Interview: Sunny Chyun

Having attended the opening of Sunny Chyun’s solo exhibition, Valerie Oliveiro
chats with Sunny about her works and her exhibition entitled, “I need to believe”. We’re curious – what does she need to believe? “I need to believe… in myself that there’s hope,” she shares. Well there’s certainly hope for this bright young artist.

Born in Korea, Sunny now works and lives in Singapore. In Apr 08, she left the advertising industry to be a full-time artist. However, she had started working on her current collection way back in Nov/Dec 07. “I paint really fast. In my studio, I paint simultaneously on different canvases and I work really fast so it only took a few months. I completed it a week ago.”

On her working process

“I follow my intuition. I get my ideas from the subconscious. One piece then becomes a study for another piece; in terms of composition and colours.”

Clearly, Sunny is stepping towards Abstract Expressionism. Her dripping technique used denotes her inspiration – the 2nd & 3rd generation Abstract Expressionist artists like Joan Snyder. Take a look at Joan Snyder’s “Spin” (2006) here.

Showing me images of her past works, I’m amazed at her realist works – landscapes, golf courses and identity works. “I was wondering if I should add some of my past works into the exhibition so that people will see that I can draw and paint realistically too,” Sunny shared. 

Building from her past identity works, she explains “it’s an experimenting process where you create your own language. Yes, your own identity too.” Establishing her voice as an artist (and having a distinct voice too) is something Sunny wants to achieve. “When I have done so, perhaps I’ll have another exhibition then,” she laughs.

Her experimental nature is evident through the blurring lines between abstraction and figuration. Looking at the rounded forms in her works, you ask yourself – what do those circles represent?

Bernardus Goh, told us at the opening that he thought the circles looked like a monkey’s head! As I shared this with Sunny, she laughed saying that her boyfriend sees the circles as faces.

It is really up to your intepretation and imagination at Sunny’s exhibition. Landscapes fill the canvases, dreamy and surreal, for there is no specific location that you can pin-point it to be. Try not to look at the titles first. What does the painting mean to you?

Asking Sunny about the titles of her paintings, she laughs saying that it was better than calling her works No. 1- 18. “I had to make a few changes to some of the works’ titles though.”

Her Challenges

There was not enough references in Singapore so she spent a few months in New York to look at the works there. “It’s the real deal. It’s different to see the works up close and not just images in books you can find here.”

Her second challenge was in meeting Singaporean artists to get their feedback and input since she has never had an exhibition in Singapore before. “Feedback is important because you need to get constructive criticism to propel forward. It was difficult because I’m not familiar with artists here. I  couldn’t say, ‘Hey I like painting, want to visit my studio? That sounds dodgy!”

Therefore, Sunny had to experiment to get the composition and colours right. Pointing out my top 3 favourites from her collection, she tells me what she she has 50 variations of it in her studio. 

“The whole process is a trial and error thing. You want to keep 1 out of 10 works. You’ll probably show only a few and sell only a selected few. Some artists feel compelled to sell all their works but it’s not the case for me. I do want to keep some for future reference.”

Excerpt from the Artist’s tour of the gallery

Sunny: “I need to believe” is about the purpose of life, creation and existence. It’s a cycle. There are references to Genesis; an escape, a paradise. I’m interested in glimmers, sparkles, swirls, gloss and eridescence so you’ll see some gloss in most of my paintings. My palette is inspired by advertising and fashion – I love pastels.“Time to Pretend” has a very feminine feel to it. It’s the hot favourite of the lot. It looks like nail polish, don’t you think?”

What the future holds

“I’d like to explore the painterly, play up the physicality of paint and to learn how to control the medium better especially for dripping. That’s till I can just let go of the figurative and understand how the paint works differently. For example, I want to experiment more with oil painting and see ‘how the layers build up.”

“There will be no more cosmo paintings from me though,” she adds.

What others say about Sunny Chyun’s works:

– Teo Eng Seng, Cultural Medallion artist and former tutor of Sunny while she was studying at the United World College, mentioned that his favourite piece was “The Wasteland”.
– Jacqueline Guo’s favourite was “I of my own thoughts and nothing”. “I like how it makes me feel like I’m almost melting into the background. The lighting is positioned perfectly too so that I am drawn immediately to the centre.”
“Till human voices wake” was Bernardus Goh’s favourite. “I like the cosmo feel to the painting. It is like a quiet dark jungle where everything is still. Yet there is a clear passage of light that penetrates through, demarking hope.”
– Olivia Choong chose “Time to Pretend” as her favourite. “It’s pink, vibrant and alive.”

Pictures from the opening:
Special thanks to Sunny Chyun for the images.

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