AIR Cycle 9 Highlight: Li Junyu


When did you first start working with textiles?

In my undergraduate- it was all different kinds of crafts, so textile was one class in the undergraduate major. Each class would take several weeks, so it was very short. We learned techniques and maybe a little design. I took a textile class and then I felt interested in the material, so I went on to get my MFA  in Fiber Arts at Cranbrook.

When did you start working with soft sculpture?

When I went to Cranbrook, around one year ago. I did research because I’m interested in the body. Firstly my work is the material research – I like to create texture and make very natural textures, like body parts under the microscope. Seeing many contemporary artworks, I liked the funny aspects of them- so I thought maybe I could not only do the textural research but also do the real body, so I started doing body parts in my artwork and using humor as well.

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Your sculpture work is very representational and also very surreal, what is the relationship to those ideas within your work?

I like to make everyday objects in very different sizes, I think it’s very humorous and very fun to see it too. The dreamy, absurd quality makes it looks surreal.

What process or technique do you work in most now?

I make sculptures- after taking the knitting machine class, as always, I’m interested in the texture. So, I used the knitting machine to create different textures and I’m still thinking about using those for my future work too. Soft sculpture takes me some time to think about it before really making them. There is a lot of math and imagination in the making- especially for large size pieces. I usually draw some sketches to help me think through it. I measure the size, cut the foam and fabric, and finally sew them together. It is a complicated process but I really enjoy it.

What has changed most about your work since you started the residency here at TAC?

I learned many techniques in the first session and I think I’ll use them in my future work too- like the machine knitting and maybe the screenprinting. I think the size of my work became even bigger. It also might be an endless process of producing, I need to find the ending spot. Like, when should I decide to finish this piece. If I keep working on this project- I could create the whole room. Also, seeing other people’s work has given me inspiration too.

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What kind of audience do you envision experiencing your work?

I think it would be in a gallery, but I do want people to interact with it. I want the audience to have fun with my work, and also will think about it more after interacting with it. I think it’s kind of an object between toy and artwork.

How do you get ideas for your pieces?

I think it’s very long process, like, when I’m doing this project, I’m also coming up with ideas for the next one. So there are always a thousand ideas going on in my head, everything takes so much time, I can’t catch up with the ideas. The next one is the prolonged version of the first one, so it keeps going. I also record my dreams and my weaving pieces are one way to present them, but I’m still thinking of better ways to do it, like with sculptures or videos.

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Can you talk about the dream that inspired the work for the final exhibition?

Yes, it’s a dream from my teenage years. I really wanted to have long eyelashes at that time, but I didn’t, so I think the dream reflected my subconscious. In the dream my eyelashes kept growing until they touched the floor- really long eyelashes, like a curtain, so I can’t see through my eyes, and I had to lift the eyelashes to see anything. So with this project I made different lengths of eyelashes to imagine how the eyelashes could be – it’s like a creepy dream and the eyelashes are the same – they can make you look pretty or creepy.

What about the other weavings you’re working on? The smaller ones?

I made a christmas tree weaving. Many of my friends were getting married at that time. It’s kind of complicated to explain, because in Chinese society, my parents’ generation or my grandparents’ generation think that at my age one should be getting married.. People who didn’t get married would be urged by their parents, some are just not sure if the people are right to get married to, but they just go get married anyway. Especially for girls, the age is very important, and I think it’s kind of objectifying. So one day I dreamt that all my friends who got married became a christmas tree- they would hold their baby, and their babies were like the christmas tree lights. But it was really beautiful. It was like a whole forest of christmas trees and lights, but I felt it was so scary. So I recorded the dream.

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Does most of the work you create come from dreams?

I think recently it has been more from my dreams. I recently have been having more dreams because I feel like my sleeping quality has become worse, I dream every night and I remember every dream, so I think it’s influenced my work more.

What are some of your other interests outside of the studio?

I like reading novels and watching movies – like cult or scary movies. It’s kind of an exit for emotion to go, or a way to get inspired. I think many cult and scary movies have good costume design and set design- everything in the image. So I always get inspired from them.

Can you talk about the idea behind the current work you’re making for the final show?

In my past projects I’ve concentrated on the relationship between beauty and pain. Like many in history or contemporary life, many people pursuing beauty also get some pain at the same time, and so the two elements are always in the same process. So I also put the two elements together in my work at the same time. I want to have pretty colours and fun parts, but also have the scary or creepy feelings for people. So my project is concentrated on the eyes, it’s also from a dream, so I think maybe that’s why my work is so surreal.

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Are there any ideas behind the colour palette and size of your work?

For the colour I want to make people feel it’s a pretty colour, and the cartoonish quality I think might also help the piece become the thing between toy and art objects. The bigger size makes the work more absurd. Maybe more awkward. For some people maybe it’s scarier because it’s bigger, the eye as a normal size is fine, but larger can be creepy.

Who are some of the artists that you look at or that have inspired your work?

Definitely some surreal artists, like the sculptor, Matthew Ronay.  Miso Roni. Salvador Dali, Frida Kahlo, Claes Oldenburg, Leigh Bowery, Misha Kahn and so on. They not only inspire me with how to make my art but also inspire me how to look at art.

Is there anything you’d like people to know about you or your work?

Actually, I’d like people to know the least as possible about me. I want to create a world or space for people to be in, and have fun with this world. So me, as an artist, is not that important, but what I create is important.

Textile Arts Center, in partnership with The Vanderbilt Republic, are proud to present Three Walls, the final exhibition of work by the residents of AIR Cycle 9, on view from September 20-23 at the Gowanus Loft. /// Opening Reception: September 20, 6-9pm /// Artists’ Talk: September 23, 7pm /// LEARN MORE + SAVE THE DATE.

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