Professor wins international awards for watercolor pieces

In Art, Features
Lawrence Yun, an art professor at CSUF, won awards for being an expert in watercoloring, drawing and printmaking. Some of his most recent work manipulates nature to look man-made. 
(Priscilla Bui / Daily Titan)

As a watercolor artist, Lawrence Yun has always made a myriad of beautiful colors his aesthetic.

Yun was ultimately awarded the color gold when his painting, “Greenhouse Laboratory (Cattleya Orchid),” won best work of the exhibition at the 2016 Perception and Vision Exhibition and Symposium in Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou Province in Southwest China.

The symposium itself was a collaborative event involving the Chinese-American Art Faculty Association (CAAFA) in the U.S., the Center for Chinese Art at William Paterson University, the China International Culture Association and Guizhou Minzu University.

Yun’s passion for art has been 35 years in the making, as his love for the medium began when he was 10 years old. Before becoming an art professor at Cal State Fullerton, he attended Fu-Hsin and Trade and Arts School in Taipei, Taiwan with an emphasis in packaging design. Yun also received both a Bachelor of Fine Arts in printmaking and a Master of Fine Arts in drawing and painting from Long Beach State.

His parents were very supportive of his artistic interests. Yun said that they were open-minded and never tried to persuade him to pursue a different career path.

“I believe I was quite good at what I did as a child,” Yun said.

He clearly wasn’t the only one who believed that. Anthoula Medenas, who is a current student in Yun’s advanced watercoloring class, said that Yun doesn’t limit himself as an artist.

“He knows he’s good and he’ll say it, but it’s because he is incredible,” Medenas said. “It’s insane to watch him create these beautiful masterpieces for demo.”

She said some artists set their standards high, but give up if they don’t reach it.

“He has very high standard for himself,” Medanas said. “But what’s very admirable of him is that he won’t give up.”

Even in demonstrations during his art classes, Yun would redo paintings until they were perfect.  

Chung-Fan Chang, an assistant art professor at Stockton University who has known Yun for nearly three years, also noted that Yun was an exemplary artist. Chang said that while Yun demonstrated a profound understanding of technical skills in watercoloring, drawing and printmaking, he was also constantly finding solutions to challenging problems.

“(Yun) is someone who would push the envelope in order to expand the boundaries of what is possible,” Chang said via email

“Greenhouse Laboratory (Cattleya Orchid),” the watercolor painting that stole the show, is just one example of Yun’s artistic philosophy. While nature, particularly flowers, is a predominant factor in most of his artworks, there are also man-made objects like hammers and red strings in his paintings that represent how nature can sometimes be artificially manufactured.

Yun said that the idea behind the painting was that a greenhouse, something that nursed flowers and plants for growth, was clashing with a laboratory, which implied the exact opposite with notions of experimentation and producing something unheard of.

“I wanted to give a little twist, so that it’s not just a pretty floral image, so they have to relate to contemporary issues,” Yun said. “The works that I’ve been doing always have that sense of manipulation of how nature has been produced because it compromises with science.”

Yun doesn’t necessarily feel relaxed when he is painting. There has always been a feeling of stress that shadowed his artistic production, but he is now at a point where he is able to push those boundaries, he said.

But the stress never shows in his artworks.

Ying Tan, an associate art professor at the University of Oregon who has known Yun for over 13 years, said that Yun’s work combines a solid foundation in Chinese watercolor painting with contemporary vision, thus achieving an enduring beauty that is rooted in tradition, but is still refreshing and thought-provoking.

“It reaches and moves people thousands (of) miles away,” Tan said via email.

Yun was also awarded the Excellent in Service and Contribution Award by CAAFA. The award essentially recognized Yun for his ability to impact and engage a broader community through his artistic efforts. This award was also given to him because of his generous services to CAAFA, Tan said via email.

“His critical contributions enable the growth of this association and further its mission of promoting artistic change between China and the U.S., and building cultural bridges of understanding, dialogues and humanity,” Tan said via email.

Yun championed for artistic change between the two countries in order to highlight the importance of diversity and open up a unique dialogue between students from different parts of the world.

“You are having a different conversation, obviously, whether it’s faculty to student or student to student. I think it’s actually a great learning experience for everybody,” Yun said.

Dorte Christjansen, a professor emeritus from CSUF’s art department, said that Yun was the perfect choice to establish this connection, seeing that he was familiar with the educational system in Taiwan because of his upbringing and the educational system here because of his position at the university.

“He’s a wonderful envoy or ambassador for our education in the U.S. and also in China,” Christjansen said.

On the other hand, Yun saw these awards as further confirmation of his artistic abilities.

“It’s validation of what I do,” Yun said. “It’s the driving force that keeps me going.”

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