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PARIS — With a 3-foot pile of fashion magazines cluttering her studio, it comes as little surprise that up-and-coming artist Yi Zhou’s work has something immediately pretty about it.
“I like giving off positive energy,” says the spry 24-year-old, Shanghai-born Zhou, who moved here three years ago. “So much of what you see in the art world is tortured. I want to give pleasure.”
Since her debut show at the Noirmont Prospect gallery here two years ago, Zhou has rapidly made a name for herself with computer-video art that is part manga, part ancient Chinese calligraphy.
In one piece — thanks to Flash Media and video animation techniques — she appears dressed in a red box hopping among mushrooms. An electronic drawing has her peering from behind big aviator sunglasses. And another, inspired by an ancient Chinese myth of thwarted love, features stylized butterflies fluttering across a screen.
Much of Zhou’s art can be viewed on her Internet sites: yi-yo.net and yizhou.fr.
“She has a unique point of view,” says Vincent Boucheron, director of Noirmont Prospect. “It’s cute and fresh and playful. But it is not merely surface. It has poetry. It’s very subtle.”
In mid-September, Zhou exhibited a new computer animation piece in Moscow as part of a traveling group show of 40 emerging European artists organized by Comme des Garçons. At the end of the month, Sony will launch a DVD-cum-art-project series, DVD by Numbers, which includes a 40-minute animated piece depicting a peacock wandering across a wistful snowy landscape. “Yi Out of the Blue” — a new piece — was also recently unveiled at the Tirana Biennale in Albania.
Some among the fashion set have already discovered Zhou’s charms.
“There’s always sensuality in her work. It looks innocent, but it works on many different levels,” says Emanuel Ungaro creative director Giambattista Valli, who has been friends with Zhou for several years. “She’s been very inspiring to me.”
Zhou moved with her family from China to Italy in her early teens. Although interested in art from an early age, she studied political science at the American University in Rome and Paris and at the London School of Economics.
But after moving to Paris, Zhou began making art, quickly gravitating to computer-generated techniques.
“I like working with computers because I can have an idea and do it practically instantaneously,” she says. “I’m not interested in the narrative form of video art. I’m more interested in creating states of mind.
“I don’t think someone should need to have read hundreds of books to be able to understand what I’m doing,” she adds. “It should work first on an emotional level. Art doesn’t need to be ugly to mean something.”
Perhaps that’s what attracts Zhou to fashion. She has created a T-shirt for designer Gaspard Yurkievich, with whom she shares a studio.
“Don’t all the girls love fashion?” she asks. “My work is about beauty for the sake of beauty.”