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Jewellery & Metal (MA)

Cullen Yiquan Gu

Yiquan Gu (Cullen) is an interdisciplinary artist working primarily in the medium of metal, ceramics, and mixed-media performative practice. Many of Cullen's works deal with the nature of his identity in which he refers to himself as an urban nomad living, immersing, camouflaging, and adapting in three metropolitan cities: Beijing, Boston, and London. 

In Cullen's visual repertoire, the human body remains one of the significant and most frequently recurring elements, regardless of its presence or absence: he usually does this by actively encouraging the audience to interact with his work or using the human body as a reference and metaphor to create an emotional appeal. Cullen rarely comments on purely political issues and social problems but believes individual voices can be transferable and reflective, transcending narratives. Thus he is no longer narrating the voice of an individual but rather everyone who feels the same, or anyone he could have imagined. 

It is hard to define Cullen as entirely an experimental/process-based artist, but he enjoys material experiments alongside his research practice. Aiming to create a dialogue through his work, Cullen weaves narratives and critiques into facts, hoping the audience will initiate deeper conversations beyond discussing the phenomenological experience. In this sense, he supports interpretations and readings of techniques and concepts equally instead of separating them.

At the RCA, Cullen has been working on building identities in a new environment. His most recent work in the graduate show demonstrates the dilemmatic contrast between AI-related technologies and human-made ‘craft’ that foreshadows the role of humans and technology after the emergence of ChatGPT.

Degree Details

School of Arts & HumanitiesJewellery & Metal (MA)RCA2023 at Truman Brewery

Truman Brewery, F Block, Ground, first and second floors

Cullen, the artist, standing next to Tower Bridge

I don’t even remember when the last time I checked the time on the clock myself was, nor can I identify the last time I wrote a reminder on the calendar. ‘Hi Siri’, plus one simple verbal instruction, has become the first thing I say in the morning, and the last thing I mumble before falling asleep. How do I prove my existence? To what extent, in the future, will I no longer need to think? These are the questions I always ask myself after the emergence of ChatGPT and many other related artificial intelligence (AI) technologies this year. 

When companies use algorithms even to generate sketches for the art and design industry, they are trying to challenge how we understand creativity and production. According to their logic, why should they hire extra people when machine-learning techs are more productive? However, are we extra? Is human creativity replaceable by any AI-generated programme? 

My work aims to provide a dialogue, an opportunity for people to step back (but physically step in) and carefully examine the role of human creativity and production and in what ways it is unique and will always remain so. Visually, this dialogue is conducted by having two crocheted nets suspended side by side, one at the front and the other at the back. The crocheted nets are different: One is made entirely by hand, using just metal wires and a crochet hook, and one is created by a Loom Board Rotating Needle machine mimicking a pattern (a unique crocheting instruction) designed by ChatGPT. When walking around the in-between space, I hope the audience will start having a conversation themselves about their experience of AI and ask themselves how they will live with AI and perhaps other advanced technologies in the future. 

detailed shoot of my work depicting two nearly touched hands on each piece of crocheted piece
Models wearing the piece
models wearing the piece and shaking hands
suggested display of the whole project
wire crocheted pattern detail
Pattern inspired by Blanket stitch pattern, but alters how many single and double crochet for each stitch.
detailed yarn crochet pattern
created with loom board knitting machine


Mixed Medium including: silver plated copper wire, cotton yarn, metallic fiber yarn


1.8*2.2 Meters (silver piece); 1.5*1.8 Meters (WIP)
picture showing sketch
Sketchsketches and mind-mapping illustrating how project started.
patterns generated by ChatGPT and use ChatGPT' instrcuction to generate patterns using MidJourney
picture showing a sample of crochet practice in silver wire
Material practice Sample