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Exploring Urban Expression with Chan13, Graffiti Artist and Visionary


Artwork by Chan13 graffiti artist
Artwork by Chan13 graffiti artist

Photo of graffiti artist Chan13
Photo of graffiti artist Chan13

by Kun (Queenie) Zhou


Boston, MA: “I’m a person who draws, and who draws on the street,” Chan13, a 29-year-old Chinese graffiti artist said.


As an artist, Chan13’s practice covers a number of different fields, including urban murals, prints, oil paintings, and installations. He is also a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard Graduate School of Design, engaging in architectural design, theoretical research on architectural history, and architectural heritage conservation. Overall, a high-level member of the Boston Art Scene.


Having attended the popular Chinese art reality TV show in Winter 2022, The Cosmos of Artist, Chan13’s name became known to many Chinese audience and also brought graffiti to Chinese audience’s attention. The nationwide reality show selected 60 from 8000 artists who graduated from top art schools in the world, like Central Academy of Fine Arts, China Academy of Art, Luxun Academy of Fine Arts, Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, Florence Academy of Fine Arts, Harvard Graduate School of Design, etc. Artists experience varies from 1 to 35 years and has held solo exhibitions, entered the secondary markets such as Christie's, China Guardian, Poly Auction, etc., or whose works have been collected by museums, or have signed contracts with cultural enterprises like Rong Bao Zhai.


His work received appraisal from Lu Rongzhi (Victoria Yung-Chih Lu), a famous international curator and critic, and Li Bingbing, a top-tiered Chinese actress and celebrity curator for the show.



Photo of Chan13’s graffiti work, The Cosmos of Artist
Photo of Chan13’s graffiti work, The Cosmos of Artist

Chan13 fell in love with graffiti since middle school. On his way to school every day, there was a parking lot with a lot of graffiti on the walls around it. He went to look at them closely and became fascinated with them. Then he started drawing his graffiti for years. 


“Graffiti is nothing other than writing the artist’s own name. In my opinion, it is a kind of reflexivity brought about by a modern homogeneous city, that is, individuals express their existence in a city with no characteristics,” Chan13 said.


“Graffiti is also a kind of anti-inheritance thing. You don’t have a teacher but you have to own your style. Some OG might talk about rules like where to draw and what to notice when covering others’ artworks, etc. If you really want to draw well, you have to do it,” Chan13 said.


Photo of Chan13’s graffiti work, Yingluoyaoz/瑛瑶洛泽
Photo of Chan13’s graffiti work, Yingluoyaoz/瑛瑶洛泽

Chan13’s work strives for clean edges and print-like looks, bringing the way of thinking of architectural design into graffiti.

 

 When asked about the his philosophy of creating them, “I would apply the relationship between characters and blocks to the composition of fonts as well as the whole imagery.



I regard the strokes of the characters as a block, and then turn the linear words into blocks. I would imagine the space represented by lines,” Chan13 said.


“The reason I only write in Chinese is simply that my English is not as good as Chinese. I have written Chinese for over twenty years. Then why I do not write in Chinese? That's all. I didn't think that much about the language choices,” he said.


Chan13 likes drawing connections between architecture and graffiti.


“Traditional architecture and graffiti are both like small embellishments that make the homogeneous city different, similar to colorful buttons. However, traditional architecture is three-dimensional, while graffiti is two-dimensional,” he said.


Besides graffiti and architectural protection, Chan13 has also worked in a field of watchmaking as a watchmaker. He owns his own watchmaking company. 


Photo of Chan13’s making a watch
Photo of Chan13’s making a watch

“Literally, watchmaking is one of the three main areas that I’m running. I take the time system as well as its appearance system into meticulous consideration”, Chan13 said.


Chan13 cannot stop pushing limits and breaking borders of culture, art and urban fashion. Recently, he has also worked on a practical combination of painting, architecture, and watchmaking. He strives to apply his thinking of Chinese architectural heritage and conventional painting to the process of making a clock. His watch with all these meticulous thoughts is on the way to be released and sold in the market.


Photo of a watch from Chan13
Photo of a watch from Chan13

When being asked “What is your artist statement”,“Sorry, but why should I give a statement?” Chan13 responded with a deliberate look.

 

“I feel that my thing is mine, and I don’t have to define it. The more you mention one thing, the more you lack it,” he said.


Instagram: @chanthirteen



Artwork by Chan13 graffiti artist
Artwork by Chan13 graffiti artist

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