About the work:
The journey each of us takes in the shaping of our identities is one that can last a lifetime. From the age of three, when we begin to develop a sense of self, we process knowledge in a way that helps us better understand not just the world we live in, but our place in it.
For children, this journey is one propelled by curiosity and creativity. The innocence and joy of youth inspires us to define our world, to pursue our interests, and dream of a future of our own making.
This is the mentality Wenqing Yan – better known by her professional name, Yuumei – taps into in her 2016 work, Before I Grow Up.
Yuumei depicts a young girl fashioning her universe one paint stroke at a time. Positioned outside of her creation, the subject almost takes on the perspective of an artist, or a god, but she is neither. For unlike both, there will come a time when she must inhabit the world she has formed, and sink or swim according to her strength, courage, and perseverance.
This time is adulthood, and for far too many people, it marks the point where the power changes hands. No longer holding the paintbrush, they are afraid. Fear and expectation take their toll, and so, instead of the individual shaping their world, the world shapes the individual, conforming them, and stripping them of the wonderment and vigour that once defined them.
The title of Yuumei’s work makes this sound like an inevitability, but that’s far from being the case. Through encouragement, wisdom, and patience, we all have the power to enable children to make of their lives whatever they wish.
As for adults, it is never too late to rediscover that which enraptures us. The limitations we perceive are nothing but fear and resistance of our own design. Fight back, reclaim your right to a life of your choosing, and chase after that which drives you.