QUEST - WHERE HEAVEN AND MAN MEET by Lee Cheuk Yin, Dept. of Chinese Studies, National University of Singapore
The heart of Sun Yu-li contains deep thoughts that have been the concern of man for thousands of years. His works cannot be separated from his unwavering attachment to this question of the relationship between heaven and man. They cannot be separated from his pursuit for the harmonious state of heaven and man.
From Architect to Sculptor
It is quite a coincidence how I came to know Sun Yu-li. He made his name overseas but in Singapore people are not yet familiar with his works. I met Sun Yu-li through the editor of “Hua Xiao Sheng”, Jane Chong, whom I know well. One day, she told me about her architect friend who indulges in sculpting and has a master’s understanding of He-Tu and Luo-Shu.
He-Tu and Luo-Shu are important books which preceded the ancient I-Ching. What do they have to do with sculptures? I was curious because of my own interest in and knowledge of He-Tu and Luo-Shu. The first time I met Sun Yu-li, we talked for four hours.
Sun Yu-li was born in China and educated in Taiwan. He graduated from the Architecture Department of Tung-Hai University, Taiwan, and is a registered architect both in Taiwan and Australia. He is also a member of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects.
In recent years, he left his architecture practice decisively and started to sculpt full time, a decision that is surprising. He came under the tutelage of Professor Yuyu Yang, Taiwan’s master sculptor whose many remarkable works in Singapore provided great inspiration for Sun Yu-li’s own creations. However, one can see in Sun Yu-li’s works that he has his own unique character. In April 1991, his bronze sculpture “Trace” won him the first prize of the Republic of China’s Contemporary Sculpture Award. It is a good proof that he has carried his work in his own direction. Sun Yu-li jokingly said that since his younger days in school, he has never been placed first before, and winning this first prize encouraged him greatly. It also earned him a recognised position in the field of sculpture.
CRITIQUE ON SUN YU-LI’S SCULPTURES By Chen Chao Xing
Sun Yu-li has a strong desire, attempting to express his view about the universe and the order and rhythm in his inner world through his work. Through the deploy and repetition of geometry and symbols, Sun Yu-li strengthens his identification and position.
Sun Yu-li is a professional architect who is evidently influenced by the dot, line, plane, repetition, rhythm etc. in the modern study of composition. Because he is also influenced by Chinese culture, religion or literature, his thinking and concept is Oriental while his approach is modern, or even Western. He fuses them together, creating works like “Yin Shang”, which projects latent motives like “tradition and modernism” and “Chinese as basis, Western in expression”. Nevertheless, regardless of the type of approach, Sun Yu-li has undoubtedly used the identification and freedom in culture to separate the disorderliness and chaos in life in a precise and abstract manner, further entering into the concise “new” space and the “old” concept of metaphysical thinking. His work gives viewers a strong sense of intellectual freedom and cultural link; it is an exposition of symbolic and geometric type of values and universal view.
Mrs Koh-Lim Wen Gin, Ex Chief Planner & Deputy CEO of URA
I have known Yu-li since 1998 when we commissioned him to do the two theme sculptures for the new URA center then. We are pleased with the beautiful "Celestial Earth" which is placed in the main entrance of the building, and the "Home is Singapore" placed in the atrium of the building. Since then, URA has invited Yu-li on several occasions for his advice on combining aesthetic beauty with urban planning. For example, he was a jury member for two of our open design competitions "Ten Public Places" and International Open Design Competition "Pedestrian Bridges over Southern Ridges". Since 2006, he has also been URA's art advisor on the "Marina Bay Student Art Park" – from the initial organisation of the Student Art Competition to select the pieces and currently, in advising on the construction phase. Currently URA is also working with Yu-li in its initial stage to explore the possibility of exhibiting his latest range of internally lit sculptures along Orchard road and around the Marina Bay area. Yu-li has volunteered significant amount of his time to helping URA make a distinction to the development of Singapore's arts and culture scene with urban planning. He is someone that can make Singapore proud.
Mr. Lim Neo Chian, Deputy Chairman of STB
I have worked with Yu-Li on many occasions over the past decade. In 2000, we commissioned Yu-Li to create a sculpture for Suzhou Industrial Park. Standing at 12 metres tall and made of steel, “Harmony” is a towering piece, symbolising the collaboration between the Singapore and Chinese governments. The sculpture was unveiled by Senior Mentor Lee Kuan Yew in 2001.
“Harmony” has been very well received by the public and has become an icon for the park. On the 10th anniversary of the Suzhou Industrial Park, both the Chinese and Singapore Postal Authority jointly issued a set of commemorative stamps featuring “Harmony”. Singapore Mint had also issued a set of commemorative coins featuring the imprint of “Harmony”.
When I was CEO/Chairman of JTC from 1995 to 2003, I commissioned Yu-li to create sculptures for the main entrance of the JTC Summit building for which he created the sculpture "Aiming High" and for the entrance sculpture to Jurong Petrochemical Island (sculpture “Welcome”).
During my tenure in STB, Yu-li also helped me create the Singapore Tourism Award Trophy and STB Education Awards. Yu-li is a very talented artist and we are very happy with the artistic pieces he has done for us. We wish him success for the Award.
Mr. Michael Ma and Ms. Camilla Hall, Founder and Owners of IndoChine Restaurant Group and Diane Fay Pte Ltd
Yu-li has been a generous supporter towards our charitable causes. In April 2008 His Royal Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco came to Singapore for his Highness’ first Asian Fund raising gala dinner held at Raffles Hotel. Yu-li generously donated his sculpture LOVE IS which was successfully auctioned off to raise funds for the Prince’s Environmental Foundation and its projects on the sustainable and equitable management of global resources. It was the first fund-raising event organized in Asia by HRH Prince Albert II of Monaco and total funds raised was close to three quarters of a million dollars.
Yu-li also held a very successful solo exhibition at one of IndoChine’s locations in conjunction with the UNEP Award – Champion of the Earth. Yu-li exhibited works from his latest range of internally-lit sculptures. His exhibition was beautiful and very well received. HRH Prince Albert II of Monaco was part of the audience at the exhibition along with Dr. Ashok Khosla, Chairman of Development Alternatives and President of the International Union of Conservation of Nature and Russell Miller, Chairman of the Spirit of Enterprise Singapore, and other very important people from Ambassadors to Business Leaders in and around Asia.
Diane Fay has also featured Yu-li interviewed as one of Asia's well known artist. Being part of the IndoChine Group, Diane Fay’s idea was to bring Yu-li’s art and his concept on "Mapping the Universe" not only to the attention of Asia's influential, but also to the rest of the world.
We think Yu-li is an artist with creativity, originality and uniqueness and we would like to bring his art to people around the world. We are currently working with him on a European exhibition in 2009 and making plans to visit Monaco, Germany, Switzerland and Sweden. We believe that he is an artist of exceptional talent and can make Singapore proud today and in the future. He is a man who will change the world.
Mr. Ean Kuok, Chairman of Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts
Over the past few years, Yu-Li has created several pieces for our properties. Yu-li's sculptures grace the main lobbies of Shangri-La Pudong, Guangzhou and Chengdu. He also did a beautiful work for our new office/commercial complex - RedBox, in Hong Kong. In 2008, during the Beijing Olympics, Kerry Properties was proud to unveil "Collaborate", a sculpture 6 metres wide and 4.5 metres tall sitting in a public park located between the China World Trade Center and the CCTV building.
Yu-li's artistic style is abstract and contemporary, yet at the same time at the very heart of his works is the ancient Chinese philosophy of yin and yang. With the contrast of solid and void, positive and negative, he has created dramatic art pieces. His works which blend east and west cultures are very appreciated by our visitors and we wish him every success for the future.
Dr. Ho Kah Leong, Ex-Principal of Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Artist
I have known Yu-li for close to 20 years. In 1991, I was the Guest of Honor at Yu-li's first Solo Exhibition titled "Quest" at the National Museum Art Gallery. I am truly glad to say that I have witnessed his growth and development as an artist. Yu-li started his artistic career under the tutelage of Professor Yuyu Yang since 1985– one of the most famous Taiwan contemporary sculptors. Yu-li has spent over 30 years studying the fundamentals of metaphysics, linguistics, philosophy, mathematics and geometry in passionate pursuit of the “Universal Language”. It is his lifelong dream to fully decode The Universal Language which he believes is the answer to Einstein’s "Theory of Everything”, and holds the key to further understanding the Universe which we live in. In his journey to seek the universal truth, Yu-li has used the artistic form both as a tool to help further develop his theory and as an expression of his thoughts. The power of Yu-li’s creations and his ability to inspire viewers lie in the strong underlying fundamental core theory. The simplicity and elegance of his work, is the result of his search for the original state of form where the simplest form, a dot moves to become a line, expands to become a plane and finally develops into a voluminous form. The ideas, elements and linkages embedded in Universal Language have been the inspiration for all his sculptures and paintings.
Mr. Yang Feng Shan, Sculptor and President of Taiwan Sculptors Association
Yu-li has his own unique way of creating. It is as if he has thrust his hands into a soft and formless space of the Universe, found and grabbed the basic principles of form. Therefore he can create shapes of remote antiquity which strike a familiar and sympathetic cord with us, slowly and smoothly taking our feelings back to the origins of life.
My late father Professor Yuyu Yang (1926-1997), who knew Yu-li since 1960s and had Yu-li under his tutelage from 1985-1997, said the following in an published article: “Yu-li uses the preciseness of Western reasoning to interpret ancient Chinese philosophy…he uses the character of modern art blended with the heritage of the Chinese Culture and he uses the latest materials to convey the traditional and philosophical marrow of his own culture…” Yu-li helped my father install many of his iconic sculptures in Singapore in the 1980s and 1990s. He is currently helping Yuyu Yang Foundation set up Professor Yuyu Yang Sculpture Park, a major Art Park in Kaohsiung Taiwan.
Mr. Christian Zugel, President of ZAIS GROUP LLC, USA
For a long while, my wife Sonia and I have been looking in different countries for a large piece of sculpture. We were seeking a striking piece of art for our newly acquired estate in Holmdel New Jersey, USA. Visiting the City of Singapore, we noticed Yu-li's art dotting many corners of this beautiful garden state in the tropics. We very much liked Yu-li's artistic style. After checking Yu-li's web site, we established contact with Yu-li and visited his studio. We subsequently invited Yu-li over to Holmdel to visit the site and sought his proposal for an art piece. Yu-Li proposed a piece called "Heaven and Earth" which we were very happy with. On a snowy Christmas, Yu-Li worked with my contractors to install the piece. With my garden complete in Spring 2008, we can now enjoy his beautiful work everyday.
Dr Kenson Kwok, Director of Asian Civilizations Museum and Peranakan Museum
Yu-li has been a friend for over 25 years. In that time, his reputation as an artist - especially as sculptor - has grown tremendously. His works grace many a public building in Singapore, and his works are also to be found overseas, most recently at the Olympics in Beijing.
More than a distinguished sculptor and artist, he is also passionate about history and the development of ancient Chinese civilisation. As a private collector, he has an extensive collection of prehistoric Chinese relics, artefacts, hand-tools, toys, accessories, icons and sculptures. He also has a large collection of pre-Emperor Qin Shi Huang coins (3,000 BC – 100 BC) as well as even earlier currency in the form of shells, spades and knives. This collection of pre-historic Chinese coins and relics which have been accumulated over the past 50 years (some passed down from his father) is unique in Southeast Asia in its size and scope.
These two strands - his collection and his artistic work – are intimately linked. For his art, he is inspired by basic forms such as the circle and square which were the first forms to be adopted and mastered by primitive man.
Yu-li has been working on plans to share his collection publicly by setting up a private museum, as he believes that such a collection will have great educational benefit for the public.
I will be pleased to provide more information on Yu-li if need be.
Dr. Peter C. Keller, President of Bowers Museum of Cultural Art, USA
Founded in 1936, the Bowers Museum’s mission is to enrich lives through the world's finest arts and cultures. From May to October 2008, our Museum was the venue for Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor, the first-ever exhibition of these Chinese national treasures in the USA. We know Sun Yu-li is a renowned sculptor from Singapore, who has in-depth interest and knowledge of early Chinese civilization, and has done significant sculpture works in many parts of the world. We contacted Yu-li and invited him to help us create 3 large sculptures for the Gala Dinner fund raising auction, and 16 pieces of smaller sculptures, to be given as our Museum’s gifts of appreciation to our major donors and sponsors of this exhibition. Yu-li helped greatly by creating all the pieces with his unique artistic style. We auctioned the larger sculptures successfully to raise funds and the other pieces were given to very happy recipients. The Museum truly appreciates Yu-li's beautiful art and his contributions. He spent a lot of time and significant effort to help make this exhibition a success. We believe there will be further opportunities to collaborate with Yu-li.
Mr. David Dollar, Country Director of World Bank, China
To Whom It May Concern, August 16, 2007
I am pleased to endorse Mr. Sun Yu-li’s effort to bring his sculptures to China. Mr. Sun is a renowned sculptor based in Singapore and his works have been shown throughout the city-state. He is now endeavoring to bring his work to China and to display it in Beijing, Shanghai and hopefully other cities. I understand China World Hotel in Beijing and Shangri-la Pudong in Shanghai are thinking of being venue sponsors. Aside from the artistic value of these displays, we are hoping to work together with Mr. Sun to use the publicity around his displays to raise money for charitable purposes. The World Bank is organizing the second China Development MarketPlace to raise money to support non-profit groups in China working on social and environmental issues. We are discussing with Mr. Sun a collaboration in which the proceeds from the auction of his sculptures would be donated to one or more charitable groups identified through the Development MarketPlace. We hope that you will be able to extend assistance to Mr. Sun for his worthwhile project.
The Origin of Aesthetics Incarnated by Toh Lam Huat, Chief Editor of Shin Min Daily News, 1991
"The self-examination process and thread of thought behind Sun Yu-Li's sculpture world is characterised by his sculptures' contrasting bright and dark surfaces. Sun Yu-Li's sculptures are like him, an unbounded individual towering in the vast barren universe. It has a heavy quality of life, bemoaning the state of the universe and the pitying the fate of mankind. A lofty spirit of remote antiquity forging into the future. With this sober understanding of such a quality and spirit comes a delightful worldly satisfaction."
In the world of his imposing bronze pieces exists an intrinsic quality which is bright, beautiful and abundant like the dawning of a new day. At the horizon, nature's secret, which cannot be concealed, is revelaed bit by bit. An intrinsic quality that makes a person carefree, just like seeing an honest smile reflected in a quivering stream."
Sculptor Sun Yu-Li by Zhuang Feng Jia, Art Writer, 1991
"... Sun Yu-Li has his own unique way of creating. It is as if he has thrust his hands into a soft and formless space of the universe, found and grabbed the basic principles of form. Therefore he can create shapes of remote antiquity which strike a familiar and sympathetic cord with us, slowly and smoothly taking our feelings back to the origins of life."
Interpreting Ancient Chinese Philosophy through Western Reasoning by Prof Yuyu Yang, 1991
Sun Yu-li has been a full time sculptor for a few years now. He was and architect and had been in architecture planning and design for many years. This aspect is clearly visible in his sculptures which are solid, stable and rational. He stated that to a Chinese sculptor, the void is as important as the solid because the void containts immense space and meaning. A void shaped within a solid exists in a dynamic state where the two complementing parts set off each other. The principle of Chinese traditional aesthetics emphasizes this use of the finite to contain the infinite. Or as it is often expressed "to use an inch to communicate a thousand miles."
Though Sun Yu-li's works are rational and orderly, his sentiments are however oriental. Behind the blocks of cold and hard metal lie implied meanings that are soft and tender. Therefore his works such as "Heaven and Earth", "Predestined", "Harmony", "Trace" and "Cycle" suggest succint and philosophical intentions.