Chengdu in the rain has a lazy charm, perfect for gazing dreamily out the window or dozing off on the couch. If you’re Su Kui, it’s also the perfect weather for exploring the humble, everyday items in your room—the paper clips, rolls of tape, or sponges you usually wouldn’t give a second thought.
With these objects, Su creates images that are absurd and quirky, with a touch of tension. Blurring the line between photography and drawing, her work uses both media and adds an extra dreamlike flair. As in any good dream, it’s hard to tell fantasy from reality when looking at her work, especially the surreal photos that make up her Daydreams series.
Daydreams is a photo series focused on the often overlooked objects in our lives.
“Most of them were in my room, hiding in plain sight for a long time. I was so used to ignoring them. One day while tidying up, I suddenly noticed all these things that I’d purchased a long time ago and forgotten about. I decided it was about time I did something for them—so I started snapping their portraits,” she explains.
Su frees these mundane items from their normal settings and contexts, devising striking compositions to explore their visual language and expressive capabilities.
In her work, you’ll recognize familiar household items like combs, rubber bands, or plastic bags—all of which become vehicles for her individual vision. Seemingly trivial, when reimagined by Su these ordinary objects become works of art that pose a challenge to your optical nerves. Though some critics write her work off as unserious, Su sees no need to pay too much attention to the art media. In her view, self-expression is what matters, since that’s what the language of art is for.
What sets Su apart from many of her contemporaries is her passion for still life compositions, as opposed to portraits or street shots. This passion comes from her curiosity about motionless objects. “Life is essentially boring,” she shrugs. “I want to take what’s ordinary and unearth its extraordinary side.” That’s precisely what she does: she puts her most intriguing side forward in her works.
Su believes pushing ahead to produce new photos is more important than dwelling on her past work. This belief is what drives her to create. “If I linger too long on my previous photos, I might miss an opportunity to grow,” she says.
Much of her work is an attempt to be different, even if that means abandoning a concept once she discovers it’s already been done. Laughing, she concedes that this is stubbornness on her part, but you might also call it a devotion to originality. Besides, if she weren’t so stubborn, she wouldn’t produce such refreshingly inventive work.