by Alessandro De Toni
In the last few years Beijing's Central Academy of Fine Arts has become an epicenter of the capital's creativity, producing an array of talented artists and designers each year. Included among the group of elite graduates is Yan Rui, who after finishing her studies at CAFA in 2006 has gone on to become a professor at the school as well as one of China's emerging stars in jewelry design.
In 2008 Yan created Hard Candy, a line of limited edition jewelry, paintings and silver objects. Her aesthetic adheres to a gothic style that's both dark and sweet at the same time, embodied in evil critters like rabbits and goats with beady, ruby red eyes and oxidized black silver bodies.
Yan's bright smile and cheerful character present a strong contrast to her fascination for scary things. "I think it comes from my university time and my passion for rock music," she says about her proclivity for the dark side. "I loved Marilyn Manson and his dark world, Rammstein, Nine Inch Nails and their dark industrial atmospheres. Moreover, when I was a kid someone gave me a book of Brothers Grimm tales, so scary at that time but I loved it! I also love Alice in Wonderland and I'm crazy for vampire stories and movies."
Yan has always been curious about death and the mystery of how life can vanish and leave the body so suddenly. Her latest works move away from the horror world to embrace the Eastern idea of an afterlife and the cycle of death and rebirth. In her collection of unique brooches and rings she titled "The Reincarnation of a Harvest Fly" (Qiuchan Lunhui), she tells a story which goes beyond her gothic world. "I don't want to blatantly underline the Chinese identity of my creations, but it's true that I was influenced by the Oriental philosophy that life and death are parts of a whole, mutually linked together," she says. "In this series I tell the cycle of karma, where death is just the beginning of a new journey."
The industrious designer has spent the last two years researching new materials and production processes, and she's now developing a new collection of 3D-printed resin jewelry, which will be available soon with the rest of her collection on her website, and at Ubigallery in Beijing.
Images by Alessandro De Toni and courtesy of Hard Candy.