprinkles her dreamy figure paintings with symbols that speak to her psyche.
Now settled in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Yannis incorporates elements of everyday life into her work, turning mundane moments into childlike fantasies. Inspired by Surrealists like Rene Magritte, Frida Kahlo, and Diego Rivera, Yannis channels her love of animals and Japanese animation into a signature style that combines her influences into one big surreal smoothie. “My painting carries with it the message of dreams and hopes,” Yannis says, adding that she fantasized about becoming a professional artist as a young girl who drew her own paper dolls. Still, Yannis’ progress as a self-taught painter didn’t always look like a straight line. “I have, like so many others, gone through a process of being ignored, ridiculed, rejected, and having to constantly question my own artistic processes while searching for my own style,” she tells NOT REAL ART. “The process of painting demands sincerity, inspiration, and freshness to complete each one.”
Luxuriating in the sight and scent of oil paints—“their smell and texture are mesmerizing”—Yannis creates tenderhearted work that captures the wide-eyed innocence of childhood dreams. Her signature series, the Guardian Angel Collection, restores reverence for the natural world by outfitting fluffy pets and wild animals with hearts, halos, and angel wings. The series reminds viewers that “all life is a gift from God, has inner spirituality, [and] should be equal and worthy of respect.”
Narrowing her focus to portraiture for her next series, Half and Half, Yannis plans to explore the complexity of the human psyche. “Each person has a unique personality, which may be difficult to discern from the outside,” Yannis says, explaining that she sees it as an opportunity to understand her sitter more intimately: “Some people appear to be cold and calculating, but have a kind heart; others appear gentle and fragile, but have an inner strength.”
Scroll through to view Yannis’ work, then head to our December 2023 exhibition, From the Mixed-up Files of NOT REAL ART, to see her submission, “Wherever I Go, You Bring Me Home.”
“All life is a gift from God, has inner spirituality, [and] should be equal and worthy of respect.” — Yannis Chan
All photos published with permission of the artist(s).
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