Cyan Zhao

Artist Statement

Growing up I was perceived as a “bad kid” even though I did not engage in typically bad or evil behavior. Because of this, I became interested in how people decide upon the subject of evil. I went on to focus my studies on history and philosophy, where I was taught to have an objective mind when approaching a new subject matter. This is a lesson that would be carried into my personal morals and my artwork.

Through my illustrations, I want to better the understanding of evil from an objective point of view. To do so, I proposed different questions for me and my audience in my work.  Is terror evil? Is unease evil? Is darkness evil? Is anxiousness evil? Is false representation evil? By challenging my perception of the subject, in a way, I also question others’ definition of my younger self. Through this process, I have begun to sympathize with everything around me. My goal is for the audience to question their definitions, as well. To question the nature of my stories that are presented with the “before” moment, and, in turn, sympathizing with the negativity one foresees in the world.

For example, my piece, Pelagic, communicates my fascination with independence. The title describes creatures that inhabit the open sea who survive without accessing the shore. Sharks are pelagic animals and they are feared by most of us due to our lack of contact with the species. In this illustration, my younger self was depicted in my childhood apartment, reaching out to a shark in the setting sun of Beijing. Pelagic animals don’t need to rely on human’s beaches or resourceful coastlines to survive. For me, it almost seemed dreamy to be independent and free to roam in the bottom of the deep blue sea. I adored the freedom of the shark and everything that came with it.  

Just like sharks, most misunderstood beings are just themselves. This led me to also explore the necessity of the definition of evil itself. I believe that we should all be able to live as who we are without labels.