Interview with Qinru Zhang from United States

ZETA’s Utilization in Augmented Reality Neurosurgical Navigation
June 26, 2023
Interview with Elyn Lin from China
June 27, 2023

Qinru Zhang

A talented multimedia artist, Qinru Zhang’s artistic capabilities covers a broad spectrum including creating enticing 3D animations to videos and immersive multimedia experiences.

Interview with the 2023 Vega Digital Awards Winner -
Qinru Zhang

1Please give us a brief bio of yourself and your design background.

My name is Qinru Zhang and I am a multimedia artist based in New York. My artistic practice includes a wide spectrum, ranging from captivating 3D animations and videos to immersive multimedia experiences that engage and enthrall the audience.

My artistic journey began with a fascination for moving images, especially 16mm film, leading me to discover the profound beauty inherent in time-based mediums. As my exploration evolved, I delved into combining 3D modeling with videos, immersing myself in the creation of a digitally constructed realm. With the limitless possibilities offered by digital tools, I expanded the interactivity of my medium with augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and other immersive approaches.

Through these innovative techniques, I have successfully extended the viewer's experience beyond the visual, transcending the conventional boundaries of art and inviting them to engage with my work on an experiential, intimate, and personal level.

However, my creative pursuits do not end with being an artist alone. I am also a digital experience designer with accomplished achievements, collaborating with talented designers and directors to make impactful contributions to a diverse range of projects. From game platforms to digital fashion and web 3, I have applied my expertise to create memorable digital experiences that captivate audiences.

This dual role as both an artist and a designer empowers me to see the world through a problem-solving lens from the perspective of visuals and user experiences, infusing my work with a distinctive blend of boundless creativity and purposeful execution.

2What made you become/why did you choose to become a digital designer/artist?

From the very beginning, my decision to become a digital artist was fueled by a deep passion for experimentation and exploration. The boundless versatility of the medium offered me the opportunity to dive into a multitude of techniques and skills, constantly pushing the boundaries of my creative journey. As I immersed myself in the production process, I gradually found the immense potential of digital media as a powerful means of communication.

As an Asian female artist, I have always valued the importance of using art to empower Asian females. The digital realm has been a remarkable platform through which I effortlessly express my perspectives to a global audience. It grants me the ability to communicate my beliefs, experiences, and aspirations through various internet platforms, fostering connections that transcend geographical and cultural boundaries.

Through the medium of animation and experiential technology, I convey profound messages surrounding themes of identity, self-exploration, and gender. My work elevates uncanny, glitched, and arbitrary female figures as the protagonists of my animations. I am humbled and honored to have received the prestigious Platinum Award from the Vega Digital Awards, recognizing the significance of my work in bringing these characters to life.

3Tell us more about your business/company, job profile, and what you do.

As an artist, my creative focus revolves around interactive storytelling, employing the dynamic potential of 3D and other digital mediums. I have integrated augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and motion sensors to breathe life into my work and forge immersive experiences for viewers. This unique approach has garnered recognition and acclaim, with my work being showcased on a global scale in prestigious exhibitions, galleries, as well as esteemed animation and film festivals.

Recently, a notable milestone in my artistic journey was the display of an excerpt from my film, Homecore, on an LED screen in downtown Denver for a six-week duration. Moreover, I had the distinct honor of hosting a solo exhibition of the same piece in VR at Denver Digerati's exhibition space. During this immersive showcase, I had the opportunity to share the captivating background story behind the film's concept and the intricate process of its creation. These experiences further solidified my commitment to engaging audiences through multi-dimensional storytelling and pushing the boundaries of artistic expression.

Beyond my artistic endeavors, I also channel my creative expertise as a digital experience designer at Coach. In this role, I merge my skills in visual and graphic design, game experience design, and leveraging cutting-edge technologies to craft unforgettable pop-up experiences for the company.

As the sole editor responsible for films featured in Coach's immersive exhibitions across cities like Shanghai and Singapore, I applied my knowledge of time-based media and installation interactivity to curate enriching and captivating experiences for visitors. The fusion of my artistic and design visions creates mesmerizing moments that resonate deeply with audiences, leaving them with a long-lasting impact.

4What’s your favorite kind of digital design and why?

My favorite kind of digital design lies in the expression of virtual reality. Within this immersive dimension, the limitations of physical reality dissolve, and the audience's senses are liberated to explore boundless possibilities. It is here, in this dreamlike expanse, that I find my true calling as a creator.

With utmost delight, I build extraordinary environments and intertwine intricate narratives, beckoning viewers to transcend their roles as mere observers and actively engage as participants in the vibrant tapestries I weave.

Virtual reality grants me the extraordinary power to unleash my creative vision in its fullest form, breaking free from the confines of traditional artistic approaches and inviting individuals to embark on extraordinary journeys within the intricate digital worlds I create.

However, my fascination with virtual reality extends far beyond its aesthetic and storytelling potential. I firmly believe in the transformative potential of VR as a tool for bridging gaps, sparking meaningful conversations, and nurturing empathy on a profound level. I perceive virtual reality as a catalyst for education, a medium through which empathy can be cultivated, and a means to forge connections among individuals.

Through the immersive experiences I create, I strive to craft encounters that delve into thought-provoking scenarios and provide a platform for viewers to explore and empathize with perspectives different from their own. The potential for virtual reality to foster introspection, ignite conversations, and promote understanding is a driving force behind my work.

5To you, what makes a “good” design?

To me, good design is rooted in intuition. It should be a simple direction for the audience to effortlessly grasp the essence of the experience without lengthy instructions. Moreover, good design also thrives on its visual impact, offering viewers special experiences and evoking deep emotions solely through its visual presentation.

A well-designed experience seamlessly harmonizes form and function, ensuring that the design not only captivates aesthetically but also performs flawlessly in fulfilling its intended purpose. By intimately understanding the target audience and their specific needs, designers have the power to create designs that integrate into users' lives, facilitating effortless interaction and enhancing their overall experience.

6Describe your design style and its main characteristics.

My artistic style revolves around 3D modeling and employs an abundance of reflective materials to create a distinctive aesthetic. I perceive the virtual world as both a mirror of reality and an avenue beyond its limitations. Within my creations, you will discover echoes of our familiar surroundings, beautifully distorted through the application of glossy, metallic, and glass materials.

This unique approach allows me to evoke a simultaneous sense of familiarity and unfamiliarity, creating an intriguing blend of recognition and awe.

One notable example of this style can be observed in my film, Homecore. In its opening scenes, I use mirroring effects through the reflective surfaces of the furniture, which offers glimpses of the surroundings in a fragmented manner.

As the film progresses, the entire room undergoes a transformative shift, morphing into a striking world of reflectivity and glossiness. This visual evolution symbolizes the connection between an individual's behavior and thinking, emphasizing how our actions are always reflected back onto ourselves.

By employing reflective elements in my work, I aim to provoke contemplation on the intricate interplay between perception and reality, inviting viewers to delve into a world where the familiar is permeated with a captivating distortion. Through this artistic lens, I strive to evoke a profound sense of introspection and spark conversations around the complexities of human nature.

7Tell us about your design process.

My design process is a comprehensive research on the whole experience. For visuals, do I want it to be 3D modeled, 3D scanned, or filmed? Do I want to play with audio to make itself experiential or use it as a tool to enhance the visuals? Do I want to involve the audience's full body during the experience? All these questions play a crucial part in leading to my exploration and the results of my work.

Because each of my projects has a unique goal and concept, my approaches are almost never the same. In my personal projects, unexpected and surprising narratives take center stage. Consequently, the design choices reflect a similar sense of creative approaches, often incorporating experimental techniques and tools.

On the other hand, when it comes to design projects, my aim is to find the most suitable and uncomplicated means to either resolve a design problem or effectively communicate a brand story. For this purpose, I frequently rely on timeless and widely accepted design appeals that can effortlessly engage and resonate with diverse audiences.

By embracing this multifaceted approach, I strive to infuse my designs with a blend of ingenuity and practicality, tailoring each element to serve its purpose within the overall experience. This ensures that my work not only captivates and surprises but also effectively communicates and connects with the intended audience.

I embrace the ever-evolving nature of design, consistently seeking new ways to innovate and create meaningful interactions that leave a lasting impact on the audiences.

8Where do you draw inspiration from?

I engage in a profound process of introspection and analysis, drawing inspiration from theoretical readings in diverse fields such as psychology, sociology, and more. These academic explorations serve as a foundation upon which my digital creations take shape, offering a visual manifestation of the insights I have gleaned.

A prime illustration of this approach is evident in my work, Homecore, which finds its roots in Lacan's mirror theory. Through surreal animation, I vividly portray a home that emerges from the dreams, aspirations, and lifestyle of its inhabitant, illuminating the intricate connection between one's sense of self and their living environment.

I regard the parallel between digital artistry and psychological analysis as an integral aspect of my creative process. In many ways, psycho-analysis serves as a distinct form of user research, allowing me to find inspiration and craft work that not only expresses my own thoughts and emotions but also elicits profound resonance among audiences.

By embracing this interplay between self-expression and audience connection, I delve into the depths of human experiences, motivations, and emotions. It is through this exploration that I am able to craft digital pieces that transcend mere visuals, aiming to evoke a profound sense of introspection, provoke emotional responses, and foster meaningful connections with viewers.

9Congratulations! As the winner of the 2023 Vega Awards, what does it mean to you and your company and team to receive this award distinction?

I am deeply humbled and grateful to have received the prestigious Platinum Award at the 2023 Vega Digital Awards. This recognition stands as a resounding affirmation of the dedication and creativity I have poured into my artistic journey. It serves as a testament to my commitment to pushing the boundaries of digital design.

The acknowledgment I have received from the Vega Digital Awards fuels my passion and motivates me to continue exploring. I am inspired by the talented individuals who participated in this esteemed competition, and their creativity serves as a constant source of inspiration for me to elevate my own artistic endeavors. This recognition not only validates my choices and direction but also encourages me to remain true to my artistic vision and embrace the unconventional.

Being an artist, especially with unconventional digital projects, comes with challenges. It requires perseverance and resilience, as it may take time for the broader audience to fully embrace and appreciate this new form of art. However, receiving the Vega Digital Awards with an experimental art piece instils me with confidence in my artistic choices and validates my commitment to pushing boundaries.

It serves as a reminder that embracing experimentation and daring to challenge the norms can lead to remarkable artistic achievements and leave an indelible impact on both myself and the audience.

Armed with this confidence and validation, I am determined to continue exploring the digital creative territories and use my unique artistic voice to captivate and provoke thought. The Vega Digital Awards have reinforced my belief in the power of artistic expression and have fueled my commitment to pushing boundaries and creating meaningful art experiences.

10Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2023 Vega Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?

Homecore is a virtual art experience that explores the themes of loss of identity and the pursuit of self-reclamation in the modern city, using Virtual Reality to immerse the viewer in the narrative. The story depicts a girl's repetitive and mundane daily life in a packed and narrow urban home, which is disrupted when she discovers an egg creature that brings about changes to her environment. The purpose of this virtual narrative is to bring attention to the mental suffering caused by the suffocating effects of urbanization.

Animated in immersive 3D and presented through a virtual reality headset, this piece encapsulates the core narrative elements of self-searching, reflection, and the transformative power of dreams in a deeply experiential and psychological manner. It serves as a profound call to action, urging individuals to pause, introspect, and reconnect with themselves. Visually, the egg symbolizes the metamorphic journey of emerging from a protective cocoon, paralleling the girl's transformative process of self-discovery.

The decision to embark on this project was driven by a desire to redefine the boundaries of digital media and offer the world a fresh perspective. Homecore is an abstract and intricate piece, interweaving multiple layers of meaning within its seemingly simple storyline. By integrating virtual reality as a medium, I see this animation as experimentation beyond the screen, challenging the traditional perception of digital media.

Thus, witnessing Homecore receive the Platinum Award at the Vega Awards holds profound significance, as it shows the industry's recognition and embrace of innovative approaches to digital media. It highlights the industry's willingness to venture beyond conventional norms and embrace the transformative power of immersive storytelling.

11How has winning an Award developed your practice/career?

The honor of receiving the Vega Digital Award amplifies my presence within the industry and captivates the attention of a broader audience. As I reflect on the fact that over 1,100 submissions from 22 countries were received, I am deeply honored to be the recipient of the Platinum Award in the Virtual Experience category.

This achievement not only signifies a milestone in my artistic journey but also opens doors to exciting new opportunities and collaborations.

The recognition by the Vega Digital Award serves as a validation of the value and quality of my work. It reaffirms my artistic vision and inspires me, as a digital artist, to continue taking creative risks and pushing the boundaries of what is possible. The acknowledgment of my achievements fuels my motivation, propelling me to challenge conventions and create innovative and boundary-breaking artwork.

This recognition also propels my visibility within the industry, allowing my work to reach a wider audience and garnering attention from fellow artists, industry professionals, and art enthusiasts. It serves as a catalyst for new connections, collaborations, and opportunities that will further shape my artistic practice.

12What are your top three (3) favorite things about the digital industry?
Virtuality, sensory amplification and dream-like experiences.
13Where do you see the evolution of digital industry going over the next 5-10 years?

I am filled with excitement as I see the future evolution of digital content, particularly as machines like AI and generative tools increasingly become more important in the creative process. As artists embrace and grant technology greater ownership in the creation of art, a fusion of human creativity and technological innovation emerges. This dynamic collaboration between artists and machines holds immense potential for ground-breaking and innovative artistic expressions.

By embracing the active participation of technology in the creative journey, artists are granted access to new methods of experimentation. This symbiotic relationship challenges current norms and redefines art. The transformative impact of this evolving dynamic not only reshapes the creative landscape but also offers fresh perspectives on the intricate interplay between humanity and technology.

As we venture further into uncharted territory, the possibilities for digital content become boundless. Each technological advancement opens doors to new discoveries, where the harmonious synergy between human imagination and machine intelligence can revolutionize artistic practice.

With every innovation, the evolution of digital content is shaped by the dynamic interplay between our innate creative spirit and the expanding technologies. It is within this captivating journey that we witness the transformative potential of human-machine collaboration, sparking novel ideas, and redefining the artistic landscape for generations to come.

14Do you have anything else you would like to add to the interview?

The digital industry is a dynamic and ever-changing space, with new tools and software constantly being developed. To thrive in this realm, it is essential to nurture your curiosity and familiarize yourself with the latest advancements and emerging trends. By embracing a mindset of continuous learning and exploration, you open yourself up to a world of endless possibilities within the digital domain.

Fearlessly experiment with different tools and combinations in your digital creative journey. This courageous approach allows you to break free from constraints, be unafraid to make mistakes or deviate from the conventional path. Through this fearless exploration, you unlock the door to unexpected surprises and unleash the full potential of your creations. Each experiment becomes a valuable opportunity to gain insights, refine your skills, and expand the boundaries of what is conceivable.

Embrace the freedom to venture into unexplored territories, unafraid of making mistakes or deviating from the conventional path. It is through this fearless exploration that you unlock the door to endless surprises and unveils the full potential of your creations. With each experiment, you gain valuable insights and refine your skills, pushing the boundaries of what is conceivable and breathing life into remarkable digital experiences that are uniquely yours.

Winning Entry

Homecore | 2023

Homecore (2022) is a virtual art experience that explores the themes of loss of identity and the pursuit ...
(read more at Vega Digital Awards)

Qinru Zhang

A talented multimedia artist, Qinru Zhang’s artistic capabilities covers a broad spectrum including creating enticing 3D animations to videos and immersive multimedia experiences

Read more about this interview with Lucille Yutien Huang from United States, the Gold Winner of the 2023 Vega Digital Awards.