“Born in a mountainous area in China, I have always been fascinated by animals, strangely shaped rocks and landscapes,” multi-disciplinary artist Sun Yunfan tells It’s Nice That. Yunfan is one part of electronic music/ visual art duo Shanghai Restoration Project. With partner Dave Liang, she works from their Brooklyn apartment living room, creating genre-bending, border-traversing and retro-futuristic visuals and music.
Fusing her music with visuals Yunfan looks at the two disciplines as separate languages that describe the same world or same emotional experiences. Their music is trippy, slightly surreal, other-worldly with an edge which makes each track a sure fire, well, ‘banger’. Naturally the same can be said of Yunfan’s visuals which either animation or stills, mix wiggly shapes with growing plant; seemingly random household ephemera with ripe fruits.
“I live with a cat and 60+ house plants,” explains Yunfan. “Everyday each of my plants silently communicates its desires to me. After killing many plants with negligence, I grew to be sensitive to subtle changes in their complexion and gestures. And when I look at the world through the same lens, everything becomes personified and every corner has some drama.”
These themes are especially evident in Yunfan’s artwork for Shanghai Restoration Project’s single, Public Poet . “I first did a photo-based collage as a sketch in Photoshop. Then I put a piece of paper near some plants and traced some light and shadow shapes created by the sunlight and leaves,” she explains of her process in creating the visual. “I then took a photo of the drawing and in Photoshop applied it on top of the collage as a filter before painting it on oil paper. The apricots were also painted from life. I think this process gave the work a unified live atmosphere.”
“When it comes to colour palette and mood I feel a closeness to Expressionist painters like Edvard Munch and Metaphysical painter Giorgio de Chirico,” she muses when asked about artist inspirations. “In terms of line quality, I admire the fluidness and precision in Minoan wall paintings and Moebius’ comics. I’m also constantly inspired by the playful free associations in Alejandro Jodorowsky’s movies.”
If you think the visuals get weird and wonderful, wait until you see the animation Yunfan made for their Alpha Go music video. The album, in terms of music, imagines a world int which humans have been replaced by robots who are trying to understand what led to its predecessors’ extinction. “Via a time capsule, the robots learn about humanity’s most noble endeavours (art, agriculture, science) and worst attributes (narcissism, materialism, environmental degradation)” she tells us.
When I started making the Alpha Go video, I had already designed the album cover for R.U.R which the single is taken from,” explains Yunfan. “So it’s as if I’d already finished casting roles and could use the many motifs in the cover art as actors in the video. I then divided the song into 14 scenes and drew a mood curve for the scenes based on the energy of each scene. Then I drew storyboards for each scene based on this curve. After that I went into Illustrator to flesh out different elements from the storyboards and lastly animated everything in After Effects.”
“When I make music videos, I try to approach the music and the visuals as two separate languages that describe the same world or same emotional experiences,” she adds. “Therefore, as long as I focus on the signified, and let music and the visuals approximate the emotional experiences in their own poetic ways, the connection between the two will be experienced by others.”