Wallflower Dispatches

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The WD Interview – Echo Morgan, Artist

February 15th, 2011 · 2 Comments · Arts & Culture, Design & Fashion, The WD Interview

Wallflower Dispatches meets Echo Morgan (Chinese name: Xie Rong), an illustrator and artist born in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province in Southwest China.

She left the Sichuan Fine Art Academy to continue her studies in Europe at London’s Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design.

Her illustrations have been published in Vogue China and Marie Claire. She has styled window displays for the department store Selfridges and worked on commissions by Koh Samui.

Last year, she took part in the ‘Enchanted Palace‘ exhibition at Kensington Palace.

What do you see yourself as: an illustrator, a stylist or an artist?

I think it used to be more as a fashion illustrator, but now I work more towards being a graphic designer, a graphic artist.

How do you feel about China changing?

The reason I felt sad in China is that Chengdu, the city I lived in was choked by the urban development. They destroyed beautiful old buildings – it made me cry.

It has been ruined completely.  My mother told me: ‘Stop crying. China has to develop, because the rest of the world has bullied us. We have to be stronger, so we can get rich. And on the way we have to get rid of some things. It’s a journey and you will understand when you grow older.’

When I go back now, I see they have built an education centre on the old site and they know they have made a mistake.

Now that I have the distance, I have become more forgiving. I try to understand, but it’s hard.

What made you come to England?

Chengdu was changing when I was studying there. I felt I didn’t belong there. At that time I heard “The Wall” by Pink Floyd and I felt that London was calling.

I was studying contemporary art and I thought: ‘How can I get the whole picture if I don’t go to Europe?’ It took me three years to get a visa. My family wasn’t rich. In the end I was offered a scholarship.

After my foundation course at Guildford University, I am now in my final year Central Saint Martins.

How important are your Chinese roots and has coming to England changed that?

The first time I came to my class my tutor asked me for my name. At the time I was the only Chinese amongst a group of 200 students. I realised that I didn’t want people mixing my Chinese and English name.

It feels as if I have two roots, one in China and one in England. I have been in England for the past eight years and most of my important adulthood has been spent here.

My Chinese identity is extremely important to me, but I only just discovered that right now, writing my dissertation. I try to remember why I wanted to escape from China.

In China I was a fighter and I came to England and all I did was draw pretty pictures. I drew women, I drew fashion, but at the end of the day, does it really mean anything?

Now I don’t want to draw pretty pictures anymore, I want to draw life. Today I see myself as a combined identity of Chinese and English.

Last year you reached a certain level of fame.

I tried to get into Vogue. I used to send my illustrations in, but I never got a reply.

Then I had the idea to dress up like a panda and go to the BoomBox (a nightclub ed.) in London.

The next day my photo was on Vogue.com, Elle, Dazed and Confused, followed by lots of interview requests.

I thought: ‘What’s so significant about being dressed like a panda?’ – and I realised my Chinese identity is really important.

Now I try to bring my that into my performance, my photography…

How would you describe the difference between the European and Chinese approach to art and design?

I am extremely proud of Chinese culture and design, but what happened is that every dynasty controlled people’s speech, and that’s not just communist. It happened throughout every single dynasty. Every single emperor tried to control his people. You were not allowed to provide different opinions.

And that effects all of Chinese education, including art, design and fashion.

When I wanted to draw a leaf in my course in China, I had to copy from the masters. I wasn’t allowed to copy nature. I knew this was not for me and I quit my course after the first day.

What kind of materials do you prefer working with and why?

At the moment I am madly in love with pencils. Before that it was ink and then watercolours. It was easy to draw women with make-up and express all the beautiful hues.

There is something more deep and mysterious about using pencils, which excites me. It’s very gothic and I like the process.

I never really use oil – I don’t really feel comfortable with oil and a canvas.

In the last year I have started drawing real life again and I see the beauty in everything around me, in everyday life.

Do you think you will ever go back to China?

Yes. I want to be an art and design teacher in China.

It’s not that hard (to suceed ed.) in China. I have a lot of very successful artist friends who tell my husband and me to come to China and open an art gallery. They say: ‘You will become famous overnight.’.

But I enjoy my simple life here. I feel I am really doing something here. I don’t want to be famous, people just looking up to me because I have a western husband and a western education, because I have been interviewed by this magazine or that publication. I don’t want to be a figure just because of that.

I have a Chinese artist friend who is famous, he even designed some displays for the Chinese Olympics. But he didn’t want to go the ceremony, because he realised it wasn’t real and he didn’t want to be part of it.

So, if I can be a figure like that…I want to be myself, I want to be real.

I open the Chinese magazines that interviewed me and they put me next to a pop star and I feel really angry. They don’t care about what I say. They quote me and try to turn me into a China doll. It’s not real and it’s very dangerous.

I am still developing as a person, and perhaps when I am more developed I will be more ready to go back and really make a difference.

I feel I have to become stronger, so one day when people will listen to what I have to say, I want to be sure I will say the right thing.

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2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 BF // Feb 15, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    interesting article – many thanks – BF

  • 2 Echo Morgan // Aug 2, 2012 at 10:17 am

    Dear Kerstin,

    Thank you so much for the article, please have a look my new artworks on my blog:
    http://www.echomorganart.com,
    any thoughts from you will be my great encouragements,

    Echo

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