Chinese Artist Shulin Sun Discusses Nature-Inspired Painting

Shulin Sun (b. 1952) grew up in Beijing, China, shortly following the Communist Revolution. Growing up during this tumultuous period lead to a passion for the strength and resilience of life and our ability to thrive, even under extreme conditions. He began his career in the early 1980s, specialising in Chinese painting (ink and colour on paper). With strong influence from his teacher and master of modern Chinese fine art, Mr. Li Keran, Shulin experimented with new styles, combining traditional Chinese painting techniques with elements from contemporary American and European art.  For over 30 years, Shulin has refined his unique and distinctive style to passionately convey the strength of nature.

Between 1987 and 1996, Shulin’s works were exhibited and published in Germany, China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and the US. During this time his work was highly respected and won multiple awards in art competitions throughout Asia. In 1996 his achievements facilitated emigration to the United States. We speak to the painter.

A: What inspires the powerful theme of nature in your work?
SS: I believe that art should come from nature and elevate it. For millions of years, life has survived in extreme weather and conditions. Inspiration is taken from this unrelenting determination and communicated through organic lines and colour. For example, my Roots series was inspired by characteristics of roots in nature to endure extreme hardship to survive and grow.  Some roots grow deep in earth, others in water, and some even grow through narrow gaps in rock. This type of determination inspires me to overcome difficulties in life and continually absorb new knowledge.

A: How do you convey these concepts to your audience through your abstract method?
SS: My work is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also provides the viewer with infinite opportunities to imagine and explore. I use flawless brushwork, dynamic gestural lines, and bold forms to convey energy from nature and a sense of depth, dimension and expansiveness, also achieving harmony and balance by effectively managing positive and negative space.

A: You combine traditional Chinese painting disciplines with European techniques in your practice, how do you harmonise these two distinct styles?
SS: The medium I use, Chinese painting colours and ink on paper, dramatically conveys energetic shapes, exaggerated gestures and the free flowing lines that reflect the energy and life in nature. Strong contrasts created by this combination project a sense of grandeur, stability and depth. My goal is to combine traditional Chinese painting techniques with contemporary elements from European art by focusing more on the “impression” or the “spirit”, rather than particular objects or scenes.

A: What are your key artistic influences, and how do you hope your work will evolve in the future?
SS: Nature is my key influence. So far, I have created five series of work based on objects or seasons in nature. I hope to continue to draw inspiration from it and produce more exciting and unique artworks in the future.

Learn more about Sulin Shun at

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1. Sulin Shun, Roots 52, 2015. Courtesy of the artist.
2. Sulin Shun, Fall 16, 2015. Courtesy of the artist.