Ruohan Wang's on human expression and nature
Designers and artists look for references in several places, and for some, their origin is an important part of that.
Ruohan Wang was born in China but was raised in Germany, where she studied Visual Communication. She started to observe human interactions and the connections with the places where we are and put that in her art.
Inspired by her own origins, she mixes natural movements with vibrant colors, looking for positive designs that represent the relationship between humans, nature, and expression.
She started exhibiting her art around 2014 — when she was still in college — and since then, her works have spread naturally, as her lines. This is her second year collaborating with Nike for the collab. For Wang, it is the union of the useful and the pleasant, since, in addition to aesthetics, leather absorbs colors much better and brings out unique results.
Talking to Wang, we understand a little more about what it is like to see the world from her point of view. We can say that it is colorful, harmonious, changeable, and sustainable. See for yourself down below.
How do you describe the intrinsic relationship between human expression and nature, and how do you navigate it as a creative?
I try to investigate the oneness of humans and nature in its simplest form, which shines through in my work. I believe that as freelancers, we always need to drive life and work with initiative.
Last time, I was inspired by groups of people and families who were exercising around Haus der Kulturen der Welt, which is a free public building in my neighborhood – as a resident of the city, my daily life is about working and improving my health level.
People here redesign the form of a fitness studio. It’s not about economic status or time structure, but it’s about reusing existing resources in other ways.
👁 Such scenes in public are constantly inspiring me to look at things from a different perspective and experiment with alternative possibilities for working and solving problems. And the nice coexistence of humans and nature is the best image for me.
The interactive experience is a key element of your work ― how is the material important in creating these interactions? What role does the human experience play in the design overall?
From a technical point of view, my work focuses on an interactive experiment between illustration, objective, and improvisational aesthetics. I've been working on printing and painting, public art and installation, fashion and objects.
For me, they are entirely different mediums and scales, but the same topic: everything is in the transformation of energy through movement.
The content of my work is always about the simplistic nature of humankind, the interaction between humans and nature and some objects' essential properties and functions – for example, legs symbolize moving non-stop.
Why do you think experimenting with materials is important as a creative, and how did you initially begin working with leather?
As a creative, design is not simply about aesthetics but it also has to serve a function. The perfect combination of function and visuals can bring real depth/value to an artwork or object. Using the function as a constant while playing with different materials can lead to interesting aesthetic differences.
"When I first experimented with leather, I found it to be a kind of canvas."
But leather absorbs more colors than a regular canvas and provides unique visual effects over time, which you may have never imagined. The way it looks from the date of purchase is something entirely different from its appearance 10 years later.
I find it fascinating to see how time has affected the material itself. On leather, the color evolves from a very fresh color that pops to a more vintage, rustic one. But even with age, its aesthetics and beauty remain, just in a different form.
How can embracing upcycling in a creative process change the outcome for the better, and what role is it playing in today's creative landscape?
In my art, I combine the visual aesthetic with the basic function of objects to bring the objects a voice. I don’t like the idea of a static object. They have a message that they can do something with the art with minimal contribution, like with my Nike shoes.
Circular design powers Nike's sustainability approach, which is clear in your collab ― how do you embrace the principles of circular design in your own work? Why is leather such an ideal material to make it work?
Circular design is about embracing products that don’t have a lifecycle with a clear beginning, middle, and end. As an artist, I'm constantly educating myself on which materials are most responsible for rising greenhouse gas emissions. I try to create a plan for the materials I use.
This means buying and using less fiber and saving packaged materials for upcycling. For me, it’s important to be innovative with the materials that are already in my studio. For example, I made miniature sculptures from the foam scraps of my jacket project.
Everything looks a little better from that point of view.
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