Interviewing The Artist: Dennis Sun
by Rogelio Agustin
Dennis Sun did when he put his painting brushes to rest for 3 years. And just in time for spring, the season symbolic of rebirth, awakening and new blooms, his brushes awaken from a 3 year hibernation giving birth to new works of art to be seen on a long awaited art exhibit.
You are holding this exhibition after a blank of 3 years. Were there any special reasons for putting your brushes to rest ?
I think I got tired and needed a rest. I was having art exhibitions about 5 times in a year. And I have been painting non-stop. But then also, several things came up into my life. I moved to another place. I got so busy with Jeepney Press and Utawit. Then, I was busy helping different activities of the Filipino community. My art had to be on vacation.
What's it like to have stopped painting for 3 years?
After not painting for awhile, it was fine but sometimes, I was itching to paint. But circumstances prevented me from touching my brushes. Although I was still doing creative work in writing and designing, I still longed to hold those brushes and smell those paints.
And what's it like to hold your brushes again after those 3 years?
When I went back to painting, I found “myself” again. The canvas. The brushes. The paints. I was creating magic on the canvas again. I am totally enjoying it. There are just too many ideas in my mind now that want to be painted on the canvas. I feel excited to be doing it all over again.
3 years must have been a long, long time! I myself can't even last a day without taking a picture! But I'd bet that during those years, you've been thinking of playing with your brushes again. So I'm pretty sure you've accumulated so much things to paint now. Did you have anything in particular that you wanted to do?
Actually, I have a children’s book that I have written, illustrated and drafted already that's basically finished and I want to get it published. I have done so many art exhibitions now that my next venture would be into publishing books.
Later on, I want to start writing a novel that has been lurking in my mind for a long time. I just don't have the luxury of time to write it.
That would be exciting to look forward to! But just a thought, you would be busier than ever so I hope your new endeavors won't compete with your painting. I know. I love creative work. Be it writing, painting, designing. I also love sculpture and it's a completely different experience from painting. In Japan, I had the experience to delve into ceramics. We are so lucky that we live in Japan. The level of art of the Japanese is very high. Once I sat foot in this country, I already fell in love. Just being inside the trains feels like being inside an art gallery. Since I am a graphic designer, just looking at all those posters hanging inside the trains make me feel like I am in heaven.
I also feel the same even for photography. On your forthcoming exhibition , what are we going to see? Is there any particular message you would want to convey through your work?
I will be showing new works and old works which I have done years ago. It would be a retrospective collection and added several paintings I have done this year. The message of my art is always the same: Get in touch with your inner child. Be happy!
Do you make your living off your art?
As a painter? Unfortunately, no. I wish I could. Painters will remain poor until they reach a certain level of fame. So my work in graphic design, illustration and writing has to feed me.
Aside from art, do you have other passions?
My other passion is my love for BOOKS! Maybe, you can take the art out of me, just don't get out my passion for reading.
Who is your favorite artist?
I love the surrealism of Dali, the playfulness of Miro, the colors of Gaugin, the composition of Rembrant and the fantasy of Disney!
Where do you get your inspiration when you work? Like, when you read books, something pop into your mind?
Inspiration? I go to museums and galleries. Different artists have different perspective in interpreting different subjects. Great art inspires me to move on with my art.
I hear a lot of people who say they don't know what to see or what to look for in a painting or an artwork to appreciate art. Maybe you can share with us what you see or how do you feel when you are looking at one or when you are actually creating art itself ?
I actually taught Humanities and Art Appreciation classes in the university before coming to Japan. It’s really different when you studied art appreciation. But for the general public, here is something I would like to say: Try not to understand, especially if it’s abstract art. And try not to analyze. In order to appreciate art, you need to feel the work. Look at the subject matter. Feel the subject. Feel the colors. See the textures, the forms, and the lines. It's as simple as that!
Personally, when I look at someone else's artwork, I ask myself: Is there a SOUL in this painting? Can I feel any emotions? Just like a singer. When he sings, do you feel his performance? Is it refined? Soulful? Sad? Happy? Did he over or under do it? Is the voice too loud? You know, it's basically the same with art. Sometimes, I tell myself, "My, this artist just wasted so much paint. I feel no soul in his art." Like heavy metal which is noise to many, there is also abstract art which is just plain ugly to many also. If you enjoy the art or music, then, go and immerse yourself into it. Otherwise, just leave and go. Just like food, if your stomach cannot digest it and if the taste is not to your liking, then, don't eat it. Art, music and food, they are all the same!
So direct and simple and yet enlightening! I would definitely follow that advice.
You first said you put your art on vacation because you were tired and needed a rest. But it seems like you've got more energy than ever, back to your brushes amidst beating Jeepney Press deadlines, organizing Utawit among other numerous community- based activities. You are simply amazing!
To all JP readers, Dennis is back and we will see his long awaited works again in his coming exhibition, DENNIS SUN: A Passion for Creativity at the ASEAN - JAPAN CENTRE on March 27 - April 5, 9:30-17:30 (closed on weekends). Entrance is FREE! See you all!
For more on Dennis Sun's art: