Asia-Pacific

Chinese artist: Nini Sum

Nini Sum
Nini Sum says she wants to make affordable, original art

Nini Sum, 23, is one of thousands of young artists in China struggling to make a mark in its thriving art scene. She moved to Shanghai from her native Nanjing to study graphic design.

In an interview with the BBC World Service she reflects on her life and work as a young artist.

"Being a young Chinese artist, it's quite hard to find your own time to work on art because you have to make sure you can live here. The expenses in Shanghai are quite high. So I have a day job, for a web design company.

"I go to work at 10am and get off around 6pm and then just grab something to eat and head to the studio directly. I can only do painting or other stuff after work. Normally it's 8pm to 2am or during weekends.

"Idle Beats, which I started last year, might be the first screen-painting studio in China.

Artwork by Nini Sum
Nini Sum created this piece of work especially for the BBC

"We make limited-edition art prints and T-shirts. We want to build up an artist community and we want to make cool stuff together. Our stuff is all original and hand-made.

"We are working with brands and venues to make gig posters or live screen-printing events. We work in these events with other young Chinese or foreign artists who live in Shanghai. It's a really fun thing to work on.

"In China right now, people don't have the habit of buying original art. They just go to stores and pick up a printed poster.

"We want to make affordable original art for Chinese people so they can have some hand-made art on their walls rather than some digital printed stuff.

"Compared to other cities like Beijing, there aren't a lot of artist events (in Shanghai) where the crowd and the artists can meet. So my only impression of older Chinese artists is in the galleries.

"I noticed they (older artists) use a lot of repeated elements, like the Cultural Revolution. Maybe it's cool to some people but I think that's not really our stuff.

"Our stuff is more close to people's daily lives. We use different media. We try out clay or screen-painting or woodcuts. It's more about fun to us.

"So compared to (older) Chinese artists, I think we lowered ourselves to normal people, rather than thinking: 'Oh I am an artist, I'm so awesome!'

"Everything in life is art. You can't be too far away from the crowd. It's more fun, more low-tech, more grass roots."

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