Illustrator Sewing Feng pays homage to her Asian roots by re-imagining traditional ghost stories
The New York-based illustrator brings her heritage to life with detailed images evoking magical worlds, superstitious omens and menstrual shame through the detailed use of colour and lines.
Chinese folklore is visionary, vivacious and mostly highly visual – with its moralistic codes and sense of surrealism, it draws on the fantastical and opens up new worlds for listeners to fall into. It's no wonder then that New York-based illustrator Sewing Feng decided to harness the power of Chinese stories as inspiration for her artworks.
Having grown up in China, she was surrounded by terrific tales and radiant re-imaginings, which captured her imagination. And now, since graduating from New York's Fashion Institute of Technology, Sewing is weaving in her understanding of architectural design – something she gained in her undergraduate program – to bring her images to life.
"My work is often said to look very Asian," she says. "I like to paint traditional ghost stories and weird tales, and I like to use a lot of line and low-saturation colours."
This technique is apparent through all of her work which evokes the meticulous nature of bringing a piece to life, and her intentional use of colour only adds to the heightened sense of reality and mystery present.
Each painting contains a story of its own, and the Feng Shui series, in particular, reveals how linked Chinese omens are to the elements. Some backdrops include palaces, villages and graveyards, reflecting China's cultural superstitious nature, which Sewing taps into and give each image a rooted sense of place.
Her presentation of these stories reflects the charm and magic present in traditional oral history and reveals her decision to present a snapshot of these little-known fables. Some of these stories – like that of the immortal being LiaoBing - explain traditions that continue to exist in Chinese villages today. LiaoBing's influence resulted in villagers in Southern China continuing to build crescent moon-shaped pools for luck.
Besides these spooky tales that provide a clue into the thinking behind Chinese customs, Sewing has also explored personal experiences in her artwork to explore the female identity. In the Secret series, she uses menstrual shame as inspiration to create a triptych of images that share what shame feels like.
"Many women in the world did not mention the coming menstruation or suffered unfair treatment because of menstruation," says Sewing. "I created this series to give women a voice."