Artist of the Week

Ang Ziqi Zhang

October 17, 2022

Ang Ziqi Zhang (b. 1994, Brampton, Ontario) is a painter and DJ currently based between New Haven, CT and Brooklyn, NY. They received a BA with honors in Visual Arts and a BA in Economics from the University of Chicago in 2016. Previous exhibition venues include Produce Model Gallery and Good Weather Gallery in Chicago, Each Modern in Taipei, Taiwan, and Fonda in Leipzig, Germany. Currently, they are pursuing their Painting/Printmaking MFA at the Yale School of Art (expected graduation next spring 2023), but are always pursuing growth, lushness, learning, balance, and play. Portrait Photo Credit: Rina Lam Goldfield ft. Chi Chi Zhang

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.

Hi, my name is Ang (as in Angela). I am a 28-year-old Libra sun, Cancer rising, Leo moon painter, DJ, party thrower, and friend. I’m an MFA candidate at the Yale School of Art, a second-year student in the Painting/Printmaking department. In New Haven I am usually at the studio or in bed with my cat. I am also in Brooklyn every few weeks playing gigs, spending time with my people, and dancing all night.

Oil on panel, 11″ x 14″, 2022

What is your driving force?

My 2011 Toyota Corolla LE

How did art become part of your life?

When I was in high school I joined the quiz bowl team and decided I would be the teammate to answer art history questions. I memorized famous paintings and did Quizlet practice flash cards on the computer.

I didn’t make art until college. I studied at the University of Chicago, where I double majored in Economics and Visual Arts. When I graduated, I was an investment banker for six months, hated it, and quit. I pivoted to working office jobs in art institutions and began a true painting practice. Right now, being a graduate art student, is the first time I’m allowed to be an artist, not an accountant who makes art. It feels sick!

What do you think defines contemporary painting, and how do you feel yourself fitting within that definition?

Maybe for me contemporary painting is just the latest iteration of interrogating what it means for an approach to making to be painterly, whether it involves the material of paint or not. Painting history is to me like a constant folding in on itself, maybe in an attempt to locate meaning or truth through making. Like trying to break the Mythbusters rule of not being able to fold a piece of paper on itself more than seven times in a row. Folding eight times.

I have recently identified more with modern than contemporary painting. I’m very engaged in searching for meaning through different modes of image making. My ongoing interest in semiotics, which draws on the visual languages of traffic signage, diagrams, and symbols, sometimes feels aligned with the Constructivists and Dadaists. But some of my favorite painters are total “contemporary” painters, like Frank Bowling, Jutta Koether, R.H. Quaytman, Charline von Heyl. I’m curious if some of them feel more aligned with modernism too.

Acrylic, graphite, and oil on panel, overall dimensions 18″ x 24″, 2022

What does your painting workflow look like?

I’m so slow. I work on several things at once. I can’t work one by one because I’m too indecisive—there’s only enough to build on when multiple works are responding to each other. A lot of the process is sitting and thinking.

I had a studio visit today in which we talked about play. I don’t feel like painting is a playful or fun activity for me. It’s emotionally and mentally exhausting. I stare a lot, I am full of doubt, there is uncertainty the whole way. I want to find ways to play but I’m still at the stage where I’m inventing the rules of my game, which is very hard. I’m thinking of not making paintings on panel for a bit.

Do you collect anything?

No. I actually hate having stuff. Maybe moving/small space anxiety from living in New York. Air sign.

Acrylic and oil on panel, 14″ x 11″, 2022

How did you start DJing?

I started going out in 2017 when I moved from Chicago to Brooklyn. I learned what it meant to rave at spaces like Nowadays, Bossa, Mood Ring, and Sustain-Release. After two or so years, my friend Nara traded me her old Serato DDJ controller for a painting I had made and taught me how to DJ.

About a year later I was in a romantic/creative partnership with an established producer/DJ, and through him met more of the nightlife community in Brooklyn. Suddenly learned a ton in a very short period of time. I played out at clubs for the first time. Started Ayi Ayi. Since this summer I have also been playing as FUC*THEM, a duo with Despina. Many of my close friends are incredible DJs and musicians that I continue to learn from (shouts to cry$cross and BOJAQ and Vyper). I still feel like I’m just starting out, especially compared to painting, which I’ve done for many years longer. 

(You can listen to some of Ang’s mixes here and here)

What is Ayi Ayi?

Ayi Ayi is a queer AAPI party series and DJ collective run by me, Vyper, JiaLing, and friends. We started as a livestream fundraiser following the March 2021 Atlanta murder of eight people, six of whom were Asian women. The party is a space for AAPI people to revel in bliss and music. It is entirely cultivated by AAPI people (DJs, lighting designers, graphic designers…). I love seeing Asians have fun. We collect funds that are distributed with priority to local mutual aid efforts for QTPOC in the New York area.

Risograph print, 11″ x 17″, 2022; in collaboration with designers Siri Lee, Daedalus Li, M.C. Madrigal

What does your studio look like?

A living room that’s been described as “child height” with two modern chairs.

How does color function in your work?

In thin, slow, built-up semi-transparencies, usually. Sometimes in sharp, precise disruptions (more soon), to invite closer looking and sensory recalibrating. 

My palette as of late has been informed by the colors of traffic paints and markings, reflective surfaces like those you see on semi-trucks at night, unnatural manmade fluorescents, and the colors of rusting metal.

Acrylic and screenprint ink on panel, 16″ x 24″, 2022

Do you have any upcoming projects you can share?

I’m just working on paintings for my thesis show in late January. I’m trying to be a good student and not party too much until then 🙂 


Interview conducted by Milo Christie