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Photography, A.I., and Western fantasy: In conversation with TUWEINIUZAI


In the realm of visual arts and technology, there are artists who strive to capture the essence of tradition while pushing the boundaries of innovation. Among these creative minds is Jipeng Qi, better known by his artistic moniker, TUWEINIUZAI. Originally from Sichuan, China, TUWEINIUZAI is a graduate of the School of Visual Arts in New York, and his body of work reflects an intriguing blend of photography, visual arts, and artificial intelligence (A.I.).


TUWEINIUZAI's artistic journey is marked by a keen eye for extracting visual information from his surroundings and weaving it into his pieces. His work is not just an exploration of the diversity of visual arts, but also an expression of his perspective on life, the world, and his own evolving identity.



His fascination with the American West and its rugged landscapes has led him to integrate elements of this theme into his artwork. In a unique twist, he incorporates the use of A.I. to generate and filter Western elements such as horses, cows, and cowboys, creating a fusion of bodies and machinery in his compositions.


In this exclusive interview, we'll pull back the curtain on TUWEINIUZAI's unique blend of art and technology, exploring his artistic path, his inspirations, and his innovative use of A.I.

Can you share with us some of the early influences that led you to the visual arts and photography?


Before I gained a deeper understanding of various artistic works, I used to enjoy looking at basketball magazines and the covers of music albums. This was because I had a fascination with watching photographs. As cover photos are frozen in time, I took immense pleasure in speculating and imagine the moments captured within the photographs, as well as the scenes beyond the edges of the photo frame. As a result, I eventually ventured into taking my own photographs, and through photography, I gained a greater appreciation for visual artistry.


Your work often incorporates visual elements from everyday life. What drives your selection of these elements?


Various visual elements that appear in my daily life can serve as my inspiration each day. It might be the sunlight reflecting on glass, a strangely shaped garbage bag, or even a damaged car. Whenever I encounter these details, I instinctively observe and store them in my mind. When I'm in a creative mode, I attempt to replicate those scenes in my own unique way.

Your fascination with the American West seems to coincide with a period when mankind began to heavily integrate with machines, such as the advent of trains and railroads, symbols of progress and new opportunities. Can you expand on how this theme captivates you, and how it is reflected in your work?


The fading days of the American Old West have always evoked a sense of both nostalgia and sadness within me. I often find myself trying to imagine the emotions of the people of that time as they witnessed the arrival of new technologies and a new era. The railways and trains also symbolize the expansion of human wisdom and ambition. The wild and primitive aspects of the Old West will inevitably become history, much like a ray of setting sun, but each day also brings a new sunrise. In my work, I strive to blend traditional elements with unconventional ones, creating a very benign sense of “conflict” that intrigues me.


You experienced a shift in your artistic direction after visiting Arizona. Could you delve deeper into how this experience influenced your artistic journey?


I believe that nature is always the best teacher for humanity. Prior to my visit to Arizona, I had limited understanding of scale, and my approach to photography relied on imagination and moodboard crafted on a computer. It wasn't until I went to Arizona that I realized numerous things could become subjects to capture. In fact, I had to learn how to organize my thoughts and make choices. Subsequently, in all my subsequent personal work, I have aimed to subtract from the quantity of works and add to their quality. I've strived to infuse my creations with more vitality, aiming to move and captivate others.

How did you decide to blend A.I. algorithms with photography? What challenges and opportunities has this presented?


Since my college major is in photography, my instinct in visual creation involves elements like composition, color, and content—the fundamental aspects of photography. Similarly, I subjectively hope that when using AI, I can experience the same excitement and curiosity as when I go out and taking photographs. While AI accelerates the efficiency of creation, achieving the exact image I'm satisfied with is quite challenging. Most of the time, I invest a considerable amount of time organizing keywords for the envisioned scene and continuously refining a draft that meets my expectations.

The efficient time cost of AI can also lead people to question the images it generates. Therefore, the power of individual AI-generated images falls short compared to other art forms. This compels me to spend more time generating a series of continuous images to construct a more complete visual experience.

Your work often features metallic elements. Could you elaborate on the significance of this choice? Does it contribute to a “Man vs Machine” narrative in your art?

My extensive use of metallic elements is actually quite naive, stemming from my childhood fascination with robots and cyborgs in science fiction movies. Metal machinery always brings to mind the idea of a skeleton, whether it's the skeleton of a living being or the framework of a machine. 


The large amounts of metallic elements in my works is more about their fusion with the physical body. I'm not trying to depict a conflict between machinery and humans, but rather scenes of symbiosis between them. Perhaps it's because I grew up during a time when personal computers were just beginning to become widespread in Chinese households, so the various machines and mechanical objects in my memories hold a certain nostalgic feeling. I often find myself missing those seemingly cold machines. As a result, my works are more like an extension of my personal emotions.

The use of bold, saturated hues is a consistent feature in your work. How do you utilize these vibrant colours to enhance your imaginative creations?


I believe that my incorporation of saturated hues in Western-themed paintings is a form of deconstruction of traditional Western cowboy art. Most traditional cowboy depictions heavily rely on symbolic colors associated with strength and patriotism, such as blue, red, and yellow. I tend to lean towards using bolder hues to blur the stereotypical image of cowboys and to downplay the conventional image of masculinity, thereby creating a new visual concept.


Can you discuss your collaboration with ROARINGWILD’s “Arch” for the Rodeo collection? Could you share a behind-the-scenes story from this collaboration and how it influenced the final product?


In fact, I got to know the ROARINGWILD team since 2018, and I even worked as an intern photographer with them in 2019. At the beginning of this year, one of ROARINGWILD’s owner, BG, described some concepts and ideas for this collaboration. He wanted me to use the core concept of the "Arch by ROARINGWILD" brand as the foundation for my creative work. 


During the initial stages of creation, I generated some visually appealing images to show their designer. However, after discussions with him, he expressed a desire for me to showcase the abstract quality that characterized the images I initially produced using AI. I personally completely understood the essence of this vision, so I decided to use the oldest AI algorithms to create more complex and abstract visuals.

Ultimately, I am very satisfied with the outcome of the final works. Those images possess a raw and rugged visual language, offering people greater room for imagination.

How do you perceive the intersection of art and fashion, especially given your recent collaboration with a fashion brand?

I believe that art and fashion have always been closely intertwined. Good artworks often touch upon societal issues or critical thoughts, while fashion professionals extract key elements from art pieces and expand upon them in their own creations. Overall, both art and fashion attempt to create new aesthetics in our lives or break away from conventions. Throughout this collaboration, I've held a sense of gratitude and aimed to explore new experiments with creators from different fields.


Looking towards the future, what are some of your aspirations in the realm of visual arts, photography, and A.I.? Can you share a dream project or experiment you'd love to undertake?


Throughout my creative career, I've always aspired to create an exhibition that offers an interactive, three-dimensional audiovisual experience, engaging with reality on multiple levels. In the future, I intend to explore collaborations with artists in the fields of sculpture, architecture and music, hoping that one day, I can collaborate with many exceptional artists to bring to life an inspiring artistic amusement park project, capable of transporting the audience into a realm of uncanny and wild fantasies.