“For me the value in mural painting is less about art as an object but the dialogue between the public space the people and the artwork.” - Andrea Wan
Hong Kong-born Andrea Wan grew up in Canada and studied film design at Emily Carr in Vancouver before travelling to Denmark to study illustration and design in Designskolen kolding. Upon finishing her studies, she moved to Berlin to bask in its vibrant creative scene. Abandoned buildings were easy to find, and hence she began contributing to large-scale murals and graffiti with her circle of creative friends at the time. The experience gave her the chance to explore the city and to expand her social circle.
Left: Mural with no name
Right: Inevitable Growth
The social aspect of creating mural art, where the entire process is open and invites the public to engage draws Andrea to this art format.
“I love the social aspect of painting murals. When I create studio works I work alone, and the viewers can only see the piece when it’s finished and ready to be presented. When I work in public people the whole process is shown live, and people often come up to me to start a conversation. Some ask questions, some offer help, some offer food they made, some give a thumbs up. Any kind of interaction or response is valuable to me, even criticism, and this is what I love about creating and sharing my work. Another reason why I love doing murals is that I enjoy doing something both physically intense and requires so much focus for a number of days. I find that very meditative.”
The process of creating a mural is not as casual as the public perceives it to be, as it requires numerous site checks, submissions of the creative concept for approval by the city, and then a range of tools to overcome height challenges and other unforeseen obstacles. As Andrea describes it, “Before I start the mural I’d get a photo of the building I will be painting on, to get an idea of the time, material and logistics needed to make it happen. I begin with a sketch, or a couple of concepts as it needs to be approved by the city and the organization I am working with. Once I arrive on site, I would first do a grid on the wall, so I can easily enlarge the art in proportion. Sometimes a projector is used to save some time, so I can trace the sketch directly from the projected image. After I make the sketch on the wall, I usually use a roller to fill the paint on the whole surface. That is the most physical part, like a full day workout. After that, all the details can be added with brushes, rollers, or spray cans.”
When asked where she finds inspiration for her creations, Andrea shares that she “enjoys reading and thinking about the human psyche and spirituality expressed in different religions and belief systems. In my sketchbook I like to make spontaneous drawings of some of these elements, as I look at theme from time to time for inspiration to create new pieces.”
There are stories of inspiration behind her dreamy, whimsical pieces., such as the story behind the mural she designed in Rovaniemi Finland last year. “The mural I did last year in Rovaniemi Finland communicates the idea that there’s a universe inside each of us to be explored, and that we are so much more than the body and mind. On the painting a plant is growing out from the palm of the figure, and the vessel-like body is carved open showing the infinite space within. The importance of nature is acknowledged and ingrained in the Finnish culture, and it coincides with the themes I have been exploring.”
You will see these ‘human elements’ within each of Andrea’s creations, such as her piece “Hang Hug”, which depicts two figures interacting by giving each other a gentle high five. With this piece, Andrea wants to encourage people to connect with each other, as it seemed to the artist that there was a lack of social spaces in Vancouver when she created this mural.
With her art, Andrea explores the psychological space and social interactions in a community and beyond, encouraging a deeper level of reflection and thought in her audience. With her art on display on public buildings, her meaningful messages have the opportunity of impacting more than just a select few. The act of reflecting on both our inner selves and society is something we can all use more of, as people get absorbed by vanity metrics on social media.
Andrea’s 2019 is starting off at a strong pace, with a three-month residency in India where she will focus on developing new works for a solo show and mural in France. During the summertime she will venture to Iran to teach young kids. Though Andrea shares that much of her inspiration comes to her naturally, these new experiences will likely weave themselves into her upcoming pieces and we can’t wait to see them.
Photos courtesy of Andrea Wan