“Word become art”
Written by Chong Chuin Min[1], Translated by Wai Chee Kiat

The word “Logos” in Greek has a meaning of “Word” or “Speech”. According to the Holy Bible, this “Logos” became flesh—that is Jesus Christ, who dwelt among us (John 1:14).

Word became flesh is a theological term; it expresses the Christ who, enters into human history as a man, to reveal the truth of God Himself. It is an abstract concept being materialized into a subjective reality and revealed to the human world—a process of idealistic concept transcended into a perceivable person. From the perspective of arts, the creative process is also, in its idea, a process of “word became flesh”. Artists transcend their idealistic concepts into perceivable works of art.

Sun Kang Jye is a young Malaysian artist; he graduated from Kuala Lumpur College of Arts in the year 2000. For 15 years, he has unceasingly dedicated himself in arts creation and craft. His woodcrafts are well-known among people while his paintings are rarely being exhibited and thus lesser known. As a matter of fact, his is specialized in the area of paintings. Sun started on the “Word Series” creation ten years ago, that is, to create wonderful works of arts inspired from the Bible content. This exhibition displays the crown jewels from his years of creative works.

From Sun’s perception, the Holy Bible is incarnation of the “Word” in words, and the words of Bible guides his life all the time. Driven by the passion towards the Holy Bible, Sun is inspired by his reflection on the words of the Bible, and turns them into works of art. He focuses on reimagining scriptures’ thoughts, I term this as “Word become art” paintings; He made reading of the Bible not just an act of intellect reasoning, even more an artistic one.

Artistic creative ideas
As we already known, change in modern arts painting direction enables viewers to not just explore the artist’s world through the visual creation, but to explore the works through artist’s thoughts. The father of modern paintings, Cezanne (1839-1906) introduced the style of paint from painting “what I seen” to painting “what I know”. Artistic painting has shifted to focus on painting from ideas rather than painting for visual effects. In other words, modern painters are unwilling to be “human cameras”, but to reestablish the identity of an artist.

To admire an artist who is immersed in contemporary arts and post-modernism, we need to understand the ideas of the creator himself in order to explore his worldview. An artist’s idea does not limit the scope of viewer’s standard, rather a presentation for the viewer as a reference in achieving effects of “Fusion of horizons” among the artist and the spectators.

As mentioned before, this creation series focuses on reimagining the scripture, he chose Chinese character in the consideration of its shapes, its curves and its color.

1. Exploration of the Chinese character structure: Chinese calligraphy stresses the importance of the word’s presentation, not only to present the word beautifully but at the same time present the harmony of text structure. Sun has considerately carried on this thought in this aspect. His creativity lies in presenting the words in the imaging of western arts influence and incorporating the Christianity image, instead of oriental presentation. From the whole structure of the words’ formation, we could almost see the image of the cross, image of Jesus and image of Jesus nailed on the cross, to name a few images.

It is enjoyable to admire the artist’s work on restructuring the words. We not only admire the visual beauty of the restructuring, we can also read into the contents of the artwork. This gives readers more dimension to reflect and imagine on the excellent presentation.

2. Exploration of the curves: Chinese words and calligraphy are made up of a series of curves, yet Sun’s creation presents the curves from sculpture and modeling to further explore the beauty of the curves. The previous smartly utilizes the technique of “subtraction”, cutting short of torching shirt the curves to enhance the curves; while the latter brilliantly prolongs the curves to produce the beautiful image appearing like a float sculpture.[2] The two techniques used are pioneering methods and new to us, thus when the spectators admire the works, we should focus on the effects presented, this feature is truly the unique creation of the works.

3. Exploration of art structure’s color combinations: Contemporary arts started to consider color combinations in art works. This creation has the similar effect of “Cool abstraction” from Monderian (1872-1944), but Sun ‘s creation in its curves and content presentation differentiates itself from the rationality, coldness and formalism of cool abstraction. Although Sun’s artworks is rational and stable, yet they are not of stiff coldness, they are more like a calmness of a wise old man—as if sitting patiently and calmly express his words of wisdom.

Religious paintings and contemporary arts
This series of artworks is rich in religious elements, yet it is not a recreation of traditional religious arts but a contemporary work with religious colors. I do not agree that every Bible themed artwork is a Christian artwork. It is because a Christian artwork must be an art piece first, and called Christian artwork, which is based on the Bible. We cannot assume that every Christian image, poster and brochure is Christian art.

What is arts? On theological speaking, arts creation is human imitating God’s act of creation; arts means a human using his creativity to make an art piece. Art piece is a result of human learning the creation derived from body, mind and soul — it is a product of human’s wisdom.

Sun’s art works are relevant to both Christian arts and the worldly development of contemporary arts. The immeasurable value of Sun’s arts lies in his effort to contribute in contemporary Christian artworks. In the long run, these carry the important purpose in the long history of Christian arts development. Sun bridged the divide between Christianity and modern arts, while opening a new chapter and presentation of Christian paintings.

Hopefully, Sun can keep up his effort in contributing more excellent artworks to the world, even more so the painting circle to pay more attention to this young artist’s potential and contributions.

[1] Current lecturer in Seminari Theoloji Malaysia. Has been a lecturer in Kuala Lumpur College of Art (KLCA) , Central Arts Academy (Johor Bahru), Neo-Art Institute and New Era College.

[2] This idea is inspired by the map structure of the termite nest.