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Paintings of spring: an introduction to the Spring Series

February 21, 2018

 When spring returns to the world, the earth looks fresh and bright. With it comes the rain. It rejuvenates the land, awakening nature. Nature themes imbue my new style of art, but paintings of spring have long inspired my practice.

 

When I lived in China, I painted traditional Chinese paintings of spring. It remains a favorite subject. While my interest in spring budded at the start of my career, the first painting in the Spring Series dried in 2016.

 

The cycles of nature also exist in life. The I Ching or “The Book of Changes” teaches us that with the return of spring, the cycle of life begins again. Likewise, my artistic development returns full circle with the Spring Series.

 

My art practice reveals thoughtful lessons. With spring, I meditate on my personal growth as an artist. I contemplate my time as a student in Beijing and the long, difficult journey to arrive at my current style and artistic practice in Michigan.

 

Spring a captivating art theme

 

Spring has long captured my interest as an artistic subject. My early Chinese brush paintings explored water village scenes in southern China. I used traditional methods such as ink and Chinese calligraphy brushes to depict realistic scenes.

 

Most of my early spring scenes were rain related. I love the misty feel of rain in spring. It often falls between April and June in southern China.

 

I added color to the scenes to strengthen certain aspects. In one painting, pink cherry blossoms bloom behind a village, and in another, flecks of brown enhance the burst of new green foliage in a mountain forest once overwhelmed by winter.

 

My earlier technique though focused on detailed ink brushwork, as well as creating variations in tonality with ink density. My previous style also aimed to create a physical, recognizable scene.

 

While my technique still experiments with traditional methods, it has evolved to incorporate other styles, such as the layering of spilled ink and color and dry brushwork.

 

My aim has also changed. I now look inward to extract the subject’s spirit and capture its energy. I desire to give my paintings of spring new life, rather than focus on recreating a physical form.

 

Spring 12 appears to resemble my earlier work. By following the natural flow of spilled ink and color, my dry brushes exaggerate the lines and colors where they fall. A landscape emerges. A mountainous forest basks in the sun.

 

However, there is more to see in this painting. Some viewers describe seeing a bird in the darker green, or a handshake. There’s plenty to stir the imagination.

 

The bitter and sweet duality of the Spring Series

 

Spring brings new hope. After a harsh winter, we wishfully await the arrival of spring. People appreciate spring more after they experience the bitterness of a long, cold winter.

 

The days slowly lengthen as the seasons turn and spring approaches. As the land bathes in the warmer sunlight, clouds gather to bring the rain. Spring rain nourishes everything in nature. It awakens the world from a long hibernation.

 

Misty spring rain also seems mysterious. It turns the world into a dream-like land. New life emerges from the ground and flowers blossom. The world changes color as the silence of winter ends and fills with the songs of birds.

 

Spring 13 provides an intimate experience of spring. When viewed close up it reveals detailed brushwork. It reminds how objects and scenes of spring rain are like Impressionist paintings that capture a precise moment.

 

Some viewers entertain the idea that the painting expresses spring as a bubbling brook full and flowing, caught in the moment as it splashes along beneath the sun.

 

The painting grabs the audience’s imagination. The mind is quick to perceive familiar patterns like animals, human-like shapes, and faces in the spilled ink. For another viewer, this piece created a sense of dread, as if the ink held a foreboding left behind by winter’s transition.

 

We come to understand sweet only after we taste bitter. Sweet and bitter are two opposites, the yang and the yin that co-exist because of the other.

 

Nature and life follow the same pattern

 

In life, we find nature’s patterns repeating. As I paint, my reflections on spring seek to capture its energy, but also to balance it with how it makes me feel and the lesson it teaches. I aim to express the bitter and sweet relationship in the Spring Series.

 

I discover “bitter” refers to hard work, while “sweet” indicates success. We only taste the sweetness of success after we have experienced a tremendous amount of hard work and effort.

 

At the beginning of my career, my teacher, the late and renowned Chinese artist Mr. Li Keran said his art style was the “Bitter Study School.” It was hard work. He focused on improving technique and process.

 

He also encouraged students to explore new heights through the research of art in local cultures and western painting.

 

This hard work launched my career. Because of the bitter taste of hard work, I also tasted sweet success. I traveled across Europe and Asia to exhibit my early paintings.

 

Likewise, my new abstract style of painting and my new spring themed paintings also began with hard work. For many years, I have experimented with different techniques, tried different materials and processes.

 

After spilling the ink and acrylic paint on paper, I often stop and start again choosing only the best pieces for my spring themed paintings.

 

Because of this hard work, I now appreciate the success of my new style of painting. After hard times, we enjoy the good things in life. Spring 11 is a particular favorite of mine. It exemplifies everything I strive to achieve in springtime paintings.

 The different blend of shades produces a light, happy feel. There is a fresh quality to it, like an awakening. The energy flows freely from the layers of color, and a mysterious quality welcomes the imagination.

 

To some viewers, Spring 11 seems to be a dance. A green person, perhaps spring herself reaches forward to the shoulder of her partner in brown. Between them appears the face of a young child near her mother’s skirts.

 

While for others, the spring painting reveals a tree, covered in new leaves with yellow flowers beside a flowing river. To the left, a younger, slender sapling emerges from the white space.

 

Success requires hard work and effort

 

My new art style is a culmination of years of hard work. The spring themed paintings continue to explore my new abstract style of spilled ink and paint that merges traditional Chinese aesthetics with Impressionistic goals. The new style is a rebirth of my artistic career.

 

It seems apt then that my art returns to explore the paintings of spring and its two themes.

 

Just as we come to appreciate the sweetness of spring, because we have tasted the bitterness of winter, so too do we understand success because of the hard work and time it takes to reach it.

 

 

Shulin Sun

 

 

 

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