Sun Yunfan is a multifaceted artist who has the ability to transform mundane subjects into whimsical and unpredictable pieces of art. Yunfan’s creativity isn’t confined to a single medium – her work includes art books, paintings, collages, drawings, installation art, and even films. “For today’s artists, cross-disciplinary practice is becoming the norm,” she says. “I’m not interested in the modernistic endeavor of revealing the ‘limit’ or ‘essence’ of different mediums. I’m interested in finding what can be done with them. I see myself as a cook, and depending on what produce and inspiration I have, I might cook a soup in the morning and then bake a dessert at night. They are different projects.”
Growing up between Shenzhen and Shaanxi, the now Brooklyn-based artist sees her art as having been “fermented” from the physical distance and isolation from China. “I suspect that I probably wouldn’t have become an artist at all had I not come to the States.” Still China clearly has an influence on her – the mountains, rocks, and rivers that appear in her work are credited as being influenced by the landscapes of Shaanxi. But at the same time, she feels like her artwork doesn’t directly reflect Chinese or American culture.
Yunfan believes that artists only create about half of their work, and that the other half of the work happens when the audience comes into contact with the artwork. Her approach to creating is self-described as “playing with a puzzle”, and that the easiest part of the puzzle is the initial inspiration. The challenging part is finding the remaining puzzle pieces and joining it all together to form a cohesive piece of work. “I don’t normally work with any sketches, scripts, or storyboards, but rather prefer the process be open and organic – even chaotic.”
Despite being well-versed with a variety of mediums, Yunfan tells us she is most experienced with painting and compares it to playing an instrument. “The medium yields to the artist’s maximum autonomy. And just the simple act of mixing paint allows the artist to mold her material on the molecular level. All experimentation is very direct and has immediate impact,” she explains to us. “Whatever object or subject is being constructed on canvas, the painter is simply dealing with paint. The color and texture of the paint have their own physicality on canvas, which is not directly traceable to the thing being depicted. The surface of any object on canvas can be considered a universe in itself.”
Recently, Sun Yunfan has been gravitating towards digital mediums such as video, animation, and music, describing the digital sharing process as “democratic and economical”. She is now even traversing into more unfamiliar territories for a new collaborative project with Dave Liang from The Shanghai Restoration Project and jazz singer Zhang Le. Yunfan wrote lyrics, some melodies, and even dabbled with music production as part of this collaboration. Their new album Life Elsewhere is slated for release later this year.