We’re always excited to discover magazines from further afield, and who better to help us than Nelson Ng, editor of Shanghai-based travel indie Lost. Here he looks at another recent launch in China.
I first discovered Soft at a friend’s juice shop on the street where I live in Shanghai. It had caught my attention because of the English-only text on the cover, and its minimal use of only black and blue. It looked like a magazine that could have been from Europe, especially with its overlapping text printed with Risograph ink (see cover, above). But no, it was an independent magazine from Shanghai, and the publisher lived on my street.
Soft is a quarterly magazine that publishes conversations and interviews between young artists/creative people. What is perhaps interesting about Soft is that while it’s a magazine about artists, it doesn’t really showcase nor talk much about the artists’ work, but instead the conversations are about their lives and how they survive and pull through as artists.
Issue one features six artist interviews from different parts of the world (above), ranging from Shanghai to Chicago to Berlin. Each artist is different in the work that they do, but also in their personalities. Questions include “What other jobs have you done while you were trying to develop your artistic career?” and “Are you happy with your current living and working status?” and “What is the oddest job you’ve ever had?” (below). Having spoken with Chen Zou, the publisher, these seem to be the questions on her mind as an artist returning to China after studying abroad in the US.
Perhaps the most intriguing interview is the one with the ‘Anonymous Artist’ from China (below). Certain sentences and names have been blocked out to protect the artist, creating a sense of mystery and curiosity while metaphorically displaying the sensitive position of being an artist in China. A sense of frustration with everyday life problems also comes across through the artist’s answers, which were sort of humorous but very real and down-to-earth at the same time. It gives us a very genuine perspective of what it means to be an artist in China.
Issue one also includes a folded insert that showcases work from an emerging artist, Tant Zhong, who also happened to design the logo for Soft . She shows us her iPhone sketch paintings done in the Notes application, giving the magazine a nice playful touch amidst all the seriousness (below).