Daisy in chains
Yuan Yun began her artistic training with her father Yun Yuqing who was Professor of Chinese painting at a Beijing university. Although she studied fine art and and oil painting, her practice has since expanded to incorporate collage with natural materials, often petals and leaves, and video and digital prints as well.
Having also trained in Britain and travelled in Europe, Yun integrates her research into western arts with traditional Chinese culture. She seeks, she says, ‘to combine the richness of eastern art, meditation and metaphysics with postmodern western conceptual ideas utilising common imagery’. She often deals with feminist themes, issues of migration and identity.
Yuan Yun began her artistic training with her father Yun Yuqing who was Professor of Chinese painting at Yingshang Shi Fang University in Beijing. Though she studied fine art at Anhui Unviersity and oil painting at the Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing, her practice has since expanded to incorporate collage with natural materials, often petals and leaves, and video and digital prints as well.
Having also trained in Britain and travelled in Europe, Yun integrates her research into western arts with traditional Chinese culture. She seeks, she says, ‘to combine the richness of eastern art, meditation and metaphysics with postmodern western conceptual ideas utilising common imagery’.
It was Yun’s move to England to study fine art at Newcastle University that in fact prompted a rekindling of interest in Chinese artistic traditions. ‘If I had not come out of China, I might not have appreciated the culture if my own country with its underlying Taoist philosophies (Yin and Yang) and art forms,’ she says, ‘Being so close to them I took them for granted.’
Yun creates scholarly, poetic abstractions, which often reflect upon the position of women in Chinese society. ‘Daisy’ depicts a female figure enclosed in a black box with her hands clasped behind her back, an image of imprisonment and powerlessness that contrasts starkly with the beautiful daisies and leaves that adorn the canvas. ‘The Sun is Hard to Come By’ features a woman, partially obscured behind shades, whose beauty is somehow marred by her vacuous expression.
Her works also touch upon the representation of women within art history. In ‘The Empty Flower Pot’, Jun pitches her own body against a Modigliani nude. For her show in Newcastle in 2001, partly funded by Visiting Arts, Yun also exhibited ‘Strawberry Field’, an abstract expressionist piece, again using the artist’s own body and strawberries and cream.
The making of the work was videoed as a performance, from which Yun produced a series of digital prints of her body, recumbent on the canvas with cream between her legs and on her body. As erotic self-portrait is merged with the desires of a traditional English palette, it is tempting to interpret this work as an ambiguous comment on the perception of Chinese females in the British imaginary.
‘Puzzled’ is a startling work that reflects upon the often distressing experience of migration. At the centre of the piece, a Buddha-like figure meditates upon a lotus. To one side, a woman stares out at the viewer. The peaceful, welcoming image of the Buddha, however, has been attacked, ripped out by the artist; a disturbing depiction of Yun’s unhappiness and loneliness on moving to England.
Later works include a series of romantic dreamlike landscapes, in which the artist creates her own wonderland. Even here, however, a quiet melancholy is present. In ‘Dusk, drop… drop…’, subtle faded silk colours combine with fallen flower petals and rosebuds to create a sad atmosphere.
Now settled in Vancouver, Yun has recently used digital tools and techniques to open the four classical elements of traditional Chinese art – painting, poetry, calligraphy and chops – to extend the notion of painting beyond the canvas. Her works are increasingly moving away from a highly personal nature, as she seeks simply to express ‘the purity of the beauty and mellowness of the life I experience in an attempt to bring these sensations of joy and discovery of profundity to my viewers’.
Yuan Yun has works in collections in China, Britain, Macau, Hong Kong, Poland and South Korea. She has been exhibiting her work nationally and internationally since 1986. most recently, she participated in the group show ‘The Big “M", Isis Arts Video Touring Show, which toured Europe in festivals including Alniwick Castle, The Great North Run and Site Gallery Live Art, as well as events in Newcastle, Cumbria, Hull, Manchester, Gloucester, London and in Belgium, Kortrijk and Brussels. The show ‘The New Peach Blossom Land’ at the Port Moody Arts Centre, Blackberry Gallery, British Columbia in 2003 was her first solo exhibition in Canada.
Author: Diana Yeh, Visiting Arts
Yuan Yun (June Yun) studied fine art (western and Chinese) at Anhui University between 1986 and 1990 and oil painting at the Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing from 1993 to 1994. She travelled to England to pursue a Masters Degree in Fine Art at Newcastle University and graduated in 2000. She has taught at Angin University and the Polytechnic Institute of Macau and has been a Visiting Professor at Shanghai University´s College of Art and Design. She currently lives and works in Vancouver, Canada.
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
Exhibition / Installation
2002/2003 ‘The Big "M" Video Tour’ , Isis Arts , Tyne and Wear, England
2001 ‘Open Studio Show’, Waygood Gallery, Newcastle, UK
2001 ‘Flight, Performance, Waygood Gallery, Newcastle, UK
2001 ‘Propagator: Tyneside Event Film Screening’, The Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle, UK
2000 ‘The Ida Branson Memorial Bequest Exhibition’, Akinson Gallery, Somerset, UK
2000 ‘MFA Show’, Hatton Gallery, Northumberland, UK
2000 ´VANE´2000, Newcastle, UK
Exhibition / Installation
2003 ‘The New Peach Blossom Land’, Port Moody Arts Centre, British Columbia, Canada
2002 ‘From Fengshui To Strawberry Fields’, Gallery of Newcastle College, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
2001 ‘Home Is Where The Heart Is’, The Oriental Musuem, Durham, UK.
2001 ‘From Fengshui To Strawberry Fields’, Washington Arts Centre, Sunderland, UK.
2001 ‘Two Breaths Of Nature’, Designworks, Gateshead, UK.
2001 ‘Strawberry Fields’, Ezone, Gateshead, UK.
2000 ‘Millennium-Dragon, Chinese Art Exhibition’, Discovery Museum, UK.