Digital Residency: Yingmei Duan


Van Gogh House is excited to welcome artist Yingmei Duan as a digital artist in residence with Van Gogh House. Newcastle University (NU) is leading on a new networking project with national and international heritage partners National Trust, International Coalition of Sites of Conscience (ICSC), and the Artist’s Studio Museum Network to research and understand the international breadth of curatorial activity regarding commissioning contemporary art for heritage sites and archives. As part of the NU research, four artists have been commissioned to engage virtually with the rich history of three specific heritage places in England. Responding to Van Gogh House is artist Yingmei Duan.



Yingmei Duan is participating in a 100 day online artist residency at Van Gogh House. Over the next 100 days, Duan will document her residency on this page through weekly updates.



The Langlois Bridge near Arles, Vincent van Gogh, 1888, Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne. (Source)

Today, I learned a lot about his life in Arles, and I also learned that this city has many sick people with Epilepsy and strong wind.

Van Gogh and Theo chatted before he came to Arles. Again, I felt Vincent was so lucky because his brother supported him. This reminded me of my own life.

I began doing art at the age of 21 in 1991. Luckily, my parents always supported me until I finished studying in Germany in 2007. Even though they did not really like what I did, they gave me the best conditions and let me focus on art. Even my one brother, two sisters, and my husband supported me with their hearts. Therefore, I could focus on art.

During my art career, a lot happened with my family, for example, they regret letting me do art because they always worried about my future life with living and also my health. Even my papa always dreamt that I was sick and no one around me, and he always woke from bad dreams because of me.

One time, my parents visited me in Beijing while I was living in East Village in the 1990s. After they saw my painting, they got so upset that they should have travelled to other cities, but because of their sadness, they could not go on.

My mom was crazy and told me that what I painted, her grandson could do too. And my papa had almost a heart attack. I have many, many regrets from them, and they always wanted to bring me back to them again, and let me go on with my engineering work in my city, and then save a life…

They are always worried about me and always support me, and they hope I can live by myself one day. Luckily, I can live by art after studying performance. I do not have a regular salary, but as an artist, I already have a very good life.



Today, I went through Van Gogh’s catalogue, including his drawings and paintings. Every time I see his paintings, I feel that I want to copy them. When I first began learning art in the 1990s, I copied and painted his paintings a few times. But at that time, I was young and did not really understand him very well. Through this virtual residency, I am really very happy to have the opportunity to learn more about him. I hope one day I really begin to paint again his drawings and paintings to get more of a feel about him and his artworks. Also, I hope also go to Landscape to paint and go to normal people’s lives to make paintings more.

I would quite like to know about an artist’s life and works. I never say that one artist is good or not when I see one or more works. I will decide whether he is a good artist or not after I have done research about his/her whole life and what he has done. Because each artist has done good works, and each artist has not done good works. I always admire artists who are diligent in working, whether their work is good or not, for me, it is not so important. It is important this artist is always doing and thinking and developing.

I also learned that Van Gogh painted many of Jean-François Millet’s paintings. He admired Millet, who loved to paint normal people working. He painted farmers planting seeds, women baking bread, and people working in the fields. Influenced by Millet, Van Gogh made many paintings of simple people, such as working people in the fields, portraits, or doing other work.

He grew up in a good-quality family, but simple people inspired him; he likes to interact with them to draw them.

I will take time to think how I related these kind of art works also to the Van Gogh House in London. I found also I need maybe one day just doing different concepts related to van Gogh’s art works.



Self Portrait, Vincent van Gogh, 1887, Joseph Winterbotham Collection. (Source)

These past two days, I’ve learned more about Van Gogh and have many stories about him in my mind.

His brother Theo knew many Impressionist painters, such as Paul Gauguin and Claude Monet. Theo’s connections with these artists provided Van Gogh with an important platform and network. The discussions among Van Gogh and the Impressionist painters enriched Vincent’s understanding of art, inspiring his innovative approaches. This direct contact with them influenced his paintings, especially the use of color.

I’ve been thinking about Van Gogh and the position he held among the artists when he met them through Theo, who was a gallerist.

Through Theo’s support, Van Gogh could fully dedicate himself to painting and drawing.

From this point, I also think of many famous painters throughout history who produced numerous artworks, often supported by contracts or supports and so on. Because of this support, They made a lot of artworks, and therefore, their many artworks are widely seen today.

Having a structured approach, like a contract or a personal rule, is crucial for artists. When I came to Germany for my studies, I made a commitment to create art every day and plan my time. During my studies, I produced many artworks and continued to work on art daily after my studies. This has helped me develop my own artistic practice.



Vincent van Gogh at the age of 19, January 1873, by J.M.W. Louw, b 4784 V/1962 (photo), Letters and Documents, Van Gogh Museum. (Source)


I am currently deeper into Van Gogh’s life by reading a book about him and trying to make some thinking about his paintings or drawings. Then, I would like to develop performance concepts.

He has various fantasies about Ursula. For instance, he imagines her as the wife of a gallery owner or as a priest’s wife living with him. I can imagine making some paintings, and these paintings are dreamlike, capturing her smiles at him.

He teaches in the village and frequently travels to London to try to see Ursula. He would wait in front of her house until all the lights went out.

Another painting: a scene depicted of a man waiting in front of a dark house with an atmosphere of melancholy.

Van Gogh was interested in visiting poor people’s areas. People there had very bad clothes and food. They told him about their difficult lives. Van Gogh tried to speak in front of people in church.

I envision some paintings related to these poor people.

He gets to know about her marriage.

One painting depicts Ursula and her husband sitting in a horse-drawn carriage, kissing each other, with Van Gogh’s face looking very sad in the background.

Another painting captures the sounds of happy music and people dancing at a wedding, with individuals throwing rice in congratulations.



Letter 01/21/1882 – by Vincent van Gogh. (Source)

I have read almost all of his letters since yesterday, and it is very interesting to know that in most of them, he wrote about the details of his drawings and paintings and the progress of using different materials like coal, pen, and colour. From his letters, I learned about his colour theory. Of course, I need to read his letters one by one slowly, over time.

Van Gogh was a truly diligent artist. He spent all his time drawing or painting, thinking and developing, and putting all his energy and passion into his creations.

From his diary, I can see my own art life, too. Since childhood, I have had dreams of art; therefore, since I was 21, I have begun an artist life. Until now I feel like I live in a dream and I love art creating.

Today, I spoke with my husband, Jürgen Bernhard Kuck, about Van Gogh. Jürgen is an artist, art educator, and writer. He is very knowledgeable; his whole life has been spent reading, writing, and drawing almost daily.

We rarely learn about Van Gogh’s childhood from his books, as well as his relationship with his parents and other children in the family and his childhood surroundings. I am very interested in how his personality developed during his childhood and what his childhood was like until he was 20 years old. I like to do research about him also through my life experience. I like to analyze this aspect of his life. I would like to create some performances related to different art mediums through my imagination.



Sketch of the Austin Friars Church, London, enclosed in a letter from Vincent van Gogh to unknown, London, 1873-1874.

Today, I learned more about his time in the house in London, Ursula and her family, and his love for her. I also learned more about Van Gogh’s father and mom, and his work in the London Gallery.

I can make some paintings related to his living in London house.

-—- He tried to win her love but received coldness from her. I can imagine how hard it was for Van Gogh, and I can read his inside: I can paint his emotions toward Ursula—his dream love, passion, sadness, melancholy and disappointment. The atmosphere of all paintings is very quiet, naive and melancholic, as if something is flying to his dream…

His mom is worried about him because she can feel something wrong with Van Gogh, and his papa is disappointed because he did not follow his way as a priest. I can express my feelings in paintings between his mom and him. For example, I can portray her with nice eyes staring at him and with a worried expression. Additionally, I can depict his hug with a larger hand to his body and a mom’s loving feeling. The father can be portrayed sitting somewhere with a cross, and Van Gogh can be included somewhere in the painting to create a sense of distance. Papa and van Gogh visit poor people; I can also open my imagination to paint…maybe also related to my family papa and mom love.

He does not focus on his work in the London gallery because of the sad love.

I can make a painting featuring poor people in the gallery, not just rich people. I can imagine a painting of a rich woman with a feather on her body. I can also paint the inside of van Gogh in the gallery with hating this kind of society people.

In a way, that allows me to imagine creating all the paintings, such as fairy tales and other fantasy themes.



Vincent’s Boarding House in Hackford Road, Brixton, London. (Source)

Today is the first day I do “Yingmei curious about Vincent Van Gogh”. In the morning, I tried to read in German about his landscape catalog, Vincent Van Gogh – Die Rohrfederzeichnungen. If I read in German for just one hour with no internet translation for this project, I think 100 hours are really too short.

Then I tried via the internet to read about his drawings in Chinese. In the past, I did not know many of Van Gogh’s drawings, but since this month, I have discovered more of his drawings. His drawings reminded me of when I was in Beijing in 1991, starting my art learning. I often drew in different classes and modes, sketched at the railway station, and sometimes stayed in the station almost the whole day to make drawings. I was so lucky each day to draw because I finally realised my art-learning dream.

As I saw so many drawings, my first feeling was that I wanted to make them three-dimensional and include people in them. 3 or 5 different drawings appeared in 3D landscapes as an installation. People could also hear the songs of birds, feel the wind, and breathe fresh air.

Another thought was I want to perform outside each day for 3 months: sitting in the landscape in the countryside or in the city each day, creating drawings.

In the afternoon, I got Livia’s book from China, and I read some of his diaries. I like this book. It will help me learn more about his thoughts. Then, I can analyse Van Gogh to understand what kind of person he is.

And later, I also listened a bit to his story in London with the girl he fell in love with, and then I can imagine how hard it is for him…


Yingmei Curious About Vincent van Gogh


Art medium: Daily Live Art Performance in cooperation with Van Gogh House in London and Newcastle University, UK

Artist: Yingmei Duan

Date: 13th June – 20th September 2024 (100 days, 1 hour per day, 7am – 8am CET)

With 25 years of focusing on performance art, I have established my own system using the following categories: “Solo Performance,” “Performance Installation,” “Changing Exhibition,” “Daily Live Art Performance,” “Equal Collaborative Performance,” “Object Interactive Performance,” “Object & Video Interactive Performance,” and “Sound & Music Performance.” In the form of “Daily Live Art Performance,” I will realise my entire 3-month virtual residency as a performance art project. 

Without an on-site residency at Van Gogh House, I cannot directly, physically feel the historical significance of the space, so I would like to create a connection with Van Gogh House through imagination. I dedicate one hour a day to learning more about Van Gogh. I intend to create several virtual art performances incorporating painting, installation, video, writing, sound and photography. Some of these virtual concepts will be interactive and collaborative. I would like to work on the basis of the following ideas:


I am interested in learning about Van Gogh’s life in London. I would like to know more about his relationships with his parents, his brother, and the girl he fell in love with. I am intrigued by Van Gogh’s connections with people, his home, and the landscapes surrounding him… 


I am interested in his entire biography, as well as his drawings and paintings. I want to learn about his longings, joys, worries, melancholy, passions, decadence, fears, and more…


During this virtual residency, I also want to relate this exploration to my own life, including my relationships with my family members, my love life, my surroundings, my emotions, and my connections with people from different parts of the world. All the virtual concepts will be related to the past, present, and future, and can address various topics in our contemporary society.


Introducing Yingmei Duan



Yingmei Duan (b. 1969) left her home country China in 1998, after being a member of the underground Beijing East Village group between 1993-1995 where she took part in the collective performance work “To Add One Meter to an Anonymous Mountain”. The experience as a member of the avant-garde circle prompted Duan to turn towards the medium of performance, which developed further in Germany where she studied and worked with Marina Abramović and Christoph Schlingensief. Duan works with her own body as a primary means of expression, in which temporal extension, spontaneity, and the inclusion of the audience play an important role. Amongst many things, Duan is a curious observer of life and people’s desires and fears, she has concentrated her creativity on performance art and researching the medium for the past twenty four years. Based in Germany, Duan travels around the world to present her performances, often collaborating with a wide range of people and exploring themes such as cultural shifts and social constraints.

Image credits: Duan Yingmei, Shanghai Capsule Gallery Picture – Dai Jianyong

We are delighted to welcome Yingmei to the Van Gogh House as part of this exciting research project with Newcastle University. In particular we are interested in her performance practice and look forward to seeing how Yingmei engages remotely with all that the house has to offer!

– Livia Wang, Creative Director of Van Gogh House