Ray Lei

On August 31, 2012 by Design China

Ray Lei is an amaz­ingly tal­ented Beijing-based ani­ma­tion artist. Work­ing across mul­ti­me­dia, graphic design, illus­tra­tion, graf­fiti and even music, it’s a won­der how this lone ranger gets it all done. Ray founded his own ani­ma­tion stu­dio while still in school in 2005; 4 years later in 2009, he obtained a Mas­ters in Ani­ma­tion from Tsinghua Uni­ver­sity. In 2010, his short film, This Is Love, was screened at Ottawa Inter­na­tional Ani­ma­tion Fes­ti­val and awarded Best Nar­ra­tive Short. Bing Jie Fu He of Design China inter­viewed the young designer about his jour­ney to date.

Where are you orig­i­nally from, and what brought you to Bei­jing?
I was born in Nan­chang, Jiangxi Province. From a young age, I learned art from my father, who was a book designer for Jiangxi Pub­lish­ing House. In 2003, under his guid­ance, I was accepted into the School of Art at Tsinghua Uni­ver­sity, and in 2007, I was accepted into their Mas­ters pro­gram. After grad­u­at­ing in 2009, I decided to stay in Bei­jing. At the moment, I am liv­ing with my girl­friend in a one-bedroom apart­ment in north­ern Bei­jing, which is both our home and my studio.

How did you develop an inter­est in ani­ma­tion and design?
I love music, skate­board­ing, drama, and comic strips. From my inter­ests I dis­cov­ered the beauty and expres­sive­ness of ani­ma­tion as an artis­tic lan­guage. It is like a bridge con­nect­ing var­i­ous dis­ci­plines thus enabling me to col­lab­o­rate with other musi­cians, illus­tra­tors, artists, and archi­tects. Some of the most inter­est­ing col­lab­o­ra­tions I have been involved with include work­ing with archi­tect Li Hu for the Red Line Park ani­ma­tion project, and with Ou Ning for the Bor­der Plan­ning art project.

What is the most inter­est­ing brief you’ve worked on so far?
There was an inter­est­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion with the pho­tog­ra­pher, Su Wen, who had been col­lect­ing used films from var­i­ous recy­cling sta­tions from around Bei­jing. Even­tu­ally, he ended up with 50,000 35mm coloured films doc­u­ment­ing the life of aver­age Bei­jingers for the past 30 years. We selected 3000 films and made a short ani­ma­tion. The process was really fun — dif­fer­ent from how I usu­ally work. Through this project, I dis­cov­ered a whole new hori­zon for animation.

How does your envi­ron­ment shape your work?
Bei­jing is a dynamic city with a deep cul­tural her­itage — and I have lots of friends here. My bud­dies started a band called Hey!!! and we often exchange ideas through this plat­form. There is a place called China Youth Club in And­ing­men, which I fre­quent too, and we often have shows and work­shops there. Their mag­a­zine China Youthol­ogy (headed by Zafka) is inter­est­ing as well. All of these together pro­vide an ideal envi­ron­ment for me to come up with new thoughts and ideas.

What is your sin­gle, most proud achieve­ment to date?
I won Best Nar­ra­tive Short at Ottawa Inter­na­tional Ani­ma­tion Fes­ti­val in 2010, which is a huge encour­age­ment since this is the sec­ond time ever in his­tory that a Chi­nese national has won such an award.

What are your plans for the future?
I am going to make a short ani­ma­tion about my family’s his­tory, which has already been selected by a com­pany in Canada to be one of their in-house projects. I will sub­se­quently go to Que­bec to work on this, this November.

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