Yu Ji is standing next to his painting Shush, before explaining its significance. (Photo by Amarah Hernandez)
Yu Ji’s “Into the Shade” exhibit in the Saddleback College Art Gallery presents an urbanized portrayal of a mix of inner-cities in America.
Ji is an artist who works as a professor at the Cal State University, Long Beach. As a studio painter, Ji persevered through Mao’s Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) and received an opportunity to study at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in China. These circumstances led to his success not just in the U.S. but globally as well.
His urban depictions feature racially mixed physical forms in confined spaces.
There is a strong psychological presence resting within his contrasts of charcoal. The relationship between the figures in his art serve as a visual metaphor, where emotions intersect in unlikely settings.
All of the big art pieces were done with charcoal in the exhibit. (Photo by Amarah Hernandez)
It is abundantly clear that Ji is depicting a deeper meaning in each art piece. His artwork concentrates on the cultural observations he has made throughout his life. The weight of self-expression rests in the eyes of his human representations, each carrying their own demeanor.
The city dwellers in his drawings all have an exclusive persona that feels so real. However, all of his portraits are figments of his imagination.
Remarkably, all of his figures are projections from his mind.
He works on multiple pieces at a time, making small sketches first and then composes them together over time.
In describing the significance behind his drawing “Shush” Ji commented on how the figures in this piece were “lost in their own moments as individuals,” even though they were close to each other in proximity.
Ji explained how the two females in the drawing were beside a fire escape, and the tote bag labeled “shush” was creating a quiet space in the loud city.
In his pictorial compositions it is easy to make speculations on the meaning of each piece. Like a picture book without words, the audience is left to use their imagination to delve into what each piece means.
This is the top of the drawing that is shown above, which is seemingly in the setting of an inner-city subway. (Photo by Amarah Hernandez)
Some portraits in his drawings are ghost like, where others have a more prominent and pronounced presence. While his artwork is realistic and lifelike structurally, there are idealistic and romantic perspectives that wouldn’t make sense in our physical world.
Ji blurs the lines of reality in his artwork and takes his audience into a contemporary metropolis where there are no boundaries.
The Chinese native offered advice to aspiring student artists.
“If you truly love art and enjoy the labor of love, keep working on creating a solid foundation and exploring different mediums,” said Ji. “While in school you can develop a foundation that otherwise wouldn’t be available.”