Creating Your Own Style of Art


An Interview with Rui Yang, A Virtual Sneaker Artist For Nike

Yang is a young digital artist is set to break onto the global scene, having recently received accolades from Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar in China. His fascination with organic formations, and the richness of natural design has strongly shaped his iconic aesthetics, and landed him major collaborations with the likes of Nike and Rimowa. 

GLITCH had the pleasure of speaking to Yang to understand more about the inspiration behind both his digital and physical work, how he channels his creativity into sculpture and shape, and how he sees his expression of art at odds with his own personality.

What is your earliest memory of being fascinated by art?

I remember being about 17 years old when I was first introduced to digital art and learnt to use 3D software. It was at this age that I first started to do some spontaneous doodles and experiment with shapes and drawings. But in general, I think different fields of art have different artistic inspirations and so it is hard to pinpoint my earliest memory.

How did your interests develop into the realm of CGI and digital design? 

I joined an advertising agency in Beijing at the age of 19, and there, I started working as a planner and 3D artist. Through this preliminary job I was introduced to different digital technologies and aesthetic styles. Having spent my childhood amongst the millennial generation, it wasn’t until the rise of Y2K’s retro wave that I started to learn about that year’s pop culture and the evolving fields of CGI and digital art – my interest in these spaces was an afterthought. I would say that my interests developed authentically and circumstantially, and that the idea to start physically creating my own style of art was self-taught. 

Did you find the digital world more inspiring and/or more daunting than the physical world?

Yes, I feel that I have a lot of freedom in the digital world to create and produce the work I want to present. That being said, I’ve also been working on artistic expressions of physical sculptures since last year, and I feel that the combination of these two means of creation has given me a more pronounced and personal artistic style. My creativity currently bridges both worlds.

Is your work influenced by your personality and/or culture, how so?

I would say that my work contrasts greatly with my personality. And, I like the fact that this great sense of contrast can sometimes inspire me to create in many different ways. 

A lot of your 3D work has taken the form of accessories and footwear. How did you carve out a niche in this sector specifically?

Although this is true of some of my work you see across socials, I am actually exploring new things when I create each piece of work, such as different media techniques or forms of expression. For example, at the moment I am presenting art work in the form of magazines and books. Next time, I intend to use wearable devices such as nails, glasses, and clothing to make the concept physical. And then the time after that, it may be a new medium again!

Of course, whether it is online or offline, digital image is the base and core of the work I produce. I find that this GEN-Z generation of younger people like to explore new concepts and various creative media that are evolving now or will evolve in the future.

How did your “Maxxed out” project with Nike come to fruition? How was the project conceived?

Air Max Out of Bounds is a pioneering artist collaboration programme launched in Nike Greater China to encourage a new generation of GEN-Z artists to be bold and creative and to help them realise their creative concepts. I was lucky enough to join as a Virtual Sneaker artist last year. 

Since last year, I have collaborated with NIKE team for four offline exhibitions, which also gave me my first contact with physical sculpture production. Each time I collaborated with them, I was able to extract the creative clues I wanted from the DNA of Nike Air Max, and I was able to present the concepts I had accumulated in each of the collaborations because I knew more about the culture of NIKE

What was your favorite part of this collaboration with such a renowned brand name?

I love the respect NIKE TEAM has for artists and the high level of openness and support for creativity; the Air Max Out of Bounds programme has influenced a new generation of young artists in China to dare to do whatever they feel is right. 

You work has been featured on packaging, on magazine covers, in digital realms and in showrooms. Through which form do you most enjoy expression art, why?

As I said, I am actually exploring new ideas in every creative process, such as different media techniques or forms of expression. I will also intend to be more daring in the future to do some cross-disciplinary creations to express the concepts that I think of at every stage of my journey. 

Do you think your work is well matched to the athleisure and sportswear industry? Why or why not?

The sports and apparel industries are precisely the areas that I continue to work with because of my long career in advertising agencies over the past few years; they are industries that I specialise in and understand in depth. Therefore, I feel that my work lends itself to these spaces.

How do you continue to be original and unique in an oversaturated creative industry, is it possible?

I think it’s a combination of adapting to trends, while also maintaining your own creative style. I think balancing these two things is how I would identify uniqueness. 

What do you see changing in the world of digital design come 2025?

The AI field is only set to become even more advanced and sophisticated. I think more people outside the art industry will be involved in producing more amazing work. I think this new wave of creators and idea generators is something to look forward to!

Interviewed by Hebe Street from GLITCH Magazine

Words by Rui Yang


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