Interview: The Story of Cardiff Artist – Jian Chen’s Fine Art

by Nicole Rees-Williams.

Considering Q3 is currently focusing on the theme of ‘Stories,’ it is absolutely necessary to consider the story behind individuals in the creative field. Becoming an artist is essentially becoming a storyteller. Each picture could hold a meaning that you wouldn’t ever know upon your own glancing which is what makes art such a fascinating form of storytelling.

We were fortunate enough to interview Jian Chen, a female artist based in Cardiff. Jian has her own gallery/store within the Duke Street Arcade named ‘Jian Chen’s Fine Art.’ Her beautiful images enticed me to go in and purchase a print immediately.

In this interview, we asked Jian about the story of how she became interested in art and how she came upon starting her own business right here in Cardiff!

Q3: At what point in your life did you start creating art and how did you discover this skill?

Jian: I have clear memories of drawing imaginary fairies and some figures as a small child before I started school. When my focus shifted towards passing exams, my art became side lined for quite a long time.

Regarding watercolour, it was not until September 2012, when I experienced an uncontrollable desire to paint with watercolour, even though I hadn’t used this medium before. When I paint, I often lose track of time and space, it gives me a great sense of freedom and happiness. I love this feeling, so I’ve carried on painting. I’m not sure how I discovered this skill, probably through continuous practice – learning and improving over time

Q3: Were there any artists that inspired you on your journey to becoming an artist?

Jian: No one particularly inspired me to be an artist, it just happened. When I paint, I get inspiration from everywhere, it seems anything and anyone can inspire me if I’m in a right state of mind

Q3: When did art start to become a career for you, and did you face any challenges on the way to becoming a business owner?

Jian: In 2013, my art become a career for me when a lot people started showing interest in buying my artworks. Most start-up businesses experience many ups and downs along the way, I confront each challenge as it emerges with a positive attitude, because I can’t imagine myself doing anything else apart from painting. When you decide to only give yourself one option, then you must take full responsibility for your own decisions.

Q3: How would you describe your work?

Jian: Spiritual – because my art is my expression of spirit in the subject. It takes me a much longer time to think before starting a painting, I like to feel around the subject, feel the emotions it generates in me, and then using the colour and composition to express these feelings. Spirit is always present within my painting. 

Q3: In terms of location, the Cardiff Arcade’s seem like a brilliant place to own a shop! How and when did you set up your shop at the Duke Arcade?

Jian: I opened my Duke Street Arcade Gallery in February 2016. I love the magnificent Victorian and Edwardian architecture of Cardiff’s Arcades and being part of a community of independent shops.

Before I took on my shop, I often passed it by and hoped I might have a similar space to sell from. I adore its massive windows – especially the curved corner one. Obviously, I was destined to have this shop – because when I was looking for a permanent city centre place to sell from, the shop became available and my wishes came true.

Q3: I notice alongside human, animal and imaginative portraiture you also paint stunning landscapes, a lot of which include Welsh locations like Cardiff Bay and Castle Coch. Are you often inspired by real life influences or do you work more from imagination? 

Jian: For my Cardiff paintings, I am inspired by what I see around me. I’ve visited and love all the places I’ve painted around Cardiff and am always impressed by their beauty and history. I imagine Cardiff is like a colourful heaven – I hope it can become a colourful heaven in real life too.

Q3: Alongside paintings you also sell various products with your designs on them such as coasters, mugs, and tote bags among others. What product is the most popular with your buyers and why do you think that is? 

Jian: As my shop is an Art Gallery – my most popular selling products are prints of my paintings, but as you’ve noticed, I’ve also a wide range of products that carry my imagery. I always wanted to expand my product range – and I make all these items myself in my gallery. Most popular amongst these are key rings, fridge magnets, coasters and tote bags. Most customers often like to purchase something – and city visitors appreciate being able to take home a memento to remind them of their visit.

Q3: What are your plans for the future within the art industry? 

Jian: I don’t make long-term plans for the future; my business development usually occurs quite naturally. I do have many short-term goals though – and these ideas occur to me through the daily running of my business. When such ideas come, I always choose the one that excites me most – and do it. Basically, my business plan is to follow my heart and intuition.

If you would like to visit Jian’s store or see more of her artwork, please find the required information below:

Location: 10-12 Duke Street Arcade, Cardiff CF10 1AZ