Sculptor carves rhythms of ordinary life into art

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 October, 2011, 12:00am


Art should not be confined in museums, but should be a part of people's lives, says mainland sculptor Sun Yi, who hopes to awaken the force of life through his wooden works.

'When people say that some contemporary art pieces are not good, I wonder if it's because those pieces are too remote from our lives,' the 44-year-old Beijing-based artist said.

'If the public cannot understand your work, does it mean it's highbrow? It will only mean that the art piece is only created for a small group of people and I disagree with that. Art should be part of people's lives.'

This explains the simplicity of Sun's works on show in Hong Kong.

Dancer I depicts a free-flowing ribbon in motion, while his clothing series are simple attire that normal people would wear.

But despite the illusion of softness they project, they are solid sculptures carved from large pieces of wood that Sun found on the mainland.

'I didn't deliberately choose to use wood, but then I thought, 'Chinese people have special feelings towards wood',' Sun said in his studio in Beijing. 'Of the five elements, wood comes second, representing the force of life.'

An interesting fact about wood sculptures, he said, was that the piece's condition depended on how an owner treated it. 'Wood changes according to climate. And sometimes people ask me what to do when the pieces they own have cracked, I tell them there's nothing I can do about it. Once I give you the piece, the life of the wood sculpture is in your hands. How it lives depends on you, not me.'

Born in Dalian in 1967, Sun was assigned to work in Guangzhou after graduating from Beijing's Central Art and Craft Academy in 1989. He then ran his own design house until the 2000s. During this time, he said he was exhausted by managing a business and worrying about finances.

He did not begin his art until 2002, and he struggled until he found the Hong Kong gallery to work with in the mid-2000s. Since then, his works have been shown mostly in Hong Kong and Macau.

While many might imagine the fast-rising Chinese contemporary art market would allow artists to house themselves in state-of-the-art studios, this is not the case for Sun.

The artist's wood sculptures are conceived in a primitive studio hidden in a Beijing suburb, with no air-conditioning and surrounded by a pond, his chickens and swarms of mosquitoes.

'Land resources are very tight in Beijing, especially for large studio spaces like mine. And I need a big space because of the material I use. My wood pieces are huge,' said Sun.

Ligneous Vitality -The Genius of Sun Yi ends on Sunday at Galerie du Monde.