Interview with Mimi Hellyeah
Alter ego – MiMi Hellyeah – is an upcoming paint artist in The Netherlands.
Her work has already been seen worldwide from Asia to Europe. Without a graphic background, she has always been creative and proves that natural talent exists!
MiMi Hellyeah’s work contains strong emotional themes which often explores the connection between femme fatales and violence. Using women as her inspiration with a touch of roughness that result in magical faces and unforgettable eyes that touch the soul as they delight with their beauty.
She works primarily with spray cans, acrylic, ink, oil, water color, pastels – mainly using only colors like black, gray and white. MiMi Hellyeah’s collection has a wonderful use of lines and strokes and compositions which are both minimal yet powerful.
Mimi, it is a pleasure to meet you. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Yeah sure! I am Mei Zhang from The Netherlands and undercover as MiMi Hellyeah on the weekends. Already 26 years old and living in Rotterdam, enjoying freedom and the view from the 23rd floor. I am of Chinese descent and was born and raised in The Netherlands. My roots come from Shanghai, which I can speak fluently besides Dutch and English. I had lived a while in Shanghai and worked at a hip hop venue in the Red Town district in the marketing department. Currently, I work fulltime in the financial department for a FGC-market. In the weekends I am a part time painter.
My interest is mainly in to listening to music like dubstep, metal, alternative and hip hop. Actually, everything with a sick beat, sick drops and has a little bit of an aggressive sound is music to my ears. Besides music, I like to drink a few glasses and I am unfortunately addicted to Red Bull. My ultimate goal is to chill, have my American muscle car, Doberman, and live on a tropical island doing nothing else besides chill-axing and surfing.
When did you first begin to draw and paint?
As far as I know, and it sounds a bit cliché, but I cannot remember when exactly I started. I think I started with drawing Donald Duck and Minnie Mouse before primary school. But I began painting canvasses two years ago and for the past half year I discovered my ‘own’ style which consists mainly of black/white femme fatales . You know how music artists always say that writing or playing music is therapeutic, this is exactly what I feel when I am painting. I think of nothing else besides the next stroke or brush. I know, it sounds a bit cliché.
You did not go to school to learn art. You developed your style and techniques on your own. Do you think this has had a positive effect on your work?
Hmm, maybe? Not sure if it has? But you can see some development in the techniques in the paintings I have done over the years. I started with cartoonish-like paintings and now make use of more shadow and shadings in my latest paintings. My development of techniques are mainly coming from watching tattoo programs like Miami Ink, photographs and of course experimenting with lots of paint. I think because I experiment with paint it makes my pieces kind of unique. Overall, I believe, not having ‘rules’ you will have more freedom to do what you want to do. You won’t be stuck and you will begin thinking out of the box.
Many of your topics involve women and violence. Femme fatales. What is it that attracts you to this subject matter?
You really hit the right questions. Somehow I am drawn to hot females with balls (not literally) and loads of attitude. Not that it is more easy, but it is more exciting to paint. You can do a lot with hair, eyes and lips. I especially like exotic women. Megan Fox/ Angelina Jolie are A+ in my book. I believe I like to draw them because I wish I could be one myself
Although that may be your preferred subject matter you are also a very diverse painter. Two of the painting that come to mind are “Golden Mustangs” and the spectacular “Koi Fish”. Do you choose your subject matter depending on mood? What are your inspirations for these?
My latest paintings are related to mood. Paintings like “Koi Fish” and “Golden Mustangs” are project based or gifts, not very exciting.
One of my favorites is “Go With the Flow”. How did you come up with the concept behind this one?
Every painting that involves women is coming from inspiration I got from pictures on the web or painting I came across that had the same feeling. I do not always know the artist but I felt the same way. AWESOME!
In some of your paintings I noticed the women have elaborate tattoos. In “Ruffneck” for instance. Is tattoo design something you also do?
I really like tattoos, but I keep designing tattoos for myself. I am currently busy with designing a back piece for myself. Hope I can do magic with tattoos one day besides painting canvasses.
“Geisha” is done very graphically. Bold curves and in black and white. Stark contrast. Beautiful. Do you prefer working in black and white and what mediums to you like to work with best?
Indeed, I like using black and white. I find it very powerful visually. I literally use everything that I can think of to make my paintings more unique. I mainly use acrylic, spray cans and markers.
Do you work solo or have you ever collaborated with other artists?
Haha yeah, MiMi Hellyeah works solo but I remain open to collaborations too.
You have some tattoos yourself. Can you tell us what they are and is there a personal meaning behind any of them?
I don’t have any tattoos yet but I have often thought about it. Tattoos are permanent and that is why I waited for so long. I wanted to find a tattoo artist who I have admiration for. Now that I have I am thinking about a back piece of koi fish but in Chinese style, simple and sensual. This piece will not have a meaning, but I am sure when I get started I will not be able to stop having new ones with meanings behind it. The tattoos with meanings I would like to keep for myself.
You have had exhibitions of your work. Can you tell us about some of them?
The latest one is in a Comic merchandising store here in Rotterdam. Other exhibitions, includes exhibitions containing street art and modern art. I am not really into selling my stuff, I already get excited when people can see it and that is what I am aiming for.
Are there any artists or designers you admire?
I do not really have typical artists whom I admire. I usually forget the artist, the piece is what sticks in my memory. I mostly have respect for pieces made by graffiti artists, tattoo artists and painters with similar subjects that I have. I almost forgot to mention photographers who make stunning pictures of women.
Where would you like your art career to be in the future?
Actually, I am not sure what I want. I hope I can someday quit my job at the office and make a living with my art/ design and move to that island with my dog and American muscle car. For now, I am satisfied with respect for my work. Although, I have to say, it is quite weird to get enthusiastic feedback on your work. I still cannot imagine people would have that for mine. It is something I like to do on the weekends and then it is there, finished. When my paintings are exhibited it usually feels like the pieces are not even done by myself. Quite an odd feeling.
When you are not painting, what do you enjoy doing with your time off?
Especially listening to music and drinking alcohol. Being in a state of mind without sense of reality is, for me, a day checking out of reality and therefore closer to my island.
Where can we go to find out more about you and your work?