Interview with Ziyao Lin

A melancholic art creator, an immature illustrator, and a silent storyteller.

Born: Guangdong, China
Now: London,UK
@ziyao0 |


You have a solid traditional side in art! If you take the series The Moon over the Mountain – it is awe-inspiring! Tell me, what gave education in art and traditional skills in the subsequent development of the digital direction and work with AI?

My artistic forms and themes indeed span a wide range. I have been exposed to painting since I was very young, and traditional painting has always been more like a foundational skill to me. I use literary stories and traditional elements because I have always felt that ancient people had a lot of wisdom that is still inspiring today. Some stories can resonate with me across history, so I base my creations on them. During my undergraduate and graduate studies, my major was digital media art, so I gradually began to explore and engage with digital technologies. That’s why you can see both traditional and cutting-edge aspects in my work.

Continuing the theme of working with AI. Why did you decide to pair your art with AI teamwork – is it an interest in symbiosis, or did you want to understand how the world works?

During the years 2022-2023, AI became a highly popular topic. Many people who had never been exposed to art before were using AI to generate visually appealing images. As an illustrator, I personally felt a certain pressure. For instance, it might take me hours to create an illustration, while AI could generate an image in just a few seconds. I am generally open-minded and curious about technology, so I didn’t want to resist AI. Instead, I started considering the possibility of collaborating with AI. Of course, I also wanted to understand the underlying workings and potential issues of these technologies.

In your works, through time, the theme of existence in space and space/universe slides. The Limit Situation and Hyper-Dust series are infused with this theme. Tell me, what inspires you?

This is a fascinating question. In Chinese, “Geographic scale space” and “outer space/cosmic space” are two completely different terms, but in English, they are both referred to as “space.” This involves a question of “scale.” Between the exploration of extremely small scales (such as dust particles) and the exploration of extremely large scales (such as the universe), lies the human world and society.

The subtle hints of “time and space” in my works may be due to the fact that as tiny individuals in the universe, we are inevitably plagued by the “ultimate question of existence.”

You created an unusual concept in the Stories of My Life with AI series. In some places, the topics touched upon surprise, fascinate, and even frighten … Did you rejoice for yourself when the boundaries of the real and fictional world are erased?

Fiction actually alludes to reality. Some of the attempts in this artwork may appear mischievous and even a bit humorous. Throughout this process, I aim to present various possibilities of current AI technology and expose some potential crises, all in an engaging manner. I hope to do so in an interesting way.

What is the most significant award you have received? Not in terms of universal recognition, but an award – which changed your attitude to artwork and gave an additional impetus?

The significant award for me this year was the S+T+ARTS Prize Nomination at the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, Austria. This is an award in the field of art and technology, which, to some extent, solidified my determination to transition from “wanting to be a designer” to “wanting to be an artist.” I once aspired to be a “problem-solving” designer, but gradually, I discovered my genuine passion for art—be it fine art, contemporary art practices, or art and technology. The conceptual and narrative aspects of art are truly fascinating to me.

In what direction do you think your work will develop in the next couple of years? What did you want to focus on or what topics would you like to explore and present to the public?

To be honest, I am still not certain which specific theme I will focus on and delve into. It is highly likely that I will continue working in the field of digital media art, continuing to explore the intersection of art and technology. It could be AI, space, or physics. I truly hope for more opportunities to collaborate with researchers and learn from them.

We ask our interviewees for advice for aspiring artists. What would you advise them?

Perhaps I can respond to this question using the words of encouragement my graduate advisor often gave me. He has told me many times, “keep trying.”

Through the process of continuous experimentation, on the one hand, I will gain a better understanding of what I truly enjoy, and on the other hand, I will make progress and have unexpected discoveries along the way.

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