Overseas NO.73: Moya Sun

The No.73 episode is about Moya Sun, who graduated from University of Pennsylvania and is now an independent artist

Project Specs


A bosom friend afar brings distant land near. The Oversea album shares the lives of Chinese living abroad with all. The No.73 episode is about Moya Sun, who graduated from University of Pennsylvania and is now an independent artist.


Why going abroad?


To break the comfort zone.


What impressed you the most when you are abroad?


Trump winning the election. All the reactions among the world to this is much more interesting then the news itself.


What do you miss the most about China?


Not really. I’m not a nostalgic person


Will you come back China? Why?


If going back means settling down there, then the answer is no: I couldn’t think of a place to settle down yet; If going back means staying for a while for self-improvement, then the answer is for sure, but perhaps not now. On the other hand, I’m also open to the unknown arrangement from life.


Is it more distinct to view China in a different environment after going abroad? Any thought?


I wouldn’t say it has became clearer. The vision to homeland is always blurry cause it’s hard to be rational any way. However, I’ve got a clearer idea of the states. I’m always thinking the limitation or the boundary of democracy and freedom since I arrived here. This is such a complicated topic that I’m still looking for the accurate answer. But personally speaking, I think the input of information goes beyond the output in China, and it’s the opposite here. So sometimes I’m pretty shocked by how people get to their sharp statements before they do some research about the big picture. I’m pretty impressed by those actually, I think I need to learn from them about the confidence, and presentation skills.


What makes the curriculum of your school different from other architecture schools?


There were tons of lectures, workshops, practices back in my undergraduate, Tongji CAUP. I was exposed to a lot frontier theories and study methods and I did enjoy the freedom of learning a lot. But given the fact that I’m not very disciplined by nature, all the happiness led to a lack of framework of practices. While the system at Upenn is totally different. It’s well organized, well framed: a little bit too framed for me. The time at Penn feel like I was actually working instead of creating. So I didn’t enjoy the first year over there, that’s also why I took a gap year in the middle of my program. I thought one year of practices and experiments of my own could help me to communicate with professors about my ideas. It turned out to be true. I become capable of being supportive to my own perspective and maintaining constructive dialogues with professors. Being able to communicate is very important for me.


To conclude, experiences of these years aboard is similar to when a runner of the wild got captured to a crazy exercise field. Both the body and the mind were being challenged no matter you want to or not. Though I planned to break the comfort zone before but I was not expecting this. This is too much for me. However, I have to admit that after two year of those crazy days and nights, I feel I’ve progressed to be a better runner of a wilder field. I’m grateful to all those years.


What are the characteristics and interesting points of your firm?

说说我作为跨界艺术家自由职业的工作模式吧。从最开始只想去三五人的小事务所,到同比较了解我特点的教授们沟通,到后面父母和教授们都很支持我专注做艺术这一块,就决定自由职业,如果不成再去找事务所也是条退路。我的工作内容大概分成四类,一类是做竞赛,来保持自己对设计的敏感度,这是基本功;一类是写作,包括英文和中文,学术写作和文学类都会有;一类是委任艺术项目的沟通、推进工厂制作,这一部分非常琐碎消耗精力。虽说以往有与客户打交道的经历,但这次委任项目含有大量社区成分,平衡艺术理念、所谓cultural appropriation、以及建成效果这三者之间的关系是一件很微妙的事情,与此同时,与客户以及社区开会协商,书写大量的文案,控制运作成本和时间等等,很费心力。最后一类就是绘画了,我相信画是一个积累以及顿悟的过程。我生活的每一部分都在影响着我和我的作品,闲着的时候脑子里也总在想如何通过画面与现实达成和解。词不达意嘛,我觉得好多纷争的根源就是“众说纷纭”和“排除异己”之间的角力。无力言词的时候,画的作用就很重要了。

I’ll talk about some experience working as a freelancer. At the first beginning, I was aiming to small studios of only three to five people. After talking to professors who know my features and skills, I decided to try out freelancing for a while. There are 4 types of work that I need to deal with everyday. Firstly, I keep doing design competitions to make sure I won’t be offset from the field of landscape design. I think design skills are fundamental. Second one is to keep writing, both in English and in Chinese, both academical writings and literatural ones. The third one is energy consuming. To communicate, propose, progress and negotiate commission art works is complicated. Balancing the value from clients, community and my art concept needs a lot of skills, such as presentation, narrative writing, permit requesting, budget tracking and schedule updates. It takes a lot of my attention. The last category is painting and drawing. I believe the good quality of painting an drawing comes out of practices. I feel all that I’ve experiences is influencing me about how I approach to art works. My thoughts are also occupied by figuring our how to coupling image and reality even if I’m not working. I think the function of image is every critical since narratives of language are manipulated by too many agendas.


I think for freelancers, self-discipline is vital. There is no such a thing called working time or weekend. I need to make sure everything thing is happening within my framework. This is much busier then working in an office like I did before. And most of the time, a freelancer is working alone. This means you need to know how to spend quality times of yourself and be open to any kinds of conversations you could find at a cafe, library, or a bookstore…


Who is your favorite artist (in wider range such as art, music, movie)? What is the influence?

Henri Rousseau。一直想要学习并与之靠拢(哪怕一点点)的艺术家有很多很多,但是说得上喜欢的,一直只有这一个。他的作品非常单纯。我认为单纯是一种超越技法的品质,它很简单,真诚,耐人寻味,但它不刻意,且没有争抢的欲望。我觉得除非某个人是生来单纯的,否则他/她很难通过其他类别的天赋经过后天熏陶达成这种效果。所以我认为是否单纯是评价艺术的最高标准。

Henri Rousseau. He is the only one that I always feel appreciate out of other artists that I want to learn from. His works are very simple. I think being simple is a rare quality that could surpass techniques. It is easy to understand, genuine , worth rethinking, and it’s not pretentious. I think unless someone was born to be simple, otherwise, it’s hard to get to the same quality with other kinds of talent or training.

Henri Rousseau 带来的是心境上的影响。还有许多影响都是来自其他类别的艺术家,比如Joan Mitchell, Ann Hamilton, Anselm Kiefer, Maya Lin, Anthony McCall等等,国内的比较喜欢像陈邵雄。他们之间都很不一样。平常看书或者看展览,有哪件作品特别打动我我就会去顺藤摸瓜做研究。总的来说,做装置或者公共艺术的艺术家对我的影像更大,绘画的相对少一些。我认为绘画是需要极强极强的自我意识才能驾驭,绘画的能量从自身来的多一些(此处绘画意指二维画面,并非那些玩味三维概念的含有画面成分的作品)。而其他艺术门类更具有对话性和反馈性,它的能量来源更加多样,有好多方面值得研究学习,同我自身的联系也更大。

Henri Rousseau impacts me more on the level of the attitude towards the outside world. I’m also influenced by tons of other artists like Joan Mitchell, Ann Hamilton, Anselm Kiefer, Maya Lin, and Anthony McCall. They are all very different to each other. I would do research about artist whenever I found an intriguing work. In general, artists doing conceptual art and installation influenced me more than painters. I think paintings required a huge amount of self-awareness, the energy of it comes from the inner world. However the other genres of art are more like a dialogue or a feedback. The energy sources are more diversity, and I feel they are more related to my current works.


What fascinates viewers the most in your portfolio in your opinion?


I have two requirements for my works. One is they need to challenge the conventional understanding of landscape as just a physical space. For me, the potential of landscape is much broader, it could refer to the view, the vision, including how you get the view and the after-effect of the view. The second is they need to be worth rethinking after the first impression, but I don’t want them to be too refined. Being overly refined is a result of the obsession over objects, and it’s ignorance to the nature of an idea as a tool to challenge the boundary of materiality.


When did you start to follow gooood? Any suggestions?


Since the sophomore year of undergraduate. This is a very practical platform; I don’t know enough background stories of you, so I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to bring up “advice” randomly.






Ocean Memorial

我对我的景观或公共艺术作品中前期信息采集这个过程很重视。在这个作品中,田野调查,资料研究,作品定位都试图以艺术化的途径与手段来完成。我认为设计作品的艺术化不仅仅是把东西做的好看, 而是在充分理解场地文化环境和社会机理的基础上,另辟蹊径去创造“情理之中,意料之外”的作品。

For me, the process of research and field study is importance to define my project. In this project, I tried several simple but thorough way to do the research. I think to combine landscape design and art means more than making the design looks pretty. The role of art in design is to understand the site context and social texture in a genuine and sensitive way. The real art works are surprising but reasonable.



The project starts from the geology study of Tuscany. Limestone, the feature rock material for the area, is the storyteller of the impact of this geological fact on topography, soil, economy, and culture. Limestone firstly was the sediment at the bottom of oceans. During the continent movements, limestone was pushed out of the ocean and forming the waving topography of Tuscany. This is in the same with how Venus was born from the ocean. The story itself is legendary and romantic. Together with its close relationship with architectures and sculptures at Italy, limestone becomes a iconic material for the region. Ocean memory is a public square for the future town development of the “Ideal City”, Pienza, using limestone and other feather rock materials as the main construction material.





Sprouting Possibilities


In this piece of installation, I want to create an unexpected event for people, that their daily errand running space is interrupted by a piece of unrealized memory. I simultaneously proposed a public art piece that memorialized the trees of Philadelphia, considering the rich forested past of the Schuylkill River and surrounding areas. Images of native tree canopy shadow are printed on a set of 9 semi-transparent screens and stretched across the 49th and Parkside vacant lot. Shadows on the screen is state of both “used to be” and “will be”. As people see through the screen, the imaginary trees and the reality scene are layered together, the latitude and longitude of the fabric breaks the scenery behind it into pixel-like unites. The imagination gets projected on the screen blowing in the wind and the existing gets rearranged in a surrealistic way with the city skyline and horses greasing in the background. The shifting, layered image is a question of existence: what is our own place in real and imagined past and futures?





Collective Coast


This is also a piece of memorial work, including a public art work, EQUATOR@ECUADOR. In 2016, the coastal area was attacked by earthquakes and tsunami. The studio aims to propose resilient solutions for the local government. The installation is a spontaneous reaction to the situation. The temporary installation was completed within 4 hours collaboratively by the designers in the group and local citizens. During the installation of the art piece, people kept asking question what were we doing, and after explaining and translating, more and more citizens were joining us by bringing the debris together. Stories about earthquake were collected together with the debris; better building techniques and safe location configuration were introduced by designers: A conversation happened. The impact of the project was limited but direct. Within a limited extents, it triggered citizens to think about the bond of nature as creator and destroyer, instead of walking passed the same attacked building with decades ago.

在设计方案中,以废墟砖块为线索材料,沿20m防洪等高线铺设海岸沙丘空间的主要游径。等高线,同赤道线一样,是人们为了更好的理解地球空间而设定的虚拟的线。而这条虚拟的线却对真实的物理空间具有映射作用。20m等高线以下,是受海啸威胁的空间,20m等高线以上,是可以安全建造家园的空间。这条等高线不仅承载着对地球物理信息的微观感知,更承载着灾难意识的建立。 等高线路径的中心处根据地形设置了植物园——这是对自然研究,自然进化,以及物种多样性的庆祝。

Debris is the feature material in the project of Collective Coast. The material is used for the paving along the 20m contour line. The materialization of the imaginary line is vital for it highlighted the decisive element of living condition. Beneath the 20m, its the flooding zone and above the 20m, its the safe area for house construction. At the middle of the 20m contour path, the taxonomy garden shows the nature science and diversity in this specific environment.







Riverfront Shifting

这是一个针对芝加哥Goose Island 旧工业区转型改造的项目。城市设计中对城市空间的敏感度是同公共艺术的创作相同的。城市定位,政治政策,空间手段,实施计划等等,这些设计手法以外的研究,对于评判一件公共艺术作品是否契合空间特性有着很重要的作用。在事务所工作阶段,也是做城市项目居多,这种对城市空间的敏感度和对空间运营原理的知悉,在很大程度上帮助在协助我的委任艺术项目。

This is a project for the revitalization of industry zone, Goose Island, Chicago. The sensitivity about place-making in urban design and in public art is shared. The study of urban development policy, strategy and framework make it easy for me to understand the agenda and background of art commission work. To evaluate whether a project of urban design or a public art is appropriate, knowing the space texture and policy is very important.





Bulbing Wall


Bulbing Wall is a grass-root project at Shanghai. My curiosity of deconstruct an original piece and transform it into something else is fulfilled. Now every time I looked back to the project, I would found the interactive part of the project is a bit too complicated. Most of the time, visitors have limited patience to understand the work and follow the instruction. So in the later works, I always ask myself if the work itself is convincing and intriguing enough for people to reach out to them.





Fine Art

位于北京段祺瑞旧府的BUNKER ARTSPACE的展览,RUPTURE|Before&Beyond, 是我首次对于景观结合艺术这一概念的实践。此次展览中架上艺术为多数,画面主要表达微观演化与宏观进程的共通性。此后的艺术创作也在探讨物质世界中人的生物特性,它们在作品中被呈现为大环境的物理特性的一个层面。

The exhibition RUPTURE|Before&Beyond, located at the old government mansion of Duanqi Rui, Beijing, was my first test to express my understanding of landscape through art making. In this exhibition, I’ve shown the most recent paintings of mine. The similarity between micro evolution and the progress of the world as a great system is the main theme. The biology feature of human beings were described as one of the physicality of our environment in my later works.

▼the fire

▼Garden of Coal (ground), The March of Fire, 1m*1m, fire on wooden board

▼Gravity #1, 1m*1m, oil painting on wooden board

▼Sunset, 40cm*30cm, oil painting on canvas

▼Gravity #2, 1.2m*0.5m, oil painting on wooden board

▼Forest, 20” * 20”, 3 pieces, oil painting on canvas

▼Weather through the Window, 7” * 11”, pastel on paper

▼Harbor Memory, 2018 LIGHT CITY, commissioned art work, with XXS GROUP

学校or工作单位:自由职业,跨界艺术家 (宾夕法尼亚大学)
联系方式:moyasun@alumni.upenn.edu, www.moyasun.com
When: 2014 Fall – Present
Where: Philly-London-Philly
Who: Moya Sun
From: Changchun, Jilin
School & Firm: Independent artist, University of Pennsylvania
Contact: moyasun@alumni.upenn.edu, www.moyasun.com

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