“My art practice is derived from my doll photography works, which I started practicing when I was a kid. It was a pure hobby at first, but turnt into a long and comprehensive method of creation that carries my aesthetics. Some of the images are turnt into a series of watercolor paintings titled Artificial Fairies, while others become a series of oil paintings, which I titled Gem in Their Eyes.”
“I studied and experimented with these two classical mediums, striving to refine my painting style into a unique authorship. I look for the ideal doll in doll images I create. Inspired by visual beauty of these mass-produced toy dolls in real life, my work proceed to discuss the context derived from the meanings behind objects that are human beings’ artificial imitations.”
Yuqian Sun was born in Shenzhen, China in 1997. Without receiving any artistic influence from her family, her dream of becoming an artist sprouted when she was 4. She started studying art since then. In 2011, her long journey of studying abroad began. She came to the United States for high school. After graduading from Idyllwild Arts Academy in California, she continued pursing a BFA degree in University of Michigan, and graduated in 2019. Fascinated by the art of visual storytelling and the potential of decorative elements in her artworks, she entered the M.F.A in illustration program in University of Hartford and studied till today.
Received her first 2 ball-jointed-dolls as the present for her 14th birthday, she falls in love with these resin dolls and started collecting them. In her high school and college time, she took dolls out to the forest and and wild every week to practice out-door photography, and kept posting on photography platforms to share with other doll collectors. She published her first doll photography book titled Picture Scroll of the Maidens at the age of 21.
Her skills and aesthetics kept evolving, and helped her discover a more and more vivid personal style over the years. Her work always reflect how much she adores the unique beauty of these dolls and the history behind doll aesthetics in various cultures. Her photography approach is a mixture of still life and portraits. She keeps exploring that invisible but concrete line between doll photography and portraits of real people.
In 2015, after noticing that multiple followers had commented about how her photography work always had a dynamic but balanced composition and impactful yet harmonious color palette, which reminded them of classical oil paintings, Yuqian started to realize the endless aesthetics potential of her photography work. It is her opportunity to let this creativity reach to the field of fine art paintings.
Starting from 2016, she tried to combine the two areas and turn her best doll photos into watercolor or oil paintings. Since then, dolls have turnt from a pure hobby into a significant and unique aspect of her original artwork.
The original purpose of portrait paintings is leaving records for people’s appearances. People’s facial features are everchanging because of their age, life experiences and mood. Therefore, capturing a certain moment in one’s life is pricelessly meaningful. But what about dolls? It is true that they are always capable of holding a perfect smile. Their adorable appearances never age. If their beauty is a reflection of doll artists’ ideal form of human beings, instead of their eternality compare to humans, why do writers and film artists always emphasize on the absence of soul, which seems to be the only flaw of their existence?
Artificial Fairies is an on-going watercolor series of portraits Yuqian does for her dolls. Unlike how modern literature and art portrays doll as, Yuqian aimed for creating artworks that turn these externally liveless models into internally living objects. She focuses on capturing the subtle expression of these lively dolls, creating an illusion that they are actually breathing, smiling, and about to talk with their gem-like eyes. At the same time, she makes the joints and the solid surface of them very noticeable, highlighting the fact that they are only an imitation of human beings.
This series of paintings was discussed the most at her first personal exhibition “Sand·Gold”, held in Shenzhen, China in 2018. It stimulates her audiences’ imagination, creating a narrative mysterious narrative that questions: what if these dolls are actaully living souls encaged by a silent, immobile shell? In these paintings, dolls are always surrounded by flowers, which have flaws but still full of vitality. The contrast between the dolls and the plants creates this poetic space that makes her audiences re-consider where the boarderline of life and lifelessness is.
Yuqian Currently focuses on watercolor, oil paintings and illustration-related work. The emotional intensity that emerges in the poetic flow of translucent color is the reason of her obsession of the medium. Watercolor is a medium full of unpredictability and transience. No matter how experienced the artist is with controlling the water and paint, there will always be some surprising texture and color-mixing created.
The flow is like the invisible breath of the water and the gravity. It is formless, but the trace of pigments and granulation gets to preserve it and turn into a romantic evidence of an ordinary painting moment. It makes a normal day of an artist’s life unique and impossible to copy, like how ancient insects are preserved in ambers. Isn’t that similar to photography? When working on representational paintings with watercolor, Yuqian thinks of it as capturing a solid form with a water, light and emotion, all shapeless materials. It is significant and meaningful when her understanding about not only the technique, but also the philosopy hidden behind this art approach gets more in-depth.
2021 Elected to be official collaborative illustrator of Potala Palace, Tibet
2019 Elected to be a member of China Illustrator Alliance
2018 Elected to be a member of International Illustration and Design Study Visit group
2016 Elected to be a member of Shenzhen Illustration Association
2017 Picture Scroll of the Maidens
Doll photography portfolio published by the Lingnan Fine Arts Publishing House
2014 Nice to Meet Me
Personal Portfolio published by China International Press
2009 Diary of a Fat Cat
Original comic storybook published by Lingnan Fine Arts Publishing House
2015-2019: Bachelor of Fine Arts-Stamps school of Art and Design-University of Michigan
2011-2014: Visual Art major-Idyllwild Arts Academy