Cross cultural myth and art

Posted by Leon Sun

I’ve been absent in posting on this site – not out of negligence but because, 1) I’ve decided to slow things down a couple of notches. Screenprinting is so process intensive that each stage of production must be pursued with full attention and care. 2) While my original intent was to link up the commonalities found in indigenous art of the Americas and early Chinese art, I found very little factual knowledge of the cultures and philosophies underlying and propelling those arts. This is further complicated by the fact that I do not want to simply appropriate form without understanding content and intention.

These challenges did not discourage me from pursuing my original quest. I proceeded from two basic points. 1) Art is universal and can give meaning to anyone outside of its own place and time, and 2) As an artist, the only sure thing I can follow is my intuition.  If I feel it, it must be true.

One area where commonalities intersect is the way animals are depicted, how animals figure in our lives. Yet, even as I studied the arts of indigenous and early Chinese  peoples, I came to face the fact that, as an artist living in 21st century America, I have no tradition that I could draw upon in a way that is felt, believed and lived. How could I possibly invent imagery that is not stereotypical and superficial?

I realized that I need to start from basics. Start with animals I have some relationship with and through using the most – to me – basic of art forms: drawing. The pencil provides the most direct expressive link between what’s inside of me and what I wish to put out. The process of drawing, by itself, will be the method by which I learn to feel and understand the spirit and spiritual force that give life to indigenous and early Chinese art. At this point, I still have no visual language that could connect myself to the arts of an earlier age. My hope is that the process of drawing and bringing the images to full fruition through printmaking, I will find that language. It’s a process that I’m committed to, for however long it takes.

I am fortunate to live in the San Francisco Bay Area, where nature has not been completely wiped out, and where some areas have been restored to almost their original condition. Environmental and multicultural consciousness are strong here, all leading to a nurturing creative environment. My first close relationship to animals is, of course, with my dogs and, by extension through lineage, to wolves. I’ve already done a print of a crow, whose members are everywhere. And every time I see pelicans, I sense some ancestral recognition or memory.

Here, then, are a couple of images I’ve been working on since printing of the crow.

4web MoonWolf 2 4web Wolfdog2 4web Pelicans