Chris Chun, Painter- Plus Chiang Mai, Thailand

Explain how you have your feet in both countries, Thailand and Australia?

My husband and I have been based here in Chiang Mai since 2010. Originally, we were only supposed to be away for a 6 month sabbatical but the charm of Chiang Mai crept under our skin and before we knew it…. 6 months had turned into 1 year, then 2 years, then before we knew it, its been 8 years here. Because we like the lifestyle here and the people/ culture, I decided to set up a studio here so I can work 2/3 of the year here and the rest away, either in Australia where I still have a home or traveling.

 

What made you decide to have your studio in Chiang Mai rather that Japan or Laos?

It turned out to be serendipitous because we both hadn’t planned to stay here. We found out later that Chiang Mai has a rich history of creativity; there is a big community of artists and craftspeople. Great coffee culture; it’s been described as the Portland of Thailand. There’s always exhibitions and things happening so I’ve found it incredibly inspiring.

It’s funny you mention Japan because I am actually planning to do a ceramics residency in Japan sometime this year along with a possible exhibition. I love Japan – I seem to go there every other year for endless inspiration whether it be the food, design, culture, gardens or shopping. Love it all.

Colour is such an important aspect of our art.  Can you explain colour in relationship to images of Thailand and your work?

Colour is probably the most important part of work. Just from a pure visual standpoint, it’s the first thing that we notice when we look at everything. Colour provides an emotional, cultural and spiritual connection to our world.

 

Formosan Wonderland – Textile design

Living in Thailand is really inspiring because I am surrounded by this incredible palette of colour everywhere from the orchids to the food markets to the temples. According to Thai customs, there is a colour for every day. The specific colour of each day depends on an astrological rule (influenced by Hindu mythology) and is based on the colour of the God who protects the day. So, you’re supposed to wear that day’s colour for luck.

Sunday – Red

Monday – Yellow

Tuesday – Pink

Wednesday – Green

Thursday – Orange

Friday – Light Blue

Saturday – Purple.

The King of Thailand is always associated with yellow.

In your opinion discuss the importance of being able to work / live art?

I really cannot imagine doing anything else. I love what I do so it doesn’t feel like work. I love to create and try new things. I think the key to any successful life is being able to follow your passion.

Expand on two of your resent exhibition pieces.

Paphiopedilum Callosum

Around the corner from my studio is Kamtieng Flower Markets. They have the most amazing variety of orchids – each have their own personality and characteristics.

Orchard #1 Paphiodedilum Callosum

The Wise One

This etching was done in collaboration with Chiang Mai Art and Paper (CAP) Studio – Thailand’s first printmaking studio. It was set up by Kitikong Tilokwattanotai, an exceptionally talented and entrepreneurial artist who actually studied at COFA in Sydney. The Wise One is part of a series of 5 indigo etchings. I love owls – I find them completely fascinating. There is a mysticism about them.

 

The Wise One #4

On the flip side you have your work in the form of stationary, ceramics and textiles.

Why these other three products? 

I have a definite affinity for these product areas. I love ceramics; love drinking and eating from them. It can be antique, hand thrown, sculptural. I love writing and receiving cards and notecard in the post. We need to do this more. And textiles, is always my first love. I studied Textile Design at RMIT.

Artize Hangzhou, silk scarves 

How are they different from your exhibition work?

They are related but more commercial. When creating for products, I am more than not governed by manufacturing constraints (ie. How many colours I can use, how the design is reproduced onto the product, retail price). I work closely with my clients to ensure that the product is produced as exactly as possible to the artwork and tells a story.

 

Artize Hangzhou, silk scarf

With your textile art do you need to have repeats?

If your textile art is for commercial products, then definitely yes for manufacturing. If you are selling your textile art as inspiration for a company, then it doesn’t have to be in repeat.

How is it sold?

Usually, they are sold via trade fairs and face to face meetings with agents and sales people. If you can imagine they have these big textile fairs and in one of these halls (imagine the Royal Exhibition Buildings in Melbourne) would be filled with design studios all selling textile art to potential customers who travel from all over the world to buy the latest trends. These companies then use this textile art to create new designs and collections from these, every year.

When I worked for textile design studios in UK and Italy, we were churning out new designs every day. One day, I would be painting onto silk, the next day I would be embroidering beads onto velvet. Very inspiring and it was a good foundation for me to work fast and be creative at the forefront of fashion and interiors.

Do you have it make up into clothing or homewares?

If it is for my own brand, then yes. But usually when selling to clients, it’s either sold just on fabric or paper.

 Take two or three of your floral designs and discuss them.

 Hangzhou

 Hangzhou This design was for a scarf commission. It was based off the botanical garden of Hangzhou in China. I researched the birds and native flora to create something that was factually accurate. I wanted to do something painterly and thought it would be elegant to paint the birds and flowers within a traditional Chinese trellis. I used acrylic paint for this and there are lots of layers of colour.

Artize Hangzhou

Formosan Wonderland

This all over pattern showcases some of the endangered animal species of Taiwan – the Formosan Bear, Formosan Leopard, Formosan Magpie, Spoonbill Bird, Sika Deer. I wanted to create a sort of forest wonderland that was contemporary and clean for home furnishings. I think it would be great as curtains or covering a small sofa. It’s painted in flat colour with gouache.

Formosan Wonderland

Siam

This Chinoiserie inspired pattern is done with inks and paper collage. It is a classic bird and flower pattern that can be used as wallpaper or fabric.

Siam Natural

How are you able to licence your art work and how does this work?

   Creatively

 Financially

I’ve been licensing my artwork since 2004 and in 2007/ 2008, I attended Surtex (the biggest art licensing fair in NYC). Since then, I have licensed my work to clients from Russia, Europe, Asia and Australia in a wide variety of product areas from greeting cards to home textiles to teapots etc. It is my main source of income but I think it is harder to get licensing contracts due to the current economy and more artists entering the industry. You need to have determination, grit and have a wide selection of good work that is distinctive and commercially attractive to clients (licensees).

Discuss the importance of elephants to you?

 

Chang, Puak Magazine, 2013

Elephants are the most incredible creatures. So intelligent and empathetic and kind loving. I have spent some time working and learning about Asian elephant/ elephant conservation through my involvement with Elephant Parade and their elephant conservation charities. I would like to see elephants protected and be able to live in a safe and healthy environment.

Contact details:

Chris Chun

https://www.chrischun.com

info@chrischun.com

Chris Chun, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, January 2019